Post Reply Episode 12 - The Finale
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31 / M / "The World"
Posted 3/28/10 , edited 3/28/10
Well...that's it. An amazing show throughout and one hell of a finish. The chart says it all and I throw in a few other things to celebrate a series that I will definitely buy the boxset of.

It was a great ride. Godspeed to you all. Just so you know...a certain subbing group will be handling "The Making of Sora no Woto and Night Raid" special that will air in a couple of days so make sure you look for it.

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42 / M / Where I am
Posted 3/30/10 , edited 3/30/10
Favorite show to date. I get rather depressed that such a good show is limited to twelve episodes when it could've gone so much further. One of my fav. episodes is the Kanata needing to pee while watching the phone.
Posted 8/9/10 , edited 8/9/10
I am quite conflicted about how this all ended on the one hand I felt that it was cop out of sorts, but on the other hand I was on the edge of my seat right up until the initial response to Kanata’s rendition of Amazing Grace. While in a way Rio was the one who saved the day as she marched in with her Royal Guard out-flanking both armies, since the Helvetian Tactical Commander didn’t buy into Kanata’s Version of the Minmay Defense, it felt less than satisfying. In the end it wasn’t really a song that ended the war but it was Rio to the rescue the situation with a treaty backed up by force. Rio and her flanking maneuver was fairly plausible since the Helvetian commander could not ignore orders from his Rio-hime and the Roman commander would have fucked himself if he chose to fight the Helvetian Army in front of him and Rio’s Royal Guard on his flank. Even if the Helvetian tactical commander of 9th, 1st, and 3rd wanted to fight he’d be in a similarly bad tactical position with Rio on his flank and the Romans in front of him. Kanata’s concert and subsequent pause was plausible (as both sides are attuned it listening to signals) but extremely fanciful that two opposing forces within sight of each other would stop for a moment when hearing Kanata’s Amazing Grace, that was a big stretch even if there are plenty of people who get distracted by shiny objects. The playing of both Helvetian and Roman trumpet calls was plausible (and much more desirable) as it basically prevented both the Helvetian commander and the Roman commander from maintaining tactical control over their troops. It was the equivalent to jammed comms at which point confusion can reign as each commander’s radius of command is limited by shouting distance. I would have liked it better had Kanata been blowing off mixed signals right up to the end, but for the sake of cinematography Amazing Grace was used, and while beautiful as always it just didn’t sit too well with me, thankfully the Helvetian commander tried to call bullshit and attempted to regain tactical control. Since none of the rank and file had much stomach for fighting anymore and with the general population being war weary and all, the situation was ripe for them obey Rio’s commands even if they could not see the treaty she held.

I was prepared to see them all die or many of them to die, but it doesn’t piss me off that they didn’t go the rout of killing them all off to show that WAR IS BAD since it has been done before. I was relieved when Takemikazuchi did not rout two field armies in one sortie and only beat off a over strength tank platoon. Instead what we got was a mixture of fanciful song ends the war which to be fair ultimately failed to bring about peace, and the rather believable scenario of Rio hammering out a peace treaty agreeing to be a third wife and racing to the front to prevent the saber rattling from turning in to another shooting war. Despite the World War II inspired equipment it seems that it was more World War I in that after the massive losses from the first war a general mutiny could bring things to a grinding halt. The Christmas Truces of the First World War are fairly well known since it was tragic that it did not amount to anything and was one of those things you can’t make up. I think the situation was more along the lines of the French Mutinies of 1917 where the French Army mutinied en masse not because they disagreed with fighting the Germans but because they were tired of how the war was being fought. Given the way the Helvetians and Romans were just going to run up against each other in swirling melee I’d have mutinied over such tactics. In the case of the French Mutinies it basically meant that France was finished as an offensive force, but not out of the defensive fight. Felicia did the morally right thing but the militarily wrong thing by protecting Aisha, though in a sense Hopkins had already mutinied when he decided to escalate things and Felicia did end up sawing Aisha from becoming a war crime victim. Thus it’s hard for me to crucify Felicia since at the time she did the wrong thing which ended up being the right thing after Hopkins confessed to have been acting against orders from the Arch-Duke. I am not sure whether that was a smart move on the part of the writers or just accidental laziness, in any case I have no easy answer in regards to Felicia’s actions.

