Sound of the Sky Anime Disks 1 & 2 (English)

August 21st, 2011

Sound of the Sky Complete DVD Collection Limited Edition (Sora no Woto)As I approached the midpoint of Sound of the Sky, I conceded to myself that I am just never going to be the audience for anime like this.

I know so many of you really enjoy it – and I don’t hate it or anything. But, I cannot help thinking how it’s pretty much nothing more than a remake of Aria, with far, far worse character art.

To begin with, the story isn’t a story, as I said in my initial impressions. It’s a slice-of-life story, with a plot bunny, i.e, new girl wants to learn to play the bugle. In sports manga/anime series, we fill up the spaces of the series with the protagonist practicing and practicing until they drop, then dragging themselves upright and practicing some more.

In Aria, we spent a lot of time being driven around Neo-Venetia by the Undines-in-training as they practiced and practiced. By Episode 6 of Sound of the Sky, we have had exceedingly little practice of bugling going on. But we did have an episode where everyone dressed up like 1920s American gangsters! So, there’s the series’ priorities in a nutshell. I stand by my comment that this could have been set anywhere, at any time.

What Sound of the Sky is, is a character piece. Like K-ON!, the plot isn’t important, episode plots are the backdrop to character development. I have no doubt at all that we will learn Rio’s backstory, and Kanata will fulfill her dream to become the most awesome bugler ever, and therefore we will be filled with joy as her bugle’s song reaches the sky. But, as Episode 6, I still think that being clumsy, forgetful and clueless isn’t cute *at all” and so I really just don’t care much if she suddenly shows us awesome bugle-playing skills.

The war-torn country interests me, but we really know nothing about the war, or the people, or the countries involved. No effort has been put into world-building. That’s not a deal killer, but when once again contrasted with Aria, Sound of the Sky falls way short.

Let’s talk about why I keep comparing it with Aria. Both:

– series are about a cute, clumsy, personable girl who desires to become skilled in a specific, atypical skill.

– have settings based in a hierarchical, (but loosely run) organization.

– have the focus of each episode on, not the practice, but the people and situations encountered.

– series are targeted to male audiences, with primarily female casts.

– Felicia is Alicia. It’s really obvious that she’s meant to be.

The background art for Sound in the Sky is good, but the character art gives the phrase “moe blobs” a whole new level of meaning. This screencap isn’t even as bad as it got. There was a scene between Felicia and Rio as they stood in a hall talking in which they were both barely outlined. The fact that the background is rendered in detail makes the character art stand out as even worse than it would have with bad backgrounds. In a character-driven story like this, it seems silly to lovingly render the stairs, but barely draw in the main characters. I’m not watching this for the stairs.

All that having been said, I can see why there are fans of this series. Every character is likable, if you like that type of character. Felicia is the caring, laissez faire leader, Rio is the hypercompetent (read: slightly butchy) XO, Kureha is tsundere, Noel is the monotonal savant (I don’t know the fan-name for the type, feel free to let me know and I’ll edit this) and Kanata is the feckless genki type of protagonist otaku love so much.

I’m pretty swayed by character, usually, but these types seem assigned in a completely mercenary fashion, to fill the checklist, rather than to fulfill the needs of the story. The overwhelming feeling I get from Sound of the Sky is “story by committee” rather than a story from the heart.

Obviously, if you find moe and clueless, cheerful protagonists appealing, you’re very likely to enjoy this story. many people have told me that I won’t be disappointed at the end and others have told me I *might* not be disappointed. ^_^ I have very low expectations at the moment. Here’s why:

There is a movie from 1987 called Batteries Not Included. At the climax of the movie one of the alien robots – the very tiniest adorable little baby robot – dies. (I tried to find a video clip of this, so you could see how manipulative it was, but didn’t find one before I got bored and stopped.) The violins swell in the most manipulative music ever. The fact that the one song we’ve heard so far is Amazing Grace (which is a very beautiful and instantly manipulative composition,) means I can’t help but anticipate the end of this series will be much the same level of manipulative as Batteries Not Included. I hope, I really do, that I am completely wrong. If you want to tell me I’m wrong, feel free of course, but please do not post spoilers, thanks! ^_^

Technically, the visuals look very good on my computer screen. My TV is old and not widescreen-capable, so the visuals get cut off on the sides.) The sound is fine, I look forward to hearing music that is not trying to tug at my heart strings.

