June 29, 2017
I sometimes have reservations when it comes to assignments I didn’t ask for. When requested to review Sound of The Sky, I wasn’t sure what I was in for, as I knew nothing about this series. So I took a deep breath and dove right in to see what it was all about. Is Sound Of The Sky a groundbreaking anime series that will become an overnight sensation? Or is this something that I’d want to forget I watched? It turns out to be a story that I have become attached to and have greatly enjoyed!
For those wondering what this series is, Sound Of The Sky is the tale of an alternative world where the population of the human race has dwindled dramatically. The story takes place in the city of Seize, where the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army resides. The platoon watches over the city and helps maintain order, with peace in the world feeling short-lived with the potential to turn ugly at any second. We watch as the newest recruit for this platoon, Kanata Sorami, joins the military to learn how to play the trumpet. Kanata was influenced by a soldier who did the same thing and wanted to find out how to play a song that touched her soul when she first heard it. Throughout Kanata’s time at the Clocktower Fortress (where the 1121st Platoon resides) she learns how to play the trumpet, and learns about the area she’s protecting (like traditions in the city), and becomes a more competent soldier along the way. At the same time, we are told a story about the tremendous toll humanity has taken and how they are trying to survive (as evident by the area known as No Man’s Land). Kanata tries her best to make a lasting impressing with her colleagues and friends to become a better and happier person throughout.
At the beginning of the series, it was rather boring to watch. At the time, I felt I was watching K-ON! the military story. The first four episodes show Kanata going through daily chores and trials around the Clockwork Fortress, which isn’t something that I go looking for when watching anime. A few nuggets of information were dropped within these episodes, which kept my interest during the first few episodes. If not for those (like learning a little about No Man’s Land and how the soldiers of the 1121st Platoon didn’t know what a school was, for example), I’d feel as if this series would’ve been a drag to complete. Sure, the lore of the series can be interesting, but if they weren’t explored, I’d have a hard time raving about this series.
It wasn’t until episode five, where we are privy to a flashback showing Filicia on the battlefield, that things picked up, and continued this pace throughout. For these girls, it isn’t just that they enjoy silly little adventures with one another. Some of them had seen the ugliness of war and were thoroughly shaken by it. Seeing Filicia’s flashback, in particular, upped the ante in engaging viewers, because it showed that this wasn’t just a show about cute girls doing cute things. It’s because some members of the 1121st Platoon had seen the worst aspect of war first-hand, and had come to appreciate all the little things— normal things. Every member of the 1121st Platoon has had a painful past. And so it became apparent why Sound Of The Sky started off the way it did. It wasn’t until episode five that I began to realize that the happier moments in this series were more important and beautiful than I gave them credit for. As fans continue to watch episode after episode, we see the baggage that every member of the 1121st platoon has and how the peaceful moments (especially during tumultuous times) should be appreciated. Noel, for example, is viewed (by the enemy) as a bringer of death, being the piolet of the tanker that helped kill many Romans in this world, even though she’s just a smart girl who enjoys building tanks and sleeping. Yet the enemy viewed her as the Grim Reaper, and fear her even though that wasn’t her original intention. It was the darker moments of Sound Of The Sky that became riveting television.
Later on, Sound Of The Sky starts to have more of a balance between an intriguing mystery and the typical slice of life antics you get in anime. While we get one episode that focuses on how Seize creates glass sculptures, fans are also treated to an episode solely about the exploration of land right before No Man’s Land (which I could’ve had more of). It also started getting into serious drama toward the end, where a spy from the enemy infiltrates Seize. This lead to the riveting story of what the girls would do with the spy (turn her over or let her go). In fact, Sound Of The Sky had a tone of mystery, intrigue, and drama that left me feeling engaged after episode four.
I found the entire cast of the 1121st Platoon super likable in this series. While they all had their cliche tropes that they fell into (naive or clueless lead, doting older sister type, tsundere), it was their overall qualities that made them attractive and great. Noel was shown as a quiet, sleepy type, but she also has a dark past which has traumatized her and made her become a more kindhearted person. And that’s just her. Every character had more depth than I expected. So once you continue to watch and move past the typical cliches, you start to see how multilayered every member of this platoon is. You especially see this with Rio, how she goes from someone who treats her subordinates like her younger sisters, and later comes to grips with her family history and decides to take on the responsibility of being a princess of her country.
I loved how connected everyone seemed to be. If it wasn’t for Rio’s halfsister, Kanata and Kuhera might not have enrolled into the military, and Noel and Filicia might have died in the battle in which they were involved. And a simple little bell, (and the sound that it made) brought everyone together, proving that sound can be a powerful tool. And at the end of the series Kanata plays Amazing Grace to help stop what could have become a bloody and needless battle.
The animation and artwork left me speechless. I found this to be Sound Of The Sky’s biggest asset. Some of the scenery and the landscape shots looked as beautiful as you could make in an anime. Seeing the visuals during the festival in the first episode gave me the impression that the artwork and animation were going to be very high quality. I especially enjoyed seeing scenes of the town of Seize, with houses being touched by the sunlight. Besides episode 7.5 (an OVA episode), I never had an issue with this aspect.
The series comes in a typical Blu-ray case and includes 12 episodes on two discs. This release also included two bonus episodes and an alternative version of episode one. I wasn’t a huge fan of the bonus episode that involved the girls getting drunk, as I felt it pushed fanservice when it wasn’t needed. However, the final bonus episode was a treat for me, as we see how things turned out at the end of the series and get more information about the world they live in. This release is also a subtitle-only release, so there wasn’t an English dub produced. I’m not familiar with Japanese voice actors, so I can’t comment on how the performances were, but I wasn’t annoyed or disappointed, so I conclude that it was a fine job.
I found myself enjoying Sound Of The Sky more than I thought I would. While it had some dull moments at the start, the intrigue about the girls’ past and the world they live in kept me entertained. Aesthetically, the show was nearly perfect, and it is easily an anime that I would recommend to those who aren’t the biggest anime fans (subtitles and all). I love the messages conveyed in this series, such as war isn’t enjoyable, sound can bring people together, cherish the slow days, etc. And I was impressed at how multifaceted the cast was. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a show I’d go look for, but it certainly is an anime series that I’d recommend to non-anime fans (and even younger children). It did enough for me to give a few thumbs up.
Pros: Wonderful visuals; heart-warming story; intriguing lore; wonderful overall message; super likable cast.
Cons: Feels slow through the first four episodes; episode 7.5.
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