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Monday, May 9, 2011

The Stories of the Top 80 Anime: Sora no Woto

27. Sora no Woto is the mirror opposite of Bakuman. It relies entirely on how epic its story is to be good, immediately throwing people's and planet's fates in the balance.

In Sora no Woto, World War III resorted to ecophages in their continuous wars with each other. Even though it has been many years since the apocalypse, the world still hasn't recovered. In fact, it's still dying away, slowly but surely, and humanity is dying away with it.

A 'city' is now a pathetic village to the likes of us. A fort is held by all of five girls and is considered a serious military unit. Everything is diminished. Factories of ten or so people can provide all the glasswork necessary for a kingdom. And everywhere they look, there are reminders of the death and mayhem that destroyed the world.

The characters living in the story aren't particularly depressed by all this. This is how they've always lived, it's normal to them, and they don't recall losing anything by having life be this way. They still have working cars and motorcycles, good housing and enough food to eat. The sadness just seeps into the viewers, as we look at what might have been.

The cast of Sora no Woto is made-to-order adorable. It's routinely described as 'K-On joins the military.' But there's nothing wrong with being compared to K-On. In fact, that means your story must be on the right track. The clumsy but earnest main character, the dishonest but actually sweet friend, and the mysterious but reliable senior -- you can get the idea without much effort who these people are. Sora no Woto has tons of humor, which is done through a variety of absurd and ironic situations, as well as adorable girls acting adorably. The humor and the tragedy go hand in hand, often making you laugh and cry in the same episode. In the end, the girls manage to prevent a war by reminding both sides of their shared love of art -- by playing Amazing Grace in the middle of no man's land. It's a truly moving song -- it doesn't seem strange at all that everyone would stop fighting just to listen to it. It sounds more like heaven's music than anything humans could have composed.

But the war is just a symptom of the steadily shrinking landmass available to humans, who are forced to fight each other to maintain their populations, due to the ecophages unleashed on the world by the stories stupid, insane ancestors who fought World War III. There's no real solution to this catastrophe, the last episode ends with a sort of false hope, that maybe somewhere over the horizon they will find green Earth again that's flourishing. But there's no reason to believe that. more likely, the entire world after the apocalypse was just one long, drawn-out eulogy, one slow requiem, for homo sapiens.

This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

If you come out of Sora no Woto supporting war as a tool of conflict resolution, there's something wrong with you. If enough people watch Sora no Woto, and read Planetarian, which has much the same theme, maybe World War III won't have to happen. Maybe we can be spared this awful fate. We can only hope.

Sora no Woto isn't just an important, good story with great characters. It also has amazing artistic detail and great music. It's basically flawless. My only complaint is its length -- at 13 episodes, and with such a melancholy, short tale to tell, it can't match more complicated, epic situations and stories that it's competing with. Its only competitors at this length are stories like Angel Beats and Madoka Magica -- which just so happen to be even MORE moving than Sora no Woto and even MORE philosophically amazing. Sora no Woto has it hard. If you try to tell a short story in just thirteen episodes, it had better be amazing -- perfect just doesn't cut it anymore.

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