In any case, I can *completely* see why people like this series. I don’t yet, but I didn’t like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha until episode 10, either. I’m willing to be convinced.

Ratings: After the series is completed.

Oh, hey, I forgot to talk about Yuri. Mostly because there isn’t any. Kureha has a selfish crush on Rio. That’s about it.

Again, my thanks to Okazu Superhero, Eric P. for his generosity and kindness in sponsoring this review, and here’s hoping that my final review of the series will be more glowing than this!

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Man, if only A-1 Pictures were faithful of Mel Kishida’s original character designs instead of obviously aping K-On’s. Those look gorgeous.

  2. @Anonymous – I wouldn’t say they were aping K-Ons character designs, so much as they are just conforming to expected moe design.

  3. deathcurse says:

    I never watched moe-anime, so I was thankfully spared the comparisons with moe design and K-On. I found the “bad” in Sora no Woto to be pretty bad, but the “good” was really good, so in the end I settled with enjoying the good parts while selectively forgetting the bad.

    I do have to say though, that it was Episode 7 that really sold the world, the history, and the weight of the plot to me =).

  4. @deathcurse – I like K-ON!, but have no delusions that it’s an amazing, must-see series. ^_^

    I’m looking forward to Episode 7 now and waiting eagerly to be sold on the world, the history and the plot! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Oh my god, you are SO right about the terrible, manipulative ending. I won’t spoil things for you, and I admit I quit about 3 episodes before the true end because I could see it getting even more pointlessly painful with no relief in sight… but on the other hand, I quit 3 episodes before the true end because I could see it getting even more pointlessly painful with no relief in sight. Continue watching at your own risk!

  6. Robert Moore says:

    As with many anime, the first episode and the last have an animation budget, the middle…not so much. So, I agree the art and animation are awful except those two episodes.

    However, to me, the series is broken into two parts as far as character development and plot. The first half is cute yet shallow. The second half is dark and fulfilling (I wouldn’t say ‘deep’).

    The series does a sharp left turn. Unless Aria and K-On deal with a dying world, filled with characters all scarred by those they have lost and clinging to one another in the hope that someday the nightmarish war will end and they will have a chance to grow up, then I think the comparisons end abruptly in the latter half of Sora no Woto.

    As far as Yuri, you only get what is left unsaid between Rio and Felicia (typical interruption before “I am trying to tell you I love you” scene), Noel’s care of another soldier, the after the credits scene at the end of the series, and a fan service bonus episode. So, “snatches of Yuri” as you like to say.

    I recommended this to a friend that loves Yuri but hates moe. It made her cry in a good way.

  7. BruceMcF says:

    We’re mostly still in the Extremely Adorable Nieces part of CLEAN ~ Canticle for Leobowitz’s Extremely Adorable Nieces.

    As most have already said, the Canticle for Leobowitz part picks up pace in the second half.

    Though with one episode I would not have regretted if they had a computer crash destroying all the material for that episode, after any physical material was accidentally dropped in a vat of acid accidentally left lying around, before it got to air.

  8. Marc M. says:

    @Robert is correct.

    It does change direction starting with episode seven.

    I had forgotten about Batteries not Included and that ending. man, that brings back memories.

    The ending isn’t as bad as that one though, so you may be surprised. I enjoyed the last half a lot actually. Not a huge story shift, but enough to make it interesting for me.

    I’m watching it right now with a friend, and he loves it. But he loves moe more than me.

    Marc M.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There really is Yuri, actually: And it involves Rio.

    With Felicia, though. It’s probably more of the “not show much in the series, show it in safe supplementary material” kind, like Mai Hime which also said that the relationship worked out in the artbook.

    No idea why japanese companies keep doing it.

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