I liked how they dealt with Hopkins as a character as all too often there is that one irredeemable bad guy that every one teams up against, but here you don’t really have that. Hopkins was what we would now call a war criminal because he used bio-warfare agents, but the thing is that he used them defensively and even if he didn’t give two shits about how many Romans he killed in a single day he wasn’t maniacally evil since his reaction to Roman saber rattling were understandable as was his aversion to simply shooting Helvetians who got in his way. He wasn’t a completely ruthless murderer because he could not bring himself to wipe out a whole town of the people he was honor bound to protect so there was some human decency left in him even if he had none left for the Romans. It makes him a little more human in that sense rather than the archetypal monster. Hopkins to me is like one of those crazy bastards you need to fight a war, a guy who didn’t pull punches but still cared about his own side. There have been plenty of guys like him who fought for the Allies in WWII, such as Harris, Le May, Patton, and Halsey, none of them were afraid of hit the enemy with everything they had and all of them could be callous and in the case of Patton horribly racist and anti-Semitic. Every person has that line that they just can’t cross and for Hopkins it was shooting Helvetian civilians, keep in mind he could have gotten away with it but he chose not to. I think that is rather important since the most amoral guy is less of a mad man but a Knight Templar that is willing to use any weapon he can get his hands on to beat the Romans to death with. The Romans might hate his guts but his legacy in Helvetia is far less clear cut. Hopkins’ hostility towards Roman saber rattling was understandable given his kill ‘em all attitude after all any person with an ounce of patriotism would not take kindly to demonstrations of force to compel their compliance. Even if in the end he was ingloriously disabled by being stepped on I am glad that the Helvetians and Roman field armies didn’t just set aside their differences just to kill the guy.

Rio saving the day was somewhat expected but I would have hoped that it was more of a race against time to add to the tension of whether or not she would make it to the front. Given that there is no wireless comms to speak of Rio had to haul ass as fast as she could with an army to back her up since there was no guarantee that either side would wholeheartedly comply. It would have been more forgivable it she forced a parley but for the sake of a happy ending we got the tossing of weapons and helmets, and while it captures the joyous cessation of hostilities it remains to me as one of the dumbest artistic licenses they took given how it goes against weapon safety and a helmet is going to fall with quite a bit of force. The Roman story of the angel was wonderfully told and I was moved and liked how Aisha was the angel, it was poetic in a nice sort of way even if the mention of a miracle caused me a bit of dread as to what miracle might be in store for us. In the end I think that the anti-war message was very muted it wasn’t as vociferous as it usually is as most anti-war media usually entails some sob story and an indictment of the military, of money, and of politics while offering a simplistic solution to bring peace. In Sora no Woto plenty of romantic notions are brought out but the real galling ones like Kanata’s song stopping the war or Takemikazuchi shooting both sides into accepting peace was subverted though not as horribly as I would have liked. Ideally Rio would have just outflanked both armies and did what she did, the troops would disperse back to defensive potions until a parley could be made under a flag of truce for both field commanders to verify the treaty, and then once the order to stand down is passed down they troops can dance and all that jazz. The chain of events was good, but the speed at which they happened were hard to swallow. In the end it was thankfully less about war bad, armies are bad, we need to think of the children, etc… but about peace prevailing but only if both populations are truely tired of war and if there is still an army to enforce it. In that sense it was better than I could have hoped for since it was realistic in that it didn’t argue for simple solution, Rio had to marry as a 3rd wife (costing Helvetia a good amount of prestige points), and the Romans did not get any new territorial concessions, reparations, nor did they turn Helvetia into a protectorate. The emperor however did get a new wife so there was at least one clear cut winner from all of this even if Rome and Helvetia did not get much out of the war besides a depleted treasury and population. There was peace but not a perfect peace, still that imperfect peace was acceptable because both sides had been bled almost white by the war, the peaceful interlude was something that the people of Seize weren’t willing to give up and were willing to die to keep it even if they had lost loved ones, they chose to not lose anymore.

