If you've bought into all the talk regarding Sora no Woto being all about cute girls having fun, then you'd be well advised to watch at least the opening couple of minutes of its seventh instalment before revising your opinion appropriately.
This particular episode brings us the town's Obon festival... or rather, the Fête des Lumières, an opportunity to remember the dead and appease their spirits by sending a paper lantern bearing their name downstream. Of course, such an occasion was always likely to have plenty of resonance in a series set in the aftermath of a vast and terrible war, but in terms of this particular episode it's Felicia who becomes our focus, as we live through some of the horrors she saw during her time serving in the army while the war still raged.
Compared to much of the light and fluffy scenes we've seen from this series so far, Felicia's story is truly a harrowing one, as we see her injured and the rest of her squad-mates killed in an attack, leaving her to trapse through the war-torn landscape to reveal yet more horrors strewn throughout. This story also gives us more of a grasp on how the war which has wrecked the country progressed, with evidence that the conflict was an extremely long-running one where much of the damage was done by some kind of super-weapon which reduced those left to fighting with relatively traditional arms instead in the wake of rumours that mankind was entirely doomed anyway.
Of course, all of this is offset against the Felicia we see before us now, and although she still struggles with those ghosts of her past she has clearly found a present which suits her, making for some emotional closing scenes as she does her bit to soak up the emotions of the other girls, all of whom appear to have lost something precious during the war (with the exception of Noel perhaps, the only one not to send a lantern downstream?).
Overall, this was an episode that could easily be marked as superb if only on account of it being so surprising - While I've suspected from the start that Sora no Woto wanted to be more than "K-ON! meets the army", even I wasn't expecting such a harrowing and frankly upsetting portrayal of war as this. There's certainly no sugar-coating on show here, leaving us instead with a raw portrayal of a world on the brink of destruction and the devastation that humanity has wreaked upon itself, a fact that can't be escaped even when we move from Felicia's past back to the present only to be faced with the loss of her current charges in the cruel world left behind. Of all the things I expected of Sora no Woto, bringing me to the brink of tears wasn't on the list, but this episode succeeded in doing just that. It's been a while since I've seen such an absolutely brutal portrayal of war in anime, and kudos to this series for taking that brave step.