Posted by psgels on 22 March 2010 with categories: Sora no Oto



Sora no Oto is another one of those ‘don’t by fooled by its looks’-shows. Sure, it may have the same character-designer as K-On, but its content is completely different. Instead it takes place Switzerland, in some sort of mysterious post-apocalyptic world of a threatening war and child soldiers. It tells the story of a military outpost, which can sometimes be quiet and laid-back, but at others dark and powerful.

This series has really been one of the very few series that can boast an original storyline nowadays. In 12 episodes, it paints the picture of a mysterious setting in which a ton of stuff happened in the past, and it’s truly at its best when it can flesh out this setting. It’s amazing how well detailed it describes the village that everything in this series takes place in, and the story that lies behind it. It leaves a lot to your imagination: it doesn’t reveal everything, but instead relies on the viewers to piece together all of the clues.

The characters themselves also have imaginative backgrounds. Through the series I liked how they first start out as those seemingly annoying moe stereotypes, but ended up developing in sympathetic ones. My personal favourite was the Felicia episode, which was a true triumph in storytelling. The slice of life is also very imaginative and has an interesting presentation, rather than trying to rip off the ton of other slice of life series that exist out there.

With a series that’s completely original, you’d expect that the creators would have the perfect opportunity to create a story that fits that 12 episodes that it consists of perfectly. But, now. The creators took too much on their plate and tried to be way too epic for their own good. If the characters didn’t somehow end up standing at the centre of a huge war, then it would have been significantly better. Instead, this show is stuck with an utterly terrible ending that doesn’t just fail to answer some of the most important questions, it’s utterly cheesy, nonsensical and furthermore it destroys a ton of build-up that the previous episodes tried to create so pain-stakingly. It’s a huge step beyond a simple ‘disappointing ending’.

In the meantime however, A-1 are showing more and more what an excellent production company they can be. This series looks utterly gorgeous, and the animation is vivid and imaginative, with especially the backgrounds being really well drawn.

But yeah, in the end this remains a series that went too epic than what was good for it. It’s a shame, I really liked it in the beginning, but for me, it left a nasty bad taste behind in its final minutes. I’m still recommending this show for its first two thirds, but just be aware that this show can’t fulfill the things it promises.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Very solid writing in the first two thirds. Last third is too rushed. Bad ending.
Characters: 8/10 – Interesting development, but some get taken a bit too far.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Beautiful animation and background art; the best OP of the past season.
Setting: 8/10 – Incomplete, but fascinating and well detailed.

21 Responses

  1. Avatar Maureen says:

    You can’t review the series yet. There’s still another ep to go, next week.

  2. Avatar Kiseki says:

    It doesn’t have the same character designer as K-ON. :/

  3. Avatar m says:

    Sora no Oto appears to me to have tried to serve too many masters. There are signs of trying to tap into the success of K-ON, and that gives us much of what wasn’t novel about the show: the generic characters, the hot spring, the panties and groping, some of the side-adventures, etc. A lot of what is disappointing in the show, I think, comes from these portions.
    They also tried to build the story into a game that, while not quite a mystery, would leave little hints that were vague enough to keep the audience guessing. Some, like the bootlegging being hinted at, were cleverly misleading. Even when the revelations strained credulity, there was some preceding clue that had been left dangling. This gave the show a lot of moving parts, and along with the introduction of an assortment of disposable characters, left the show open to a lot of different directions up until the last third of it. This was the part of the show that I found most fun. I didn’t necessarily care for where the story would go, but they had me thinking they were playing eleven-dimensional red herring.
    I think they also tried to indulge themselves with all of the references. There are signs of a lot of research put into this show in history, art history, and the construction of Seize and the area around it. If making a lot of references to other things made a show entertaining, they would have had the most entertaining show around. Period weapons, the use of English, French and German, the setting of Helvetica, the imagery for the maidens, the myths, and even the use of “New Britain” to invoke “Amazing Grace” to reinforce the theme of redemption.
    They also snag some science fiction credit, with the post-apocalyptic world that is difficult to pin the point of divergence from our own, because of all of the different historical references and the futuristic technology. The world was the most interesting aspect of the show for me, and the one I thought got the shortest thrift. Episode nine was the peak and the end of fleshing out the why of the world. I think it was the best episode of the show.
    The other leg, the leg that comes back in a rush at the end to club us in the head, is the status of the show as a war drama. This throws a wrench into the pacing of the show, because by the time the armistice between Rome and Helvetica begins to deteriorate there’s very little time left. It’s the weakest aspect of show, and if they had focused on the war in the past tense and only dangled the threat of future conflict instead of thrusting the remote fort into the middle of the political intrigue it would have fared better. (A bit less exciting, but it would have given them more time to explore the issue of redemption in a serious way, instead of how it was really handled).