The war weariness I think is the key to the ending being acceptable as in any other case that treaty would have been a truce good for maybe another decade as Helvetia and Rome pretty much spent most of their military strength fighting each other to a standstill and spend a lot of blood and money to do it. I am perfectly alright with having no explanation of what Rodan was since it isn’t an answer any of the characters can provide and as for everything else it was wrapped up fairly decently. In the end there was enough attempt at subverting peace through music, the only shooting that was done was by the 1121st and Hopkins’ 9th which means that while shots were fired there were none when the Helvetian 9th, 1st, and 3rd were marching up to the Romans for a melee. Quite why they didn’t open up on each other is something I take issue with even since they were well within shooting distance. I like how they bothered to mention that they were using HEAT rounds as the primary anti-tank ammo in the setting since it makes Takemikazuchi shrugging off HEAT rounds much more acceptable since Chobham is designed to defeat such rounds and Helvetia was probably using lower grade HEAT ammunition given the tech decline. I am also glad they decided to add battle damage since with most mecha you would see so much as a paint scratch. Rio’s return wasn’t what I had expected namely the Emperor being anything other than a lecherous old hack or a shameless polygamist. Instead Rio has nice things to say about the guy which caught me rather off guard more so because she hints at liking the guy which I find unacceptable from a yuri centric perspective. Hopefully now that Noel, Kureha, and Kanata jumped Rio they will never let her return to the imperial palace. Still as much as I hate the Emperor for winning over Rio even if it’s just a little I have to say that bastard was smooth and I bet he’s thinking long term to win Rio’s heart. Rio was impressive for the most part as she finally stepped into the role of princess quite surprised she would wear a dress let alone take to the field in one, though any Helvetian military uniform would have made convincing the Romans almost impossible.

In then end it was an unexpected surprise that had two hard pills to swallow at the end, its a series that remains good right up until the end at which point things are no longer perfect as they once were. I can accept that none of them died, I can accept Takemikazuchi wiping out a platoon, I can accept Hopkins as a Roman hating bastard that still has a sense of decency for Helvetians, I can accept that Kanata was able to confuse for a while, but what I find hard to accept is how Amazing Grace caused such a long pause and how both Roman and Helvetian Field Armies were insight of each other but not shooting, either optics are just that bad or they have trouble drawing distances. The average fire fight occurs at 300m and a WWII era tank gun had a max effective range of 1000m, probably less with inferior optics, but it didn’t feel like there were that far apart and as much as the lack of artillery explains the lack of bombardment. Thinking it over as much as I RAEGED at the sight of the massive blobs of men and machines the lack of wireless really does explain why they weren’t grouped into fire teams and not using fire and maneuver since those tactics require two way radios if you want to use it large scale. Here for once realism took a huge bite out of enjoyment for me since it wasn’t WWII era warfare but Republican Rome era tactics with mecha but without the Romans leaving only disorganized Celts. For me there was just so much to love but there was a lot I don’t want to accept though some of it like army blobbing was justified even if uncool. Rio’s heart flutters of the the Emperor are to me very galling but a minor issue if an issue at all. I wish they spent more time to make the end easier to digest a little more time in between Rio’s flanking maneuver and the jubilation over the war ending would have helped immensely, but it was not to be. If there is a 13th episode I hope they make good use of it. As it stands it felt like having a good steak dinner but having a super market cookies for desert, not enough to ruin the whole experience but enough to have misgivings.

Other than brilliantly telling the Roman story of the Fire Maiden Legend, they did bring up how one of the most difficult things for enlisted and conscripts is to go that close to mutiny for the sake of being morally right. Most of the time it’s just preferable and easier to avoid the problem entirely but given Felicia’s situation I am not sure what I would do in her place, I think that enlisted and conscripts would be more able to sympathize with Felicia’s dilemma even if they would solve it differently. Aisha’s forgiving Noel was one of the most touching moments in the whole series and for me it was very well done and powerful. All in all the first 11 are really worth watching, but the payoff isn’t as grand as one would hope. They did a great job with the setting and hinting at future developments, the characters were great even if they had their own faults and fit with most of the kinds of people you would encounter in a garrison setting. The faithfulness to garrison life is to be applauded since it is a realm that anime seldom goes for. It’s much more than a K-On with guns, but at the same time the ending is as imperfect as the final peace agreement, the only saving grace of the 12th ep is that the first half was really good. It wasn’t GRIMDARK and might have ended up as a soap box for the words we have all heard before about war being bad if it went GRIMDARK, but the happy ending is ideal either. It’s hard to grade this series because on the one hand I feel that the first 11 and first half of 12 was some of the best anime I have seen all winter, but the rushed end really left me troubled. In the end I still think Sora no Woto is a good series overall despite the flawed end which isn’t completely bad but took two liberties that were difficult to accept, namely Amazing Grace, and lack of shooting between massed armies. What I do like is that they don’t harp on a particular message and try and pound it into the audience’s face, it respects the viewer’s intelligence and leaves enough hints and clues to keep the mystery going, it also doesn’t give out a clear good and evil nor does it pander to chaotic good non sense or feed into an immature world view. I can only really recommend it strongly to conscripts and enlisted since much of the fun is lost if one hasn’t experienced military life. The feat of having good German alone makes it even harder to forget how Sora no Woto shined so brightly before the 12th ep. In the end I can say that the only faulty part is the end which will have varying importance to various people based upon how they enjoyed the first 11 eps. I guess it’s recommended with reservations and a warning.

