Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anime Review No. 84 (Sound of the Sky)

Sound of the Sky

Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Script: Hiroyuki Yoshino
Studio: A-1 Pictures

Now onto a show that isn’t only great, but I consider it an underrated gem of the decade thus far. That show is Sound of the Sky, or Sora no Woto. In some time fan in the future, private Kanata Sorami, a new recruit for the Helvetian army is being sent to her first military assignment. That being at the Clocktower Fortress, a far off fort on the edge of the frontier, near the frontier town Seize. Kanata is also a bugler, though her instrument playing needs a bit of work but she has the urge to improve. She was inspired by an encounter as a child by a mysterious blond bugler, whose identity is a mystery plot point throughout the show’s run. Although, the fortress is home of the 1121st platoon, though it is more like a squad given the small size of it. It has a varied cast of characters that get their own stories and time to develop/grow, be it the stern mentor Rio, the kind motherly Fillica, the bratty Kureha and the sleepy but stoic Noel.

Kanata is bliss (and also reminds me of some other character hmm)
Airing in January-March 2010, Sound of the Sky was the debut project of Anime no Chikara. This project, translated roughly to ‘The Power of Anime’, was a collaboration between TV Tokyo and Aniplex put together in 2009 as an effort to do original anime productions, free of ties to other works like manga, visual novels and video games. So, Aniplex tapped A-1 Pictures (their own animation studio) with the task of making these productions. The project unfortunately only did 3 shows in 2010, in back-to-back seasons: this, Night Raid 1931 and Occult Academy. No further word on this project, which is a bummer but then again A-1 Pictures is too busy making SAO because it is really necessary for the world.

Yeah Kanata, I don't know why A-1 has some done more SAO then more of this or Zvezda Plot
What is interesting in Sound of the Sky is the unique mash-up of genres. It is basically a Girls Club SoL show in a war zone setting. I like the intricate world building present here. Granted, much of it is based on early 20th century European style (buildings, uniform/clothing, culture, partially names etc). It has a local story focus with glimpses of a wider world. The story has a nice blend of soft light hearted SoL vignettes and serious war drama. In addition, there is quite a lot of legend and lore dispensed within this 13 episode show, the legend of the Flame Maidens and also how that ties into a past catastrophe that is hinted at, but never fully revealed. But that’s ok, since the mystery of the catastrophe is more interesting than the thing itself. This is also a quite solid series from start to finish, never dragging down or going too fast.

The only bit of the omake episode I am showing you xD
My favorite episodes of the show were episode 7.5, 8 and 13. Now while the show is 13 episodes, its technically 12 with 2 DVD exclusive episodes, which thankfully Right Stuf (through their Nozomi Entertainment licensing/distribution label) included in the DVD collection. I got to say its for the best as episode 7.5 is one of the most funny omake/OVA style episode I have seen for an anime yet. Episode 8 is a fine bottle episode, focusing in on one location and letting the situational story that takes place to drive the episode. I won’t spoil what that is, you will have to see for yourself. Finally episode 13 is a quite sublime series finale, hinting at a possible and natural extension for the story to go and yet I feel the story is complete as it is. That, in my mind, is the mark of a great show.

It was at this moment, I knew that this was something special

Music is a bit of a theme and the power of it in shaping or even improving our lives. The song ‘Amazing Grace’ is the constant song played during the course of the show, and I like that ties into the other themes present in the show, rather than ‘Ode to Joy’ which is plastered on a lot of anime, regardless of whether or not it makes sense (looking at you Gunslinger Girl). Anyway,the animation is quite solid overall but then again its A-1 Pictures they tend to go a good job on certain shows.Music is quite great with some nice sweeping orchestral moments coupled with gentle guitar strumming and haunting strings . If the OP animation looks a little similar to Elfen Lied, then yeah that is because Mamoru Kanbe directed this and Elfen Lied, hence the rather Klimt-esque art style. The upbeat energetic standard and often a nice respite from some of the more darker episodes.

Nozomi Entertainment’s release of Sound of the Sky is rather bare bones, just some character profiles, clean OP/ED and trailers. There’s an alternate episode 1 but when I watched it the only difference I noticed was that it included the OP. It is also sub-only, so I can’t really speak on the voice acting, but it is quite good. Right Stuf used to, back in the boom (as KO Beast and Kare Kano can attest) they would pick up shows and then farmed out the dubbing to other studios (mostly in New York and LA) as the company is based out in Iowa

Sound of the Sky is available from Nozomi Entertainment (once in 2011, thinpak in 2013). Of course, if you just want to watch it without buying, then don’t fret: It’s up on Youtube (Sound of the Sky episode list) for mostly free of cost. You got literally no excuse to check this out and watch it.

SO yeah, next time, who wants to go down the rabbit hole?

Til next time, dear readers.

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