War. War never changes. Brave individuals throw their lives to the wind, and risk everything as they enter a slaughter. Lives are lost, psyches are shattered, and families are torn apart in the name of “justice” and “right.” Destruction, death, and despair are common, and those who survive pray that later generations never have to endure the nightmare they did. But, as the fog of war fades away, and humanity grows restless, this wish falls upon increasingly deaf ears. War becomes inevitable, and war never changes.

In the aftermath of a great war, humanity stands as a dwindling presence across the land. Man’s abiity to build machinery was decimated by the conflict, and a vast desert known as No Man’s Land creeps forward, swallowing the world. In this world, though, a tenuous peace is held, as a cease-fire treaty keeps bloody war from erupting once again. Kanata Sorami is a newly recruited bugler to the Helvetian Army. For her first assignment, she was stationed in Clockwork Fortress: a base near the sleepy city of Seize.

What Kanata finds in this run-down base is far from what she expected in a military regiment. Commanding officer Filicia Heidelman treats her troops like daughters, rather than soldiers. Regiment mechanic Noel is an soft-spoken insomniac that spends her days asleep, and her nights working on the unit’s decrepit tank. Kanata’s peer in rank is a loud, demanding kid that shows a superficial respect for protocol and a deeper need for attention. It seems that the only one willing to actually lead and maintain a sense of discipline is Rio, the unit’s second-in-command. As tensions begin to rise across the country, and negotiations begin to break down between the neighboring Roman Empire, these young women find that they may see this seemingly perfect life disturbed, as they’re drawn into a new conflict.

Though the weight of war hangs heavy in the air, the town of Seize puts on a face, as they struggle to survive. Be it military messenger Claus, or priestess and orphanage caretaker Yumina, everybody tries to work through the pains of loss, and to heal the deep scars of the last war. Through Kanata’s eyes, these struggles gain a new perspective, an outsider’s view that bares the wounds of the past, as well as hopes for a brighter tomorrow. At the same time, the stresses of the platoon come about from an insider’s perspective. While things are difficult, the world isn’t a den of despair. Instead, the world is painted with a light-hearted whimsy and a charming sense of humor, which turns mundane tasks like a trip to the glass factory or an expedition into the Clockwork Fortress’s abandoned wing into a fun romp.

Seize is a city of picturesque vistas and attractive architecture. These details are given particular attention through cinematography that emphasizes these landscapes. A mise en scene that emphasizes sweeping outdoor shots and lived-in interiors combine with a soft lighting style to deliver a a visual punch that will leave even them most jaded viewers inspired. Strong character designs, and a clean animation style tie together the presentation to truly bring the quiet town to life.

The story’s mood is set by a powerful soundtrack. For this series, composer Yuki Kajiura crafted a mix of somber melodies that relies heavily on string instruments. Lonely guitar melodies, heavy violin pieces, and plinking piano scores give a melancholy ambiance to the world that Kanata and the people of Seize inhabit. The show’s largest unifying melody, Amazing Grace, is given its own distinct sound by a lone bugle that erupts into a soft, sweet string piece that gives the sensation of hope – of one voice giving way for many others to grow from. In comparison, the opening and closing themes, Hikaru no Senritsu by Kalafina and Girls Be Ambitious by Haruka Tomatsu respectively, seem disappointing in comparison. Hiari no Senritsu is a lovey, ornate song with strong vocals and a complex background melody that simply feels too ornate, and too “flashy” for a title of this nature, while Girls Be Ambitious feels out of place with its perky, happy pop riffs.

On its surface, Sound of the Sky seems like a title that would appeal to few. However, the series redeems itself through its strong writing and simply breathtaking presentation. As the inevitable conclusion comes racing forward, the only complaint that can be said about this series is that this writer wishes that there were more to enjoy before the final credit roll. Sound of the Sky is a gem in this market, with a charming cast, and a simply divine presentation. Its winning charms are enough to qualify it as a true “must watch” title that would fit in any viewer’s collection.

Sound of the Sky is distributed in America by Nozomi Entertainment.
The series can be purchased at Right Stuf

Thanks to Nozomi Entertainment for providing a review copy!