There are many different ways to have a show based off of the theme of having characters reveal themselves and develop together through their connections together, probably the most common of which in media is to take characters and put them into perilous situations and use that danger as fuel to power things along and create dramatic moments for change and to open up the secrets that they hold dear and hide. It certainly isn’t the only way of doing things however as using a more measured and bit by bit approach that slowly reveals elements about the characters can be just as- or possibly more- rewarding as the audience comes to gradually learn about the individuals and what motivates them- and perhaps also what terrifies them as well. Sound of the Sky (So Ra No Wo To) opts for the second approach as it introduces the audience slowly to this post apocalyptic world where humanity seems to be on the way out and, not content with the pace nature is setting, continues to fight wars amongst itself as if to speed the end along the march to extinction as the combatants fight over shrinking resources with a mix of futuristic (compared to now) and mid 20th Century-ish weapons.
The story opens as a young girl is trapped, scared and separated from her parents in a desolate building when suddenly a young woman in a military uniform with a trumpet walks into her view. The girl was Kanata Sorami and she was so taken with the woman and the song she played that Sorami joined the military as it is one of the only places one can learn to play a bugle as this ancient method of sending messages across a battlefield is the most effective method in this technology regressed period. Fortunately for Sorami her assignment comes while the country is currently in a tenuous state of peace and she is assigned to an outpost in an area of the country that is deemed of less than vital importance and which has escaped many direct effects of the current strife to its boundaries, but the losses of friends and families is still felt even here. Luck is with her as rather than facing a suspicious or hostile environment the city her post is in greatly respects the women who many the fort as they have a legend of a group of young maidens who saved the town from a fire breathing demon and the current residents of the fort are treated like those maiden’s spiritual descendents and are deeply loved by most of the town. As Sorami starts her training she will be learning from Rio Kazumiya who is an expert bugler and posses one of the rare trumpets to still survive and Rio will have to teach this raw recruit to be able to do her job on the battlefield as Sorami learns from Rio and her other three squad members what it means to be a soldier…even if this company may bend the rules of military decorum more than a bit.
First an admission- I love series that are comfortable with their story and where they want to go enough to be confident in taking the pace that best suits the featuring of the cast that have been assembled, be it a hectic pace of an action title or one that adopts a far slower and smoother pace which is what this series does. This allows for the title to be both entertaining as well as soothing after a fashion as it often approaches events with less than a dire effect but with an eye toward how each one works to shine aspects on the character personalities of the cast involved which assists the series in adopting a feeling almost like a very laid back version of MASH where the characters seem almost like they would be misfits in the military, though the series has the characters treat their training as something serious (mostly) and while they may be a bit unorthodox they (generally) don’t do anything that would rise to insubordinate for the most part but which emphasizes why each of the young woman joined the military and the underlying feelings to what they feel their purpose in it is. In addition each one of the young women is shown to carry their own past as they have all been touched in different ways by the long strife and each one carries a weight from it with some of the events having been motivating (like for Sorami) to ones that are deeply held scars that time has not yet been able to heal but which the camaraderie they have at this post may facilitate and help speed along and foster their growth as characters who can confront some of their past rather than simply run from it.
In order to help sell this story- or perhaps what really puts the series over the top- the series is given an incredibly lush and detailed style of animation that seems almost like it is of theatrical quality that when combined with a pace that feels like each episode has more than 20 some minutes to tell each episode which combines to helps cast a spell that draws the viewer in and when added with the emotions present can make it seem like one’s sense of time just vanishes as the story takes on a life of its own and engages the viewer on almost a spiritual level at times. That said there are points where individual episodes take on a different enough tone that they do seem to create a minor amount of disconnect from the whole, though this situation may be absurd moments that help define the outer levels of the series boundaries rather than cracks in the narrative. The series is one that those who like faster paced material may not find as appealing to their tastes but it definitely is a series that if given a chance will worm its way in to most people’s hearts with its memorable and lovely cast as they go about their daily tasks which then build toward both individuals and in their role as soldiers- a role they may wind up having to play despite the seeming futility of the whole situation in the grand scheme of things and their separation from the disputed front.
A special note here- the series is available on DVD from Right Stuf in both a limited edition boxset with a chipboard box, more art and a booklet with additional art, production sketches and and translated material from the production staff as well as a standard DVD size case “litebox” release and while both sets contains the same four discs extras (including a [slightly] Alternate version of episode and two DVD only episodes) it is well worth tracking down the limited edition as the extra art and booklet are more than well worth the $10 difference in SRP.