Music is the cure for all problems.
What They Say:
In a lonely corner of the world, on the edge of No Man’s Land, sits Clocktower Fortress. It’s home to the 1121st Platoon of the Helvetian Army, and their newest member is 15-year-old volunteer Kanata Sorami, who enlisted to learn how to play the bugle. When she was a child, Kanata was saved by a beautiful soldier and found inspiration in the clear, golden sound of her trumpet. From that day onward, Kanata decided music would be her life.
As the other platoon members train her in how to be both a bugler and a soldier, Kanata’s enduring optimism will inspire them to look for happiness and beauty, even in a world haunted by war.
Only the Japanese audio is available here as no dub was done. The audio comes through in a decent 2.0 mix, and subtitles are nice and bright. It’s a mostly soft series, so the lack of a 5.1 mix isn’t missed too much, though one is always appreciated. There was some limited directionality on the sound effects, though dialogue stayed centered.
This is a gorgeous anime. The quality of the animation is such that you would expect from a movie, not a TV show, and it’s transferred to DVD very well as I didn’t notice any technical flaws. There are some tremendous effects in the winter scenes, especially, but the whole series looks gorgeous. There’s a nice mix of character designs as well, which really helps bring it to life.
This release puts the four discs in a litebox, so it is nice and compact. The front cover has a pretty piece of artwork that features the five girls of the 1121st platoon, standing on a balcony looking over the countryside. The back has a large image of the platoon’s emblem, with a few screen shots and the series summary. It’s a simple design, but I think it’s one that capture’s the series well in its simplicity.
The menus are well designed but basic. The background is dominated by some art of an important character on that respective disc, with the selections offered in white along the left-hand side. Interestingly, while there is a submenu to select individual episodes, all of the extras on a given disc are just placed on the main menu. It sort of clutters up the main menu a bit, but the extras are well spread out, so it’s not a huge deal.
This release has a decent amount of extras on it. Each disc has a series of character bios and Nozomi trailers. The bios are actually pretty thin on content, as there are maybe half-a-dozen per disc and many of them only have a sentence or two written up about them. They were fun for a quick look, but there is no depth to any of them, and nothing will be learned that isn’t easily apparent from watching the episodes. There is also a US trailer and an alternate version of the first episode (the opening sequence has some added scenes, but the rest of the episode is the same). Finally, there are two bonus, DVD-only episodes, but while they are bonus episodes, they are actually placed right in the run of the official episodes as episodes 7.5 and 13. So unless you are paying attention, you will watch them without realizing that you have.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kanata has just joined the Helvetian Army to learn to be a bugler. When she was just a child, she was caught in a warzone, and was saved by a woman who proceeded to play a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace on her trumpet after the battle was over. Ever since then, Kanata’s has been absorbed by music, and all she wants to do is learn how to play. However, Helvetia has been at war with the Holy Roman Empire for so long at this point, the military is the only place where she has a chance to find instruction.
Upon enlisting, she’s placed in the 1121st Platoon, stationed in the frontier outpost Clockwork Fortress in the town of Seize. Seize lies along the border with No Man’s Land, an ever expanding wasteland of relics from an ancient time before humanity tried to destroy itself. The fighting has never made it all the way out to Seize, so the 1121st Platoon is a skeleton crew of only five people (Kanata included), and with nothing major of note ever happening, they tend to be a fairly laid back crew. And with Master Sergeant Rio Kazumiya, a brilliant trumpet player in her own right, also stationed there, Kanata might finally be seeing her dreams come true.
I don’t really pay too close attention to what’s coming out in Japan, and generally never hear of something until it is solicited for release over here, but Sound of the Sky (Soranowoto) is one of the few I did hear about when it aired in early 2010. And ever since hearing about it, I’ve really wanted to see it. I missed the first boxset a couple years ago, but I am glad that I have had the opportunity to check this release out. It is an utterly delightful series.
Despite the backdrop of continuous war in a post-apocalyptic world, this isn’t a dark story at all. In fact, other than a few occasional flashbacks, we don’t even see any fighting until very late when the war finally reaches their doorstep. And even then, it takes a soft approach to the subject matter and doesn’t delve in too deeply.
Instead, this series is about Kanata and the lives of the five girls living in the Clockwork Fortress. Where Seize is untouched by the ravages of war, they lead pretty simple lives for soldiers. They have a regular rotation of duties around the base, and are more than willing to help out with problems in town, but they don’t really do much in the way of soldiering.
In fact, you are just as likely to find them goofing off, and it leads to some humorous moments. The one time the younger girls (Kanata, Private Kureha, and Corporal Noel) are sent out on a supposedly serious field exercise, they ditch their packs for being too heavy and take far longer to complete the exercise because they stop to goof off in a stream for a while. And yet it is all okay because the exercise was just a sly way for Rio and Second Lieutenant (and Platoon Commander) Filicia to show them a natural hotspring up the mountain from the base. It’s almost as if the Best Student Council grew up and joined the Army.
Sound of the Sky is rarely outwardly funny like Best Student Council, though. It’s more a charming, slice-of-life story that has plenty of humorous moments (bonus episode 7.5 is the exception that proves the rule…it is definitely outwardly funny). Each episode gives us the opportunity to learn more about each of the girls and follow along with Kanata’s journey to make her company proud as their bugler. If it wasn’t for their military uniforms (which they wear pretty informally, it should be noted), it would be pretty easy to forget that this is essentially a war story. It isn’t until the end that the war intrudes on their lives, and even then, the music is what matters most.
Sound of the Sky was an absolute joy to watch. When I saw the 16+ rating, I worried that it was going to be much darker than I wanted it to be, and I’m glad to say that I was wrong. If you like good, slice-of-life stories, then look no farther than this one. The characters are terrific, the story is full of charm, and it generally remains upbeat despite the dark backdrop. It was everything I wanted it to be. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Full Opening Sequence Version of Episode 1, Character Bios, Line Art Gallery, Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Running Time: 355 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System