First Look Fair: Sora no Woto

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This is more than just a K-ON! knockoff. The show’s promise lies in its setting and backstory, which itself isn’t too original but is not the sort you would find for a moe-pandering show. For that, Sora no Woto deserves a good look.

It is sad, but true, that Kyoto Animation has squandered much of its reputation for detailed, high-budget animation quality in recent years. K-ON! exemplified this decline to a large degree, lacking the stylistic excuse Lucky Star had and seemingly forgetting in that musical show the way the “God Knows” concert scene in Haruhi had helped establish their bona fides. Not that K-ON! was a bad show for what it was–it was mildly entertaining and endearing in its own way. But animation-wise it looked a lot cheaper than, well, Haruhi or Clannad.

Thus it was both a shock and a pleasure to see essentially the same K-ON! character designs translated into lush, colorful backgrounds more than a little reminiscent of the sort Studio Ghibli conceived for Kiki’s Delivery Service. The studio animating Sora no Woto, Studio A-1, show that their own unusually detailed work for Kannagi was no accident. The idyllic town, its cliffs, the sights below the sea, are drawn superbly, and the character animation smooth and natural for TV anime.

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This, too, is no accident. The setting is what makes this show stand out from the moeblob fest that this was supposed to be at first glance. The hints are scattered everywhere in the dialogue and the scenery itself: there was some kind of war. There are tanks, automobiles and trains, but for some reason, no electricity inside the homes. There are hints of an earlier apocalypse, embedded in the legends. The architecture, language, and names suggest a country in Europe, perhaps Switzerland,* but Japanese-style festivals and ribbons hang from the posts. There is, in short, a sense of both depth and melancholy lurking in the story, a quality completely absent from K-ON! because that was a different sort of show. Sora no Woto appears to be aiming in a different direction, even as it will probably engage in superficially similar character dynamics. It’s as if someone liked the concept of K-ON! but now wants to give it a foundation other than moments for otaku to say “moe moe kyun.”

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The question, of course, of why the characters look almost identical to their counterparts in K-ON! is one that is hard to answer. The similarities are too uncanny to be anything but deliberate. There doesn’t appear to be any direct staff connections between K-ON! and Sora no Woto. One wonders whether someone in Studio A-1 is attempting to make a statement to KyoAni, kind of similar to the Lucky Star references in Kannagi. Any gossip about studios in this area would be interesting to report on. They are aiming at the same audience, after all.

This is the first appealing show I’ve seen so far this season, and as more episode 1s roll out this week I’ll keep writing about more. Stay tuned.

*Notice all the documents are in French, and that in a brief shot, Kanata’s transfer document states that she is in “Armee D’Helvetia.” Helvetia, or Helvetica, is the Latin name for Switzerland. Western Switzerland, including Geneva, is French speaking.

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4 thoughts on “First Look Fair: Sora no Woto”

  1. Yeah. It really doesn’t help that it looks just like K-on. It gives kind of a bad impression when you go in. It does have a more of a story compare to K-on and I want to like it but it needs more of a push.

    Still it is something worth giving a shot and I have to agree with you on that.

  2. I think the character designs and the fact there’s music involved had everyone screaming K-ON!, but I agree this looks like a very different type of show. I’ve got to think there will be a lot more drama, the legend I’m guessing will play a bigger part later in the series. This definitely has one of the more breathtakingly well done settings I’ve seen in a while, almost makes me want to take a vacation in Switzerland (or Cuenca in Spain, which I read the staff visited and based the setting on – the Wikipedia page for Cuenca has some pictures that are dead ringers for places in the episode). I just hope that A-1 doesn’t end up blowing the budget on animation up front and having to cut corners later (I’m thinking of the karaoke episode of Kannagi in particular).

  3. MikeyDPirate: but the similarities to K-ON! are, for many, the selling point! It’s the hook for many moe fans, which hopefully will lead to a story with some substance. Reminds me of the way many shows start with lots of fan service only to ratchet it down later.

    suguru: I’m not sure it will necessarily be drama. It might be something soothing and calm in the manner of Aria or similar shows, though the melancholy is definitely there lurking in the background.

    The information about Cuenca was very helpful, and it makes sense of a lot of the architecture. Thanks for the info! And, well, it’s true that Kannagi ended up being rough at the end, but I remember noting when it first came out that the animation was unusually fluid and detailed.

  4. Maybe I’m a little moe-addicted but I think that K-on is a peak in animation by kyoani.
    It’s simple, essential and extremely effective. And somehow managed to arrive to the heart of a so many of fans. That is very impressive for a show so trivial in its plot.

    Clannad was very static and I don’t think that animation in Haruhi is anything unbelievable.

    So I believe it’s a question of point of view.

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