Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 355 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
This is not just about really cute girls in military uniforms.
Admittedly, I’m the first to jump on a series featuring cutesy characters and – admittedly – I often find myself disappointed that most of them don’t really amount to anything truly meaningful. However, there are those rare gems like Aria: The Animation that reminds me that among all the cuteness there is still room for compelling storytelling. As it turns out, the Complete Set of Sound of the Sky (or Sora no Woto) is another rare gem worth picking up right away.
This is high praise indeed, especially since this series has its share of weaknesses but they pale compared to the characters and story. You see, Sound of the Sky takes place in a post-apocalyptic era when the world is experiencing its days of peace despite the fact that peace negotiations between the world’s two most powerful military states are not going well. In the middle of this is a cute young girl, a child really, named Private Sorami Kanata who is transferring to the charming European city of Seize where she will be reporting to the Helvetia Republic Army’s 1121st Platoon.
Sorami arrives in time to witness Seize’s annual festival in honor of the Flame Maidens and she not only is swept up in the festivities but she gets lost looking for the famed Clocktower Fortress where she was meant to report. Instead she meets the beautiful Rio Kazumiya, a young woman that slightly resembles a Helvetian soldier she watched play her trumpet. As Sorami makes it clear to Rio, she too wants to blow the bugle for the army. Although she’s not very good at it, Sorami is the kind of girl that is upbeat and willing to give it her all to get better at playing.
As it turns out, Rio is an officer in the 1121st Platoon who serves under the attractive Second Lieutenant Filicia Heidemann and the narcoleptic tank pilot and mechanic named Noel Kannagi. Finally, there’s the young Private Kureha Suminoya who sees Sorami’s arrival as an annoyance since she was getting all the attention from Rio and Filicia. On top of putting up with Kureha’s irritated and nature, there’s rumor of a ghost in the barracks where the two discover an unexpected inhabitant that’s of the feathery variety.
Life in the Fortress, to Kureha’s annoyance, is calm and laid-back but Sorami starts to fit in and even gets private trumpet lessons from Rio. Meanwhile, Filicia is the type of leader who insists on not only doing away with ranks but also become a part of the community around them whether it’s dealing with the likeable merchant or Yumina, a young girl who wears a nun’s habit and takes care of orphan children. At one point, the girls scare off a group of gangsters that are harassing the merchants.
Despite the fact that the series is only 12-episodes (plus the two OVA episodes) long, it still allows us to get to know more about each of the characters including Yumina. The characters might come off as familiar caricatures but they have intricate pasts that flesh them out well enough that they become endearing. It’s heartbreaking to see Filicia during the worst moment in her life when she took part in the war and wonder how is it that – after all the terrible things that happened to her – she can be cheerful and warm. Even more heartbreaking is Noel’s past and how she is dealing with the things she did during the war.
While the first half of the series is filled with lighthearted moments, the second half takes a turn in a more dramatic direction as both Kureha and Sorami find a female enemy soldier (who the series calls Romans despite the fact they speak German). Suddenly, the Helvetian nation and the Romans are headed to war again as we discover that one of the girls has the power to put an end to the situation before it reignites the flames of war. I should say that the twist isn’t a wee bit surprising and leads to a somewhat disappointing ending.
The ending is but one of many little flaws that pop up throughout the entire series. Never mind that there’s a scene were celebrating soldiers toss their loaded rifles into air or one episode is dedicated to Sorami wanting to pee so badly but she can’t because she has to stay by the phone. Also, the cuteness factor is overwhelmingly high to the point that can be too much at times. Oh, and if there ever was a series that deserves to be on Blu-ray it is certainly this one. The animation is nothing short of stunning.
As I said, these are little flaws that are easily forgivable considering how good the writing in this series is and how emotionally connected you will get to the characters and their situation. In fact, there were times when I came close to tears. By the time you get to the end you will not only understand why these girls no longer want to be a part of a war that had has reduced cities to rubble (or, as the series calls it, No Man’s Land) but you will also feel their fear of watching what is left of civilization crumble to ashes. However, in a world where “Amazing Grace” can still touch people’s hearts regardless of whether they’re Roman or Helvetian, hope still exists.
A beautifully executed and written story with a deep meaning, the Complete Set of Sound of the Sky is powerfully emotional and entertaining. Sure, the sugary sweet cuteness is overkill and there were scenes I had a problem with but they’re mere blemishes on a beautiful work of art that you should not miss. Believe me when I say that this one deserves to be among your collection.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Transferred to the Clocktower Fortress in the quaint and lovely town of Seize, Private Sorami meets the young ladies of the 1121st Platoon. It is among these very different young women that this bugler-in-training finds life in the fortress is laid back but there’s more than enough to do. However, with the world on the brink of war once again, one of them has the power to stop it.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
This is definitely a series that would have been perfect on Blu-ray because that animation is simply breath-taking. Sure, the girls look way too cute but you will find yourself easily distracted by the gorgeous backgrounds that make up this world. This is easily one of the best-looking series.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The voice acting is handled wonderfully enough and more so when it comes to Misato Fukuen as Yumina and Yu Kobayashi as Rio. The real highlight is Michiru Oshima’s brilliant eclectic and cinematic score that adds a dreamy European feel. Even the use of “Amazing Grace” has a deep significance. Add a lovely opening theme song by Kalafina and a cute yet catchy closing theme song and you have a series you need to watch on a good sound system.
Each of the four DVDs comes with extras that include RightStuf!/Nozomi trailers as well as Character Bios, Line Art Galleries and the U.S. Trailer. The first DVD even comes with an alternate version of Episode 1 with a few differences and the final disc comes with the epilogue OVA episode that takes place a year after the events of the last episode. Then there’s the 39-page soft cover booklet that includes art from the series plus commentary from the staff that’s worth a glance.
Sound of the Sky isn’t without its weak moments but they are quickly overshadowed by its strengths to make this a deeply meaningful and thoroughly entertaining series that I will gladly recommend very highly. Even if it sounds way too cute, you do not want to miss out on a series that is able to convey genuine feelings and tell a well-written story of a shattered world on the brink of war and the five young girls that watch over the town. This is definitely one series you should not miss.
Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment