Note: This review was written for #Anitwitwatches, a weekly community event primarily held on Twitter and led by Jon Spencer at Jon Spencer Reviews, in which participants watch and discuss the featured anime. Per the event’s schedule, Episodes 10 & 11 were watched together.
I’m actually a little surprised to see Sound of the Sky reveal who exactly Rio is as well as resolve her inner conflict here in Episode 10. I kind of expected the show to save it for the very end, what with how important Rio seems to be and how much the show enjoys leaving crumbs regarding her character. That said, with how this episode ends, it would’ve been a really bold cliffhanger if it served as the series finale. And I realize I’m getting ahead here but given the events of Episode 11, it kind of makes sense to resolve Rio’s plot thread here.
As it turns out, Rio is indeed a Helvetian Princess, somewhat by technicality as she was born from a love affair the Archduke had (therefore making her Iliya’s half-sister). Iliya was to marry into the royal family of Helvetia’s enemy, the Roman Empire, to improve relations and fully resolve the war, but she passed away when trying to save a child from drowning. With peace talks apparently worsening, the Archduke enlists the help of his other heir. Whether or not it’s to have Rio marry or just to help with negotiating, I’m not sure.
I can’t say I’m too shocked at the reveal. I figured as much in the last episode review and like I said there, Rio being a princess is about the only thing that would make sense. It explains her connection to Iliya and why she’s needed in the country’s time of need. Rio being an illegitimate child wasn’t something I expected but it does explain her childhood and her strained relationship with her father. Regardless if the Archduke provided for Rio and her mother in some way, it doesn’t sound like he was present in much of their lives and it doesn’t change the fact that the two were more or less locked away from the public.
Also not surprising is Rio’s decision at the end of the episode. Unless the show wanted to ruin Rio’s character, she had to leave Seize to help with negotiations. It’s certainly the selfless thing to do though I do think there’s a more interpersonal angle to interpret here. While Rio is estranged from her father, it sounds like she had a very positive relationship with Iliya. She speaks highly and fondly of her sister in this episode. We’ve seen in a flashback that unlike the Archduke, Iliya often paid Rio and her mother a visit. Rio learned from Iliya how to play the trumpet. She even owns and wears Iliya’s bell necklace (also, how interesting that the Archduke gifted it to Rio after Iliya’s passing). Rio knows Iliya would be present at the peace talks so it’s safe to assume that she chooses to join them as a way of honoring her sister’s memory. I also like to think that Rio’s decision is out of her love for her teammates, harkening back to what Filicia told her in Episode 7, that she doesn’t want the younger members of the squad entangled in a war like her and Rio once were.
Leading up to her big decision, Rio joins Kanata in assisting an old woman named Jacott who lives alone in the mountains. Despite her health and a blizzard on the horizons, Jacott refuses to relocate and is adamant in finishing some housework. She claims to Kanata and Rio that she’s waiting for her son but a flashback suggests that she’s actually waiting for her lover, who promised her fifty years ago that he’d return to her. Since Jacott is old and stubborn and Rio and Kanata won’t resort to force, the girls have no choice to help with the housework and watch over the elder. The plot ends on a very bleak note with Jacott having a vision of her lover in the middle of the night and running off into the snow, never to be seen again.
Jacott is clearly meant to be a parallel to Rio’s mother. Rio even says as much at one point. Both women had an affair with a married man and both were left alone, spending the rest of their lives holding onto a promise made by their lover that they’d return to them. The one difference is that I’d argue Jacott has it worse. At least the Archduke visited Rio’s mother on occasion. As mentioned before, Jacott hasn’t seen her lover in decades.
I guess the plot with Jacott is to have Rio come to a better understanding of her mother. Jacott tells Rio that she’s content with how her life went and that she’s too much in love t o give up. It’s possible Rio’s mother felt the same way. Whether or not that makes Rio feel any better however, I have no idea. Maybe the perspective Jacott provides helps Rio sympathize more for her mother but I imagine it may also make Rio pity her mother as well (if she hasn’t already). Considering that Jacott’s feelings leads her towards her fate, I doubt even more that Rio has a lot of positive takeaways from this experience. Even on the off chance that Jacott is still alive, her actions frame her feeling as irrational. Framing them as irrational then suggests the same can be said about Rio’s mother and her feelings towards the Archduke.
While getting supplies for Jacott, Rio and Kanata have a walk around the town, with Rio talking to Kanata about her sister and leading the show into the big reveal. A curious bit of direction occurs when the show cuts to a Flame Maiden figure and plays the same soundtrack that played when the show elaborates on the legend back in Episode 1. Looking back, I wonder if it’s intentional to have Rio play the role of a Flame Maiden during the re-enactment. Much like how the Flame Maidens chooses to sacrifice themselves in quell the demon’s fire, Rio must make the tough decision to resume her royal status and save Helvetia.
One bit of dialogue that sticks out is when Rio discusses her time in Seize to Kanata and describes being in the town a “dead end”. In some ways, she is apt to call it that. Even though she’s away from her life as a princess, she is still stuck in the middle of nowhere with little to do. Fundamentally, her life hasn’t really changed from the solitude she had growing up. Kanata is quick to argue that being lost isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows for self reflection, which Rio has certainly gone through, and had she not been in Seize, she wouldn’t have met her friends.
The ending of this episode is definitely one of the show’s most emotional moments. Kanata realizes Iliya is the one who inspired her and shares this info to Rio, who apparently had always suspected as much. The two play “Amazing Grace” on their instruments, the first and presumably only time you get to see them play together, showing them as kindred spirits. As a passing of the torch, Rio hands her trumpet over to Kanata before departing for the peace talks. Kanata and Rio remark that even when apart, they’ll always be connected through the sounds they play (and yes, this is where the show title drops but I say it’s very earned here). It’s a very well put together scene and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a bit teary eyed over it.
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