Final Grade: A-/B+

Who’s it for: Recommended to people who are at least curious at how real military garrison life is like, those expecting adventure, excitement, and killing need not apply. A good bet for fans of yuri real or imagined. A must see for those who have endured conscription and enlisted folks who want to reminisce about their own time in service and how funny it all is in hindsight. Side effects include loyalty to Rio-hime, imaginative punishments for subordinates, putting twin tails on your private major, poking pill bugs, yelling at caged birds, extreme happiness when caressing one’s military ride, religiously looking for billets with Fortress Maidens, distilling spirits, a burning desire to kill the Emperor of Rome, and cosplay with real weapons. Do not take if you need perfect ends. Those looking for a pole tent for a peace rally and an overt anti-war agenda series should shoot themselves in the face or hang themselves with wet spaghetti. Those who cannot draw their own conclusion may experience anger and frustration that their agenda was not pushed through should contact Chaplain Crusader for a tough shit card and hurt feelings report. Use only as directed.
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50 / M / Within the Empire...
Posted 9/8/10 , edited 9/9/10
I agree with most all of what you said. If I can say one thing in defense of the "Amazing Grace" card that was played, I would point out that both sides had a deep reverence for this song and it seemed pretty clear from episode 11 that neither side knew the other also held the song in such high regard. So Kanata playing that song just before the fighting could be started and playing it to troops that were obviously very burnt out on battles could cause a pause. Especially since they had just tried to communicate just beforehand that the treaty had been ratified. I imagine a lot of the enlisted grunts on the ground had heard that and even if their commanders weren't buying it, most of them in their heart of hearts were. So to hear that song coming from the very tank that was claiming to have news that the fighting was declared officially over and then hearing that song and seeing in those first few seconds the opposing side also wavering and not opening fire would be enough to make one at least hesitate and "check themselves". And as the song continued to play and both sides noticed the other one wasn't opening fire back made it all the more easy to put the brakes on the restart of hostilities. Plus of course the fact that it's a heck of a lot easier to pull off this stunt before the first round is fired that it is after the first trigger pull. Then you'd have adrenaline fully taking over and you'd be too far into "bloodshed" mode to listen to reason so easily.

And I wholeheatedly agree with your assessment that this series doesn't take the extreme "war is bad" message and try to sell a silly simplistic "let's just all join hands and make up" kind of ending. To be honest (and I think I mentioned this elsewhere on one of these threads) I like the way this series gives the anti war message. It's not hammered into you and forced at you like in so many of the Gundam series. It's more subtle, and to me that made the message that much more intense or meaningful. I have seen a lot of anti war messages in media from stuff like "Platoon" & "The Longest Day" and "Saving Private Ryan" to most of the aforementioned Gundam series and beyond, but to this day, Episode 7 of this series where Felicia has that flashback of the battle at the Vingt Front is by far the best delivery of that concept. There was more drama and soul in that 20+ minutes of anime than in most other entire series or movies. Even way better than "Saikano", which I thought did a decent job, but ultimately went overboard with that message in the last few minutes of the last episode of that series. Some of my friends who I tell this to have retorted by saying "oh if you want a really good anti war message check such and such out", but they just don't seem to understand the concept that sometimes less is more. This series can paint war in a negative light much better than some series with try to hit you over the head with that message. And that is what still amazes me about this series.

Even though the ending is a bit rushed, I still find it very satisfying. Now I just want to see those bonus DVD only eps just because.
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