Sora no Woto was one of my most anticipated shows of the winter season. I had high expectations of it since it was supposed to be my replacement K-ON for the season but after a couple of episodes I realized it actually wasn’t what I was wishing for. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but still after those first two episodes I kind of lost most of the interest I had before. Only just recently did I start catching up by watching it again. I realize now that had I had a different perspective going in I probably would have enjoyed it more from the very beginning.
To make things easy I’ll start with a comparison with K-ON since that’s the reason I wanted to watch it in the first place. I know now that’s a vastly flawed philosophy and the crucial mistake I made that hurt my appreciation for the show but I’ll continue for the sake of my thought process. Sora no Woto at the surface was easy to mistake for another K-ON with similar character designs and the entire premise. The timing soon after K-ON didn’t help the matter which at the time felt like A-1 was trying to capitalize on K-ON’s success. Unfortunately I took all of this and held Sora no Woto to expectations that it wasn’t even trying to aim for.
Between K-ON and Sora no Woto we have a near 1-to-1 analogue for all the girls except for say Azusa and Noel who don’t exactly fit as twins at all. I’m pretty sure this is some Yui bias here but I didn’t find Kanata as interesting or fun as Yui initially. They both share the same proficiency at distinguishing different sounds but unlike Yui Kanata isn’t as good at playing her instrument; Yui just needs to hear something once or have a technique explained a single time for here to be able to reproduce it instantly. It takes Kanata a while until she can play her horn without sounding like a disaster. Looking back the whole element about Kanata learning not to force the sound out of her horn was an essential element for the anime as a slice-of-life show. When taken from that perspective Kanata is a good character for this genre as her naivety, inexperience and curiosity all serve as a driving force for exploring her world and learning lessons from it.
At the beginning when I was still making the comparisons between the two shows I found Noel to be the most interesting character. Since she doesn’t have a parallel with anyone from K-ON I could focus on her more clearly as just herself without the bias. She’s somewhat of a loner who diligently works on repairing the platoon’s tank and occasionally falls asleep randomly due to it. It also helps that I like dandere characters but it’s not just that. I can also sense a somewhat dark presence coming from her at times. Unlike many dandere who can keep their composure and stay silent indefinitely Noel seems to have a critical tolerance point. Often times when Kureha is being a loudmouth Noel will under her breath say something vocalizing her irritation like during the outdoor excursion when they were hauling heavy backpacks. Kureha was complaining the whole time while Noel was telling her to shut up though not loud enough for Kureha herself to notice. Then there was the time when they were washing cloths together and Kureha was just playing around while Noel was trying to do some serious business. Sometimes it feels like Noel will go insane and attack Kureha. I mean look at her gangster smile when wielding a machine gun during episode 6. Imagine that except Kureha at the end of the barrel. I’m not saying that I want her to get killed but the mere thought is amusing enough.
While on the subject of gangsters I think episode 6 and 7 were particularly shining examples of what the show should be more like. What I mean is that the execution of these episodes was better than the previous ones and pieced together many of the seeming incoherences among the setting and characters. What episode 6 managed to achieve was an explanation for why this military outpost isn’t exactly much like military at all. There is the excuse that the outpost is the middle of nowhere but still you should be able to see some semblance of discipline. However when you introduce the missing piece that the girls are also not getting paid out here on a timely basis then it makes sense why they don’t adhere so well to regulations. In other words they must do extra work for pay. Of course you don’t see any of that in previous episodes so the question is what do they do? The question is finally answered when it is revealed that they are a bunch of moonshiners that if caught can be court martialed easily. The episode is just exciting from there on out and helps to solidify many key details about the platoon.
Episode 7 expands on the world even more this time in a much more serous approach. We get more of the backstory of the world and war form Filicia’s perspective which at times can be jarring. It fills in the gap as to why the military has trained brass players as communications officers. The juxtaposition of the advanced tanks of the past era, their ghetto legs that were repaired sometime after salvage and the lack of wireless communication puts into view how far technology has digressed. This combined with the pessimistic view of the zombie soldier from a bygone era that Filicia conversed with in her hallucinogenic state showed how despite the world crumbling in on itself that humans continued to live and make the best of things.
I watched this twice the second time together with Aorii and we discussed it afterward. Aorii initially took a negative stance but somehow I ended up defending pretty much all aspects of the show which I think helped both of us change our perspectives. (Read Aorii’s verion). In other words I realized that I indeed like Sora no Woto and I was just too blinded to notice it. Everything about it shouts that it has the potential for a good slice-of-life series. Like a good slice-of-life series the show explores different aspects of the world with each episode that shed insight into the universe that the show takes place in and usually leads to a greater appreciation for life. Obviously there are the two examples explained up above but we also get to explore the culture and people of the town through various adventures with Kanata and company. Rio did say after all that mingling with the town is part of their job.
Everywhere there are signs left over from the previous era from the tanks to the myriad of outposts that keep watch over no-man’s-land with no humans to oversee anything. At times it can be depressing to think about how much humanity has lost since the time of the great apocalypse. Even the people have lost their own language and only the clergy can read and bestow traditional Japanese names with writing intact. It’s hinted at that the whole ecology of the planet is in ruins every time it is mentioned that the oceans are empty of macroscopic life like dolphins or fish. There may be plankton and other microorganisms left in the oceans but it’s doubtful that they can maintain a stable ecosystem and undergo ecological succession in a manner timely enough to accommodate human life. Yet despite all this people continue to live out their lives as best they can. The daily struggles against what seems to be a bleak future and the smiles that go with it are part of what makes Sora no Woto a good slice-of-life show.
Had the series had a stronger focus from the start as illustrated in episodes 6 and 7 I’m sure that Sora no Woto could have been one of the better slice-of-life shows in recent memory. Maybe if it hadn’t been hyped up as the spiritual successor to K-ON it would have gotten a better reception and my judgment would not be so clouded or compromised. I feel really bad for being part of that hype but I can honestly say that I was completely unfair to the show. Although there is still some unused potential I can finally say that I like Sora no Woto by its own merits.