Andy has been writing for UK Anime since 2006, and was the site's editor-in-chief until August 2017. Contrary to popular belief, Andy is not actually a robot.
Sora no Woto
If you're the kind of anime fan who finds yourself bored with the constant stream of manga, light and visual novel adaptations that tend to dominate Japan's output in recent years, then TV Tokyo's "Anime no Chikara" project could be the answer to your woes. With an English translation of "The strength of anime", this project sees TV Tokyo's anime department teaming up with A1-Pictures to create original anime series as a showcase for what the medium can do. The first series to crop up under this banner is Sora no Woto, a show that we've also been lucky enough to receive in streaming format via Crunchyroll. The question is, can it present the show of strength that the flag it flies under suggests?
At first glance Sora no Woto looks set to be just another light and fluffy slice-of-life anime, albeit one within a rather unique setting, taking place as it does within the remains of a war-torn country named Helvetia which is finally enjoying an unsteady and unstable period of peace after a long period of conflict that has all-but brought the entire world to its knees. Into this rather bleak scenario comes a girl named Kanata, who has joined the military in the hope of wielding a trumpet rather than a gun after being inspired by a mysterious girl who she saw playing the instrument herself during the conflict.
Compared to the kind of harsh realities of joining the army you might imagine, Kanata finds herself stationed in a town called Seize on the brink of no-mans land as the newest member of the 1121st Platoon, which consists entirely of girls, all of which have rather stereotypical outward personalities that only serve to reinforce the suggestion that nothing much of note is going to happen here. However, while there are episodes early on that are quite happy to focus on relative minutiae as Kanata settles into her new life and we learn a little more about the five girls of the platoon, Sora no Woto actually manages to build up some fairly strong suggestions of underlying troubles ahead, with whispered private conversations and the like suggesting that all is not quite as well as it first seems within the new-found peace of the world.
As the series progresses this feeling of unease is ramped up considerably and on occasion to notable effect - Episode seven in particular delivers a devastating flashback into the horrors of war as suffered by Felicia, while the latter half of the series manages to convey the emotional and mental trauma suffered by many of the characters we see in varying ways, bringing home that war is nothing if not a waste of human life and endeavour. This builds up to a climax which plunges the 1121st Platoon into dilemma after dilemma, with a state of affairs which again serves well to showcase a wide range of emotions before rising to an admittedly rather predictable ending.
Almost ironically, it's those light-hearted moments of the platoon's five girls larking around or going about their every-day business that somehow serves to make the darker aspects of Sora no Woto all the more powerful, as we see the mask of a seemingly normal world violently torn off by reminders of the horrors that have occurred before these individuals, and that threaten to return to haunt them again. It makes for an odd juxtaposition of the frivolous and the serious, yet oddly it works well despite the cute (and not to mention well animated) character designs similarly feeling a little out of place against some impressively designed mechanised tanks. The shift from bouncy and cute to blood and dead bodies is a stark one that might not work for some viewers, but if you aren't put off too much by one extreme or the other then Sora no Woto can prove to be a powerful and emotional series that certainly delivers an impressive vision of the world it gives us a window into.
At the time of writing, Sora no Woto can be viewed in streaming format from Crunchyroll - The entire series is now available to be viewed on the site.
Japanese audio, English subtitles - Available in Standard Definition, 480P and 720P streaming resolutions.
A visually impressive show that veers from cute to horrific at the drop of a hat, yet somehow manages to pull it off successfully.