Inside the Takemikazuchi’s command module, the five soldiers of the 1121st platoon are holding a training exercise to hone their skills as a team to control the complex tank.
Having destroyed the enemy unit displayed on the tank’s training mode screen, Rio opens the hatch and plays a signal on her trumpet, with the platoon’s owl mascot Shuko looking on.
Arriving at the 1121st platoon base, Klaus delivers new orders and letters for some of the girls. Heading inside to flee the scorching summer sun, Kanata is ecstatic seeing she she received a letter from her mother.
When Felicia hands Noel a letter from the professor she corresponds with, the usually silent mechanic uncharacteristically plays a joke on Kanata. Knowing Kureha is smitten on Klaus, Rio sends the cheeky twin-tailed girl to give the Major some wine for his trip back, a request Kureha accepts with glee.
Delivering the bottle to Klaus, Kureha blushes beet red and trips over her own words, her enamored gaze interrupted as Felicia asks the Major to hold down the fort while they embark on their assignment.
When Felicia had announced to Noel, Kanata and Kureha they would be heading off base on a field trip, little did the three girls know they would have to travel along the border with nomansland to check on the status of three ancient relics.
Realizing they’re being tasked with a mission, the three girls go from disappointment to sheer horror when they’re made to carry along ridiculously heavy backpacks.
Barely able to stand up straight under the weight of their backpacks, the three girls are given a thorough explanation by Rio on how to carry them followed by a stern scolding.
Telling the girls she and Felicia will head out ahead to the rendezvous point, Rio warns them to signal on the bugle should they become lost or use their firearms in case of emergency.
Unable to beat the suffocating weight on their back, Kanata immediately reaches for her bugle and Noel for her sidearm, prompting Rio to scold them again.
Dragging herself over the grass fields heading to the mountains with Noel and Kureha, Kanata spots a butterfly and pursues it, soon discovering the first relic, a small square windowless building overgrown with vines.
With renewed courage the girls continue on their journey but the long hike while carrying heavy backpacks under the scorching sun takes its toll, their bodies tired and nerves on edge.
Discovering a small creek after having heard the sound from afar, Kanata and her fellow soldiers soon treat themselves to the refreshing water. Playfully splashing each other with water, Kanata and Kureha become utterly soaked when a sly Noel uses her helmet to douse them with the cool water.
Heading back to where they had dropped of their backpacks, the girls are shocked to see them torn open, the contents tossed everywhere and their food gone. To make matters worse, their only compass is missing as well.
Abandoning the now empty backpacks, the girls head up the mountain with only the bare essentials, hoping Noel can guide them using their rudimentary map alone.
Although they are now carrying less weight, due to their food having been taken the girls are walking around on empty stomachs that soon loudly protest.
Spotting ripe berries hanging a tree on a ledge high above them, Kanata’s enthusiasm to try and climb up to retrieve some is dampened by Kureha who tells a tale of how Klaus is famous for having gone without food or water for days while on a critical mission. Dragging Kanata along, Kureha sets on with Noel, all three girls oblivious to the fact they’re closely watched by Rio.
Having found the second relic, the girls desperately search around for the final one but have yet to find it as the sun begins to set. Just when Kureha and Noel are starting to bicker, Kanata spots the last relic.
Observing from nearby, Rio smiles now that the girls have found their goal. Seeing another tree with berries close by, Rio decides to go pluck some but soon encounters a wild boar that doesn’t take kindly to her presence.
After arriving at the last relic, the girls stand in awe before the desolate landscape of nomansland that stretches out before them, filled with destroyed buildings buried deeply in the sand.
Congratulating the girls, Felicia explains the goal of the trip was for the girls to witness this sight, the border which marks the end of their world.
Running her hand across the ancient stone, Felicia points to the many names carved on it, for all the girls that were once stationed at the 1121st platoon have carved their name on it as they witnessed the same scenery.
In reward, Felicia shows them a hot spring hidden in the nearby caves, where they soon all soak in the relaxing water, including Rio, who brought back plenty of berries and brushes off Felicia’s teasing queries about her face-off against the boar.
Had originally expected this episode would explore Felicia’s character after we saw the past episodes showing us more of Kureha, Rio and Noel respectively.
It simply continued on the nice blend which is becoming typical for “So-Ra-No-Wo-To”, combining typical slice-of-life with heartwarming typical group of girls coming together side uniquely mixed with the underlying sci-fi plot.
Never really explicitly on the forefront, but not quite as subdued and for granted as in say “Aria”, the sci-fi elements in “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” are seamlessly intertwined in the girls’ everyday lives and actions which greatly enhances the believability of everything happening onscreen.
Through the girls’ field trip we get more hints about the world they live in, which definitely seems to be some sort of post-apocalyptic world judging by the destroyed buildings buried in the sand of nomansland, the technologically advanced relics and the amalgam of cultural elements in the 1121st platoon’s current society.
Looking forward to seeing more of this world and the underlying plot in the same fashion it is brought in now, through the daily lives and heartwarming tales of these five girls. A refreshingly different approach than the action oriented series with a sort of post-apocalyptic theme like “Sky Girls” or “Blue Submarine n°6”.
Although the tank training scene at the beginning may suggest a radical shift to a darker, action oriented style is possible down the road, currently do suspect that if it ever comes into action it will be in a short final arc where the girls vanquish some kind of threat against the town or their country.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see!