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!