    The show had a lot of things going on, and many of the ones that were novel showed potential, but overall I’m not sure there was ever a complete picture of what the show would do (or if there was, that all of it could fit into such a tight time budget), and as a result its potential was buried under a pile things that weren’t very interesting.

    For the visuals, the backgrounds and the color design were pretty good. The animation quality was a little inconsistent. Sometimes it was great, and other times they just panned over stills. That’s life on a budget, though.

    Prior to the twelfth episode I was still holding out a little hope that they would just end the show open with some hope for doing another season in which they could better flesh out the good parts of the show and jettison the weaker elements, but I’m not sure how worthwhile that would be now.

  4. Avatar m says:

    ‘shrift’ not ‘thrift’
    If I proofread what I typed into the tiny boxes of the web client, maybe it would be readable once in a while.

    Apologies for the spammy posting.

  5. Avatar riddle says:

    Hmm, the ending was not dissapointing for me at least. this is anime dude, some endings might not be real life enough. so what if its rush, the ending was pretty good, giving the last episode a bad mark is not very fair

  6. Avatar Alec says:

    most of the episodes were phenomenal, but the ending is pretty normal too me… *sigh…. i thought that they would pull sumthin crazy again in the last episode, which they’ve always done in the pevious episodes, but this time, they didnt -_-…still the anime is still amazing…we didnt expect this anime to be soooo amazing….this anime is what you would call the “DARK HORSE”

    still a SAD ending FOR ME…not the anime…but to ME

  7. Avatar PhantomX says:

    Riddle, unreasonable or unreal endings aren’t bad if the anime is built around continuous suspension of disbelief (I mean, look at Gurren Lagann, that show has some of the most retarded stuff ever going on in it, and the ending is fine because it’s established that that’s how it’s going to be). This show, for the most part, was grounded in realism or at least pretending to be realistic, so an unrealistic ending is jarring and unfitting.

    That’s similar to the problem I had with Code Geass (which took it to a much greater extreme). They had some “super genius” with a super eyeball masterminding plans while making the most stupid/retarded mistakes (particularly memorable to me is when he jokingly says to kill all the japanese people… like, wtf, who uses that as an example? -_-) and people getting blown up by a nuke and surviving, while trying to be serious in the meantime.

  8. Avatar Joojoobees says:

    In the end, I’m glad this one is over. It did not live up to my hopes for it (which is probably my fault). I agree with much of what M says, and psgels’ appraisal that they tried to be too epic. The ideas, such as showing military life in a remote stronghold, were good. The show was occasionally quite stylish. It just seemed like they tried too much to really pull it all off in the end.

  9. psgels psgels says:

    Maureen: there is? According to ANN there are only 12.

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=11023

    kiseki: heh, I could have sworn that that was the cse.

  10. Avatar MsteaK says:

    Stopped taking this seriously the moment they sent a bunch of girls in a ‘desolated’ town that acts as a buffer in an armistice. Not exactly something I can buy when it’s incredibly stupid.

  11. Avatar Son Gohan says:

    Next week they will air a “making of” Sora no Woto, so the story is really over, barring the two DVD-only episodes, which I suppose will not impact the storyline much.
    I think that psgels was a bit harsh on the ending. The whole series stressed the importance of Amazing Grace for all of the girls, so I would have been surprised if it DIDN’T play a big part in the finale. For me that scene required a reasonable suspension of disbelief. After all it wasn’t Kanata who stopped the war, it was Rio-hime with a signed peace treaty.

  12. Avatar Typewriter says:

    Of course, it’s easy to say “the war is stopped by a trumpet play lol” and makes it sound ridiculous. That ignores other aspects like that nobody supports the war in the first place and that the trumpet actually only stalls it and not singlehandedly ends it Macross-style.

    Likewise, psgels, the episode you call a triumph in storytelling I actually consider a generic tragedy-insertion and infodump. Doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable due to presentation, though.

    I thought it’s you yourself who say to look beyond outer premise and see how it’s actually executed. I fear that you put your expectations on the wrong places to fail doing that for the last episode.

  13. Avatar PhantomX says:

    They never showed the song being important to anyone outside of the girls. Not to mention that the CIVILIANS don’t support the war (aren’t fighting), but the people that stormed their castle were more than quick to shoot at a Roman soldier, so saying no one wanted to fight b/c one dude missed his g/f or the civilians opposed it is silly.

  14. Avatar Nobody says:

    This blog has officially become the home of all anime armchair commenters.

    Seriously, what’s up with all the overanalyzing, saying stuff like “IT NEEDED MORE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT”, “IT NEEDS SOMETHING CALLED A BUILD UP”.

    What’s up with this… I used to like this blog, but now it relies basically on oversimplifying the storytelling process. Dumbing down the reviewing process, basically.

