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 a 15-year-old volunteer named 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 forward, Kanata decided music would be her life. As the other platoon members train her how to be 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.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty basic as it features only the original Japanese language in stereo encoded through uncompressed PCM. The show is one that doesn’t have all that much to it for the most part when you get down to it, though there are a few bigger scenes later on which do benefit from the lossless presentation. This series is largely about the ambience, the music and the dialogue, and the track here conveys it cleanly and without problem. There’s not a lot of directionality to be had here since it’s given to focusing on only one character at a time and they tend to be central to the screen, but when it does have more in there, the placement is well done and it feels natural. The music, notably with the trumpet, is nicely done and has a good clear sound to it without any scratching or other potential problems. When we do get a bit more of the war material toward the end, the mix plays a bit better and the uncompressed aspect of it is a big plus. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread out over two discs with basically seven episodes on each disc with the first disc also having the alternate first episode. I’d seen the show simulcast originally and then on DVD a few times so I was definitely excited to get this on Blu-ray as it begged for high definition when it first came out. There’s a lot of detail and rich colors to the animation here that’s really well captured and left me pretty pleased throughout, working with better encoding and bitrates so that it can just bring it all to life really well. I really like the look of this show and the transfer here captures it well with smooth, solid animation moving about and backgrounds that are detailed and problem free.Colors are really striking in a lot of areas, the high fluid motion sequences are fantastic, and the detail capture is spot on as there are some really rich backgrounds and layered moments that stand out well.
The packaging for this release obviously can’t compete with the chipboard box editions we got for the DVD years ago but what we want here is the quality of the show itself. The packaging is straightforward and solid as we get a standard sized case that features the five main girls laying down with an overhead shot as the owl element factors into it. It’s cute and adorable in all the right ways but has some good detail and you get a feel for character personalities through it. The back cover is a pretty dark and moody piece, darker than I expected really, but it uses a good background piece of artwork to really give it something weighty and defining. The summary of the premise is easy to read and the extras are broken down clearly as well. No show related inserts are included but we do get a great two-panel spread of illustration character artwork on the reverse side.
The menu design for this release works the simple side but it does it effectively. With a tannish strip along the bottom for navigation, it has a clean and easy to read feeling about it and navigation is a breeze with what it brings into play as you move about it. A big plus for me was what I think was the first time that during playback it’ll list which episode you’re on instead of just listing all of the episodes without any idea where you are. The bulk of the menu is made up of clips from the show and there are some nice scenery pieces in here as well as a couple of fun action-ish moments as well. The layouts are quick and easy to navigate and setting up playback works well as you have a choice with or without honorifics if that’s your thing for this show.
The extras for this release are spread across the discs and there’s some good stuff here depending on how you look at it. The basics are here in the form of the characters bios and line art pieces and the US trailer that was made to promote the show. The main extra is the alternate version of the first episode, which runs slightly longer, but I’ll admit to being hard-pressed to tell the differences between the two with a casual viewing. I opted for the broadcast version for my main viewing since I wanted to recreate what I had seen during the simulcast. The second disc has the bigger breakdown of extras with the various galleries available to check out, which are worthwhile as the backgrounds are just gorgeous in this series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original production from Anime no Chikara, a seemingly ill-fated project that generated three shows with this as its launch one, followed up with by Occult Academy and Night Raid 1931, Sound of the Sky was known as Sora no Woto and ran for twelve episodes and had two special episodes released in addition to it. The show was one that captivated a lot of fans from the start with the beautiful animation from A-1 Pictures that stood out against others of the season and the hopes for an original production that could lead to more interesting shows that avoided the usual manga to anime adaptation pacing traps. While it proved to be a solid series, it didn’t quite achieve its overall goals in my mind.
The series focuses on Kanata, a young military girl who had enlisted at a time when most people had been leaving the service and going back to their small provincial towns to get their lives going again after the recent war. The two nations at the center of this conflict are continuing their peace talks and that serves as an undercurrent to the series until the last couple of episodes when things hit a flashpoint moment, which works well as it builds things up slowly and naturally through the eyes of those on the outside of most of what’s going on. Kanata’s coming to Seize is putting her in a small place overall along the borderlands where there’s little out there and much of what’s beyond it all is no man’s land. And as with any show involving people within the military, even at an outpost like this, they all have their pasts and stories that influence and shape events.
Kanata’s arrival at the Clocktower Fortress and this platoon is really fun to watch as she’s bright and full of life, but not obnoxious or annoying. She fits in well with the others of the troop, from the sleepy genius that is Noel to the spitfire that is Kureha who plays by the rules. She bonds very easily with Rio, the other bugler in the platoon with whom she wants to learn from, but is a bit more unsure of the platoon leader in Filicia as she’s kind of light in an amusing way and bends and molds the rules as necessary for her own means. They all have very distinct pasts that are explored over the course of the show and there are things that bond them together that they’re not aware of from the past. The slow and methodical pacing of the story is blended with Kanata’s becoming more familiar with Seize itself and some of the residents of the town, as well as getting to know more on some of the basic military matters.
Sound of the Sky is not a show that runs with big moments for the most part, though it does allow the final couple of episodes to go big when it comes to military matters and tension. By avoiding this in the earlier episodes, it makes that segment all the more fun to watch because you know it means something. The stories that we see here are enjoyable to be sure, almost slice of life in the end, as Kanata does her chores in the town and makes friends with some of the kids, shop owners and others. They move in and out of the show as time passes, sometimes being involved because of some needed help in dealing with a situation or something related to the festival of the area that deals with the story of the Flame Maidens that has a strong tie the distant past.
When I watched this as a simulcast, I got into the character drama of it a lot but wanted more of the setting for the world, the why of events and how it all ended up this way. We get some great teases about it here and there, such a brief look at a map and a flashback that shows one phase of how the world ended and turned into these simpler times where most anything related to technology has been lost to a different era. These kinds of stories can be fascinating, but there’s also always that feeling that there are some gaping holes in how life would be at this point and that there’d always be some that would be trying to bring the technology back. We do get a bit of that, but it’s pretty tame considering what would be left in the ruins of even a far-flung place like this.
Still, we’re offered an interesting world here that’s beautifully animated, which was one of the big reasons the show captured my attention so much at first. A-1 Pictures did a beautiful job in capturing the look of this Helvetian town and the way much of it has fallen to ruin but is still usable by everyone as they eke out the life that they can and the happiness they can. The town itself is a real treat, but the backgrounds are even more beautiful to look at. From the fall settings that we get with the sun setting to the time spent in the winter where the girls trudge through the snow, it all has a great feeling of being very well versed in nature that allows it to feel even more real, drawing you into the atmosphere that it’s created.
While I had some problems with how Sound of the Sky worked during its simulcast run, as it felt like it wasn’t capitalizing on its promise of the first episode, it definitely does build towards something. It simply takes a leisurely pace in getting there and brings in the larger story elements little bit little in a natural way. It does make you want more of it because it has a lot to offer, and that becomes the main frustration. With what it wants to do though, giving us the tale of five young women with their varied pasts and stories that have come together to this place and time, it does it very well. It has plenty of atmosphere, some good humor where appropriate, fun bugle playing and plenty of intensity when required. They’re a well-rounded cast overall and with the supporting characters that wander in and out, it all comes together in a very engaging and entertaining way. Reconnecting with it now, several years after last seeing it, it’s great to get such a high-quality presentation to bring it to life as intended as there’s just so much going into the animation production. It’s a great looking title and one that really needed a high definition release for years.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Trailer, Alternate Version of Episode 1, Episode Previews, and Art Gallery
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Running Time: 355 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.