So Ra No Wo To: How is this from the same writer as Vampire Bund?

So Ra No Wo To is an original anime brought to us by A-1 Pictures. Yes, the studio behind Kuroshitsuji, Uchuu Kyoudai, Sword Art Online & Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin is back. Or, more accurately, I’m looking at one of their works again. Thus far, my experience with them as a studio has varied a lot. With Uchuu Kyoudai being at the high end and Sword Art Online on the low, because it’s shit. This particular series is from 2010 and was relatively early in terms of their productions. It was written by Yoshino Hiroyuki, speaking of people I have mixed experiences with. Yeah, this bloke also wrote Shuumatsu no Izetta, which was a great series and Dance in the Vampire Bund, which will always be remembered as utter rubbish. So, this one is a gamble. I’d give it about 50-50 odds.

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Story:

In the far distant future, humanity seems to be running out of habitable land (now we know how all those species we’ve fucked over to build cities feel) and a lot of old technology has been lost. It’s in this future that the country of Helvetia and the new Roman Empire are on the brink of war. We follow a young garrison on the border of No Man’s land as they mostly faff about.

The only real criticism I have about the narrative is that the build up to the climax could have been handled better. It’s largely relegated to the last few episodes with small bit beforehand that give very small hints and we’re talking very basic like Rio’s identity being obvious by the time she plays her role or the threat of war being omnipresent throughout.

I do really like the way the series mixes a kind of standard slice of life style with the whole war scenario (Sort of like how he melded cutesy yuri romance with a war scenario in Izetta). It allows it to have that sense of fun and enjoyment while also leaving room for more serious, dramatic stuff and it never feels dissonant. The world building is really interesting and executed in a fully organic way. We don’t just know the broad stroke details, we know very trivial everyday things like how life in Kanata’s little village differs from life in the city of Seize (I know, not a subtle city name) because of geographical variations within the same nation. Which is a fascinating detail. The series has a good sense of humour as well. Filicia’s way of confirming whether or not their visitor speaks their language is hilarious but it also makes sense. The whole episode where they all get pissed, save one, is really funny. There are good dramatic scenes too. Noël & Filicia both have some real tragedy to their back stories. Rio & Kureha have some as well but Kureha’s plays less of a role and Rio’s is kept a bit vague because they don’t want to show the actual details and spoil the climax. Then we have the epic Amazing Grace scene. Those are words I never thought I’d string together, but it’s a part of the climax and it’s a superb scene. It’s also interesting the way Helvetia and the Roman Empire have similar legends, but different takes on them.

Characters:

I quite like the cast in this series. They have enough complexity to carry the more dramatic scenes as well as enough quirkiness to make the humour strong. Which is something Gintama couldn’t manage with over fourteen times the number of episodes. This is only a fourteen episode series and that’s counting the two special episodes. I also appreciate the way the series connects the characters through most of the main cast having formative meetings with a certain person of note. He fleshes out their back stories enough to give them a sense of completion while also building up their dynamics with one another. Those dynamics are very nice too.

Art:

The animation is well done. It moves smoothly and just generally does a good job at holding any given tone. I love some of the mechanical designs, especially the old tank that Noël spends a good portion of the series working on. I appreciate that the girls are given proper uniforms instead of going full GI Joe solely for the sake of having variety. But, in all fairness, GI Joe has a bunch of similar looking characters while this has characters with distinctive appearances.

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Sound:

Our major characters are voiced by Yuuki Aoi, Kanemoto Hisako, Kobayashi Yuu, Endou Aya & Kitamura Eri. They’re all absolutely fantastic. The side characters have good acting as well with the talents of Fukuen Misato, Yasokawa Mayuno, Ishizuka Unshou (don’t be surprised if he asks whether you’re a boy or girl) and others. Oshima Michiru’s sound track is fantastic. Even the Amazing Grace motif and I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t generally like that song.

Ho-yay:

There’s a fair amount. This is one of those series where all the girls seem interested in one another. It’s especially true at the point where they talk about their dreams. I don’t want to spoil anything too specific since that episode takes place after the climax, but putting it in vague terms, one girl wants to be a bride. And I’m fairly certain she wants to marry the other girl she’s been writing to, based on their dynamic and interactions. Another girl wants to stay with yet another female character forever and her expression along with the flush on her face when she says it indicates that she’s thinking of tribadism and cunning linguistics. Plus the two of them are incredibly homo-erotic throughout.

Final Thoughts:

How the hell did Yoshino write this, then write something as bad as Dance in the Vampire Bund directly after? Because this is a fantastic anime. Virtually everything about it works and works really well whereas that’s practically the opposite. Is Yoshino actually twin brothers who take turns turning in what they’ve been working on with one being a complete knob and the other skilled? Does he lose all writing ability when exposed to indigo kryptonite? Is the studio working with both him and his goatee sporting counterpart from an evil opposite universe? Is it just  that he was doing his best to adapt a really shit manga? Whatever the case, I’ll give this series a 9/10. Next week, Fortune Quest: Yo ni mo Shiawase na Boukensha-tachi.

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