#1 A beautiful post-apocalypse
The setting of Sound of the Sky takes us to a post-apocalyptic world where the constant warring between humanity has finally taken its toll on the world. While humans continue to exist and kingdoms have arisen again, many technologies have been lost and society has changed a lot. Nevertheless, the world is not some kind of haunted wasteland and the city of Seize is a prime example of that. While the world that once was has burned to the ground, from the ashes a new one has emerged, nestled in the natural beauty of earth and the ruins of the lost world.
The setting of Sound of the Sky is just all-around really interesting and it’s honestly a shame that with just 12 episodes we don’t get to see more of it. All we really do is stick around Seize, which is a beautiful city where interesting events are definitely unfolding, but I would have loved to see more of the kingdom of Helvetia, or the revived Roman empire they are fighting.
#2 Cute girls do what-now?
The show takes place in the city of Seize and follows the story of the small platoon of all-female soldiers that is in charge of its defense. Sound of the Sky definitely takes after moe shows, with each member of the cast being quick to show off their goofy side. Noël the engineer is narcoleptic, the captain is a carefree and motherly woman that shuns military discipline, and then there is Kanata, who just joined up with the army despite being a klutz because she wants to learn how to play the trumpet.
These girls have many fun adventures around Seize, like helping local businesses or attending festivals, but the military theme is always prevalent. Episodes have the girls perform training or other military duties, and these are treated as serious matters. There is a lurking sense of foreboding as peace talks with the empire begin to deteriorate and it appears like Seize, despite being so far out of the way, may become one of the first battlefields.
The show also deals with heavy themes, including PTSD. Rather than a cheap trick to make a character more dramatic, I feel that the instances where this is used were really respectful and well-implemented.
#3 Great use of language
The Roman empire takes heavily after the HRE and as such their primary language is German. While I was sad that we didn’t get to see more of the empire, we do meet one of their scouts, Aisha, and dealing with the language barrier between the Helvetian soldiers and her was done really well.
I have been told that voice actress Nami Miyahara lived in Austria for a while and it really shows in her brilliant acting. Aisha is perhaps the most convincing German character I have heard in an anime so far, and I really enjoyed listening to her speak. Dealing with her is a struggle for the main cast, however, since relations between the two nations are so bad that few people are bilingual, forcing them to make great effort to communicate with her. I love it when shows put in some effort to incorporate language into the story, see also Sword of the Stranger, and having it be performed well is a great bonus on top.
#4 The power of music
Music plays a big role in Sound of the Sky, since main character Kanata joined the military as a bugler specifically because a childhood experience inspired her to become a musician. With music composed by the brilliant Michiru Ōshima the soundtrack as a whole is fantastic, though I find it kind of funny that they opted to use Amazing Grace for a lot of the key scenes and trumpet playing. While it is kind of weird that they didn’t write a tune of their own, Amazing Grace is really well-known and has universal appeal, plus I like the idea that this pre-war bit of music has survived the apocalypse when so much of human culture and technology was lost.
The opening of the show is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, the anime was directed by the same man who did Elfen Lied and for the opening they used a very similar style, with a sad song played against the backdrop of beautiful art-pieces featuring the main characters. The similarities are undeniable and both openings look absolutely gorgeous. Sound of the Sky has the added benefit of using a Kalafina song, Hikaru no Senritsu, which is itself also fantastic and matches the artistic visuals really well. It didn’t take long for this song to make it unto my playlist.
#5 A-1 Pictures absolutely hitting it out of the park
Mamoru Kanbe is a fantastic director and Sound of the Sky shows off some of his best work to date. The show really takes you along with the emotions, managing to make the fun scenes land just as well as the dramatic or sad ones. The key moments of the story are memorable exactly because of this, with the brilliant directing work, beautiful animation, and great music coming together as one.
None of this could have been done without the stellar work delivered by animation studio A-1 Pictures, which managed to keep up with Kanbe’s emotionally-charged direction. During the fun scenes everything looks very soft and beautiful, with even the military uniforms looking nice and serene. During the more dramatic moments this changes entirely, and even the few action scenes we get to enjoy are really well done. One element in particular I found impressive was the amount of work put into background design. There is a lot of impressive eye-candy, with Seize and the surrounding nature being clearly visible in a lot of scenes. Even when indoors there is a nice amount of clutter, making these places feel occupied and believable.
It couldn’t have been easy to pitch a show like Sound of the Sky and convince people you could totally hop between carefree, moe adventures in the countryside and gritty military drama, but Mamoru Kanbe and the animators gave it their all and made it work.