    Some of you might complain about formulaic anime. I’ll complain about formulaic anime reviewers/commenters.

  15. Avatar PhantomX says:

    Believe it or not, some people like to watch anime for the story telling and character development, not for the little girls playing soldier. As such, that’s what we criticize the most when it lets us down.

    It wouldn’t even matter, if this wasn’t perfectly avoidable. They could’ve devoted the telephone/peeing myself episode to coming to a better conclusion.

    No one’s going to stop you from leaving, so by all means go. Meanwhile we’ll continue to keep our good tastes and expectations high when a show makes us believe we should have high expectations for it.

  16. Avatar PL says:

    Phantom, lol …right on

    Nobody…the quality of the writing and variety of expression on this blog has improved by orders of magnitude since he started. Just read something he reviewed in 06 if you doubt me. Used to be, if psgels liked a show’s animation and didn’t call it “a visual feast” I would have doubted it was a post by psgels.
    BUT, at the same time when you’ve reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of shows and made thousands of blog posts about those shows, and the shows themselves tend to follow certain patterns of storytelling closely, then of course some things are going to sound “formulaic”. In a way, though, that is a benefit instead of a problem with the blog. I’ve read enough reviews here now and then watched those series/movies to know EXACTLY what psgels means when he says a show “lacked character development”, I understand EXACTLY what the difference in quality between a show that gets a score of 85 and one that gets a 92, I get EXACTLY, on an intuitive level what psgels means when he says that a show blew its sense of believability. But, here is where this blog has ALWAYS excelled: ready? here it is… psgels gives detailed, concrete reasons for liking or disliking any aspect of a show, he lays out the pros and cons of any given show he reviews, and this is something he’s made a conscious effort to improve in his writing over the years, specifically focusing on nailing down his exact reasons for feeling a certain way about a show. So, I dunno what you’re bitching about, but think before you call someone’s reviews formulaic. Hell, the two most popular movie critics in the US, Ebert and Roper (Siskel and Ebert when I was a kid) have their reviews reduced to a gesture of the thumbs, but I don’t think anyone calls their criticism “formulaic”, and for similar reasons: they make a concrete argument showing their line of reasoning for arriving at a certain position on a movie, just as psgels does with his anime reviews.

  17. Avatar Firechick says:

    Aren’t there going to be DVD-only episodes showing up later?

  18. Avatar Son Gohan says:

    It is speculated that Amazing Grace could be the hymn of the unified forces that fought the Angels in ancient times. This would explain why the song was stored in Takemikazuchi’s memory and why both Romans and Helvetians know it.
    It was also the signature song of the revered hero Princess Iriya, so it’s not farfetched to assume that Amazing Grace holds a high value among Helvetian soldiers. Yes, this is a case where dramatic effect takes precedence over complete realism but it’s not that much unbelievable.

  19. Avatar Bruce says:

    The trumpet song wasn’t that unrealistic. In fact I’d go so far to say that the girls really didn’t achieve anything with that song. The battle would have ended one way or another. Because of Rio’s actions they had a peace treaty signed and all they really had to do was bring it into the field. The trumpet at best only stalled the battle for maybe ten minutes.

    The ending was a letdown, yes. But I personally don’t feel it was as unrealistic as most people felt it was.

  20. Avatar Reltair says:

    I don’t think the ending was abysmal. There’s nothing wrong with having an ideal, but cliche ending. The setting/background makes it feel like it came from a storybook, so what’s wrong with having a storybook ending?

  21. Avatar inkka says:

    Yeah…What a pity that you ruined good show with your opinion at the ending.

    For me this series is very good. At first sight. I think it’s the some of generic moe slice of life show. But..when I see the story the one thing that I want to say. Wow..

    It’s very unique story for anime nowadays. When I watch this anime. I’m very feel refreshing. The war and the thing that affect people.(The main girls is the obvious way to describe why it was affected).
    And It’s worked at the ending.Because people is enough at that. They’re happy to see the war didn’t happened again.(And It’s the best way to ending this series too. because It’s this series theme. War is for past. The future is for peace !)

    And I love this series that although It has only 12eps.(OK it has special eps in DVD. but for most people this series end in this ep).It can delivery and make every main character didn’t look flat and much more likeable at the end. They have past. Thay have character development. And their past is very good and well told.

    Ah.. almost forget to tell about the setting.This series is very few series that I told that I love it because good setting. Their world is interesting. It look so mystery. but at sametime it look like our world at the past.(some reference with our world make it more interesing).

    And at Art section somehow I want to say K-on Character design worked and look pro at the end.and can mixed with gorgeous background that this series had nicely.

    The last.. that song..Amazing grace!! I love that song too much. I don’t know but when I hear this. I feel the grand that this song have. Very good choice for creator to choose this song to play important role in this series.

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