Burning the letter she received from her father on a pile of leaves she had raked together, Rio spots Kureha coming back from town and surprises the twin tailed girl with some potatoes she had been roasting in the fire.
Nearly burning her tongue on the hot potato, Kureha looks up when she hears Kanata play her bugle, Rio observing the girl has gotten quite good.
Having recovered much needed parts for Takemikazuchi, Kureha and Kanata watch as Noel installs one of the legs, the tank looking like it is finally nearing completion. Thinking back to the music tune Rio had the tank play shortly after she arrived, Kanata asks Kureha about princess Iliya and the two rummage through the army books in the captain’s office.
Unable to find any photos or references to Iliya, Kureha tells Kanata the princess was not only famous for her beauty and kindness, but was also a renowned tank operator during the war, sadly she died while trying to save a drowning child.
Visited by Yumina who has a request for the 1121st platoon, Kanata stands uncertain before Rio’s room. Hesitant to enter, the bugle player talks in front of the closed door, stumbling over her words.
Kanat implores Rio’s help on behalf of Yumina, to come to the aid of an elderly woman nicknamed Madam who lives alone up in the mountains but has recently been struck with illness. Giving in, Rio gets up from moping on her bed and joins Kanata on her way to see the elderly woman.
Finding the elderly woman hard at work building a house, the two soldiers quickly take her inside when she near collapses.
Hearing the old woman reveal she is building that house for her son whom she believes will one day come to visit her, the scene and woman’s mutterings sound all too familiar to Rio, who saw similar fruitless dreams in her mothers eyes.
Berating the elderly woman for risking her life by staying on the mountain with winter upon them and having no firewood or provisions prepared, the proud trumpet player gets angry when the woman says she will not leave for she believes it all will work out.
Preparing firewood to take back to the elderly woman from their own supply at the platoon base, Rio is questioned by Felicia about the letter she received, her captain revealing she heard worrying reports that the Roman army has started to mobilize again.
Buying supplies in town, Kanata hears the shopkeeper and a patron discuss how princess Iliya had a younger sister, an illegitimate child her father had conceived with a common woman.
Before she’s able to hear the shopkeeper out, Rio intervenes, asking Kanata to go along for a walk through the town before they take the supplies up the mountain to the elderly woman.
Strolling through Seize’s streets, Kanata tells Rio about her hometown, a small rural village and listens to Rio talk about the quiet town near the capital she grew up in. Living together with her mother, Rio’s fondest memories are those of her older sister’s visits, and even though they were only half-sisters, she cared very much for her.
Lamenting Seize always seemed like a maze she kept getting lost in, Rio takes comfort in Kanata’s meaningful words that getting lost isn’t necessarily so bad since that’s how she originally met Rio.
When Rio looks at her with a melancholic smile, Kanata is struck by the resemblance with the blonde trumpet player she had met so many years ago.
Having brought much needed supplies over to the elderly woman’s house, Rio reveals to the older woman that as a child born from a forbidden love, she sees her mother’s demeanor in the old woman, hopelessly waiting for someone who will never come to die in unhappiness. To the trumpeter’s surprise, the elderly woman retorts she has never been unhappy waiting, her memories and hope granting her happiness.
As snow starts to fall that night, the elderly woman sees the two young girls sound asleep and soon remembers her past. Dreaming the man from her youth has come back for her, she gets up and heads outside into the freezing cold.
When Rio and Kanata notice the woman is nowhere to be found when they wake up the next morning, the girls frantically run out of the house, following the footprints in the snow.
Seeing the footprints lead out into the mountains near nomandsland, the girls realize it is too late. Even though she believes one can live on with memories of the happiness they once experienced even if followed by tragedy, Kanata still breaks down in tears.
Back at the 1121st platoon’s base, Naomi brings them a photo album with images of princess Iliya. Seeing the photos of Iliya and Rio’s expression while she looks at them, Kanata realizes the truth and calls Rio out, asking her to play Amazing Grace.
Admitting to Rio she was moved by Iliya’s music, even joining the army to learn how to play, Kanata is surprised when Rio passes her trumpet on, saying is going to leave, having finally decided to head back to the capital and do what she must do.
Biting back her tears, Kanata swears to Rio they will always be connected by the music that travels across the skies into people’s hearts. Not saying farewell, Rio leaves.
Another great episode, it looks like everything is set for the final plot arc, which will no doubt cover the girls aiding Rio or coming to the regular army’s rescue as they defending their country against the Roman army.
But will another threat appear as in the legend or flashbacks, will Rio or Kanata perish in a dramatic end? We shall see!
So far “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” has been very well written and the main story was carefully spun out using small key indications from short scenes or directly implied from within the characters’ backgrounds and actions. In this the series does show it is well above average and insofar one of the better plotted series these past seasons.
The touching closing scene of this tenth episode where Rio passes her trumpet to Kanata before leaving the 1121st platoon reminded me very much of the scene from “Aria The Origination” where Alicia hands her oar to Akari, when the famous prima retires from being an undine to wed and leaves Aria Company to now full fledged undine Akari.
Here too, in “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” the scene was beautiful for it was moving, bringing a tear to your eye but it was still subdued and not melodramatic.
A touching, painful moment in Rio and Kanata’s lives that is also a joyous occasion at the same time, a sort of graduation, time to move on that while in ways feels regrettable, is very much right and unavoidable.
Am often reminded of the Green Day song “Time Of Your Life”, which puts into similar words the torrent of emotions of such a plot. Similar to the end of “Aria” there is definite melancholy, sadness knowing it will never be the same as before, that happiness has been lived and is now past yet there is also an inexplicable feeling that this change is right for the happiness felt looking back will never wither.
In that, “So-Ra-No-Wo-To” excelled in rendering Rio and Kanata’s expressions and reactions, which had a nice degree of realism and bring about what is a better class of drama.
Can only hope the series keeps that up for its closing episodes, with moving scenes and gripping drama that excel not by being overdone or obvious, but by bringing such roller-coaster emotions with correct pacing and realistic character behavior.