After hearing the gunshot and learning that Hopkins’ men have captured Aisha, Filicia decides to take Hopkins himself hostage. She forces Hopkins’ men to leave the fort, and Yumina is able to offer some medical treatment for Aisha’s bullet wound. Hopkins then reveals that he was planning on sacrificing Aisha to start a fight with Rome because he doesn’t believe in peace. He also uses this chance to take a shot at Noel who he calls the witch of Helvetia for her role in reviving a biological weapons plant. Filicia shuts him up with a warning gunshot near his head, and she has Kureha lock him up. Afterward, Yumina tells the girls of how Aisha had earlier explained that the Romans tell of a different legend where the flame maidens protected lives. Kanata believes that this is true, and later while on lookout duty, she hears a horn signal in the distance. She reports to Filicia that it’s a signifies a ceasefire, but before the girls can do anything about it, they find out that Hopkins escaped. Since Hopkins has rejoined his men outside the fort, the girls decide to send Naomi to tell him the news, but he just has her tied up. Hopkins feels that war is what advances culture and science, and he wants to regain the glory that humanity used to have.
Back inside the fort, the girls realize that a battle is coming, but Kanata refuses to give up and wants to go out and relay the signal she heard. Since Noel is still distraught about what she did in the past, a weakened Aisha decides to ease her pain by forgiving her. With Noel now willing, Kureha is unable to oppose them, so the four gives take Aisha and board the Takemikazuchi. Upon seeing the tank climb out of the fort and up the nearby cliffs, Hopkins has his men leave the village to pursue it. As it turns out, the legend tells of how an angel, who had been sent to punish the world, had arrived hurt outside of a western town. The maidens of the fortress had saved this angel and had sheltered it in a valley, and in return, the angel gave them a golden horn. However, the people of the town soon found out about this and set the valley on fire, burning the maidens and beheading the angel. It was then that a huge force of angels appeared in the sky, but the villagers were saved when a sound of the sky caused the angels to leave. The sound that saved them was from the golden horn, blown by the last maiden at the cost of her life.
Filicia and the girls now ride Takemikazuchi towards the battlefield, incapacitating any of Hopkins’ forces that oppose them along the way. They arrive just as both armies are ready to attack, and Kanata tries to play the ceasefire signal. When it doesn’t work, she decides to play Amazing Grace instead, and that succeeds in stopping both forces in their tracks. After Kanata finishes and before the two sides can engage in combat, a third side enters the battlefield: Rio and her royal guard forces. Rio reveals that she’s Rio Kazumiya Arkadia, the fiancee to the Roman emperor, and she has with her the royal decree that ends the conflict. This leads to celebrations on both sides when the men realize that they don’t have to fight, and the girls are happy as well. In the aftermath, winter passes and spring arrives peacefully. Aisha is now back in her own country, but she keeps in touch with Noel through letters. On this particular spring day, the girls are expecting Claus to bring them someone new, however Rio shows up instead. She’s been readmitted to the 1121 Platoon because the Roman emperor is reasonable and granted her this wish after she stopped the war. Overjoyed to hear this, the girls welcome her back.
I came out of this finale with some fairly strong feelings about it, mostly positive but with a few not-so-positive. I’ll start with the positives. I had of course a lot of fun watching Takemikazuchi in action after all this time, and seeing Filicia ultra-serious for once was nice too. The strongest moments though were the ones that evoked emotion, like when Aisha forgave Noel and when Kanata played Amazing Grace to stop the battle. In the latter case, it wasn’t so much emotional as it was the sheer power of the trumpet playing, like the notes were resonating with your soul – and I’m sure that was the point. I also loved Yumina’s retelling of the legend, and it entranced me the same way Rio’s telling of the legend in the first episode did, probably thanks in part to the fact that both scenes featured the same French insert song. The actual content of the legend was very interesting as well, especially since they leave it up to the audience to guess what really happened (I’m still guessing the angels were aliens).
That brings me to what I wasn’t too thrilled about. There were things like Kureha’s crying scene which I felt was too much drama for the particular moment, but those aren’t worth dawdling on. My main complaint is that the ending was too happy. Both versions of the legend imply some degree of sacrifice by the maidens, and the version Yumina told in particular had a bittersweet ending. The ending here, however, was devoid of that. I think what really got me was Rio’s return in the epilogue. I was okay with the combination of Amazing Grace and Rio ending the conflict since both were solutions that they were building up in past episodes, but I don’t like how how the emperor just let his fiancee return to her old military post. I thought the point was that Rio was giving up her own life by marrying him to ensure peace and save lives, but now that she’s back, there’s no element of sacrifice left. They didn’t need her to return to have a happy ending, and by doing so they made it too happy, in an artificial sort of way.
Overall, I still consider So-Ra-No-Wo-To to be a very successful first Anime no Chikara series. I truly appreciate how this was an original work since so many series these days are based on previously established anime, manga, or games, and I really liked the world they crafted here and how they exposed us to it and its history little by little. The character designs were cute but gimmicky and initially made you think that they were going a not-so-serious route of girls-in-pseudo-military-life, however there was actually plenty of drama and war. I’m curious to see what they put on the two DVD/BD extra episodes, but those won’t be out until June 23rd and September 22nd. I’m also looking forward to the next Anime no Chikara series, Senkou no Night Raid, but as you may have read, I won’t be around to blog it unfortunately.