Kanata decided to join the military, because she wanted to learn how to play the trumpet -- and the military is the only place to learn it, because it's being used to send signals to allies. But then an armistice is signed and she is stationed in a fortress at a city near the edge of the 'Dead Zone' where no-one ever goes. In other words: not much to do there, except keep the fortress occupied and make nice with the locals. And that is perhaps why the whole squad consists of young female soldiers (naturally) -- there's also something about a group of 'fire maidens' saving the town from a fire-breathing monster, and the military deems it wise to play that angle to its advantage.
And so Kanata learns the trumpet from Rio, her sempai, and they pass their days keeping the fortress from falling apart too much and making moonshine in their basement...
There has been a great war which has devastated the planet and decimated humanity. There's not much of us left, and lots of knowledge about advanced technology, manufacturing or even writing has been lost. Still, there are still people left who try to live on and make the best of it -- even though there's been an ongoing war for many, many years (which is not really helping with the devastation and rebuilding thing).
As the series progresses, you see the post-traumatic stress that the girls suffer, and you get to see the total desolation (and sometimes despair) that the survivors feel -- a rather dark undertone for a series that started off quite lightheartedly.
In the end, the armistice doesn't hold up and their remote outpost becomes the focal point of the war (naturally), and the girls need all their resources to avoid being caught up in another draining war.
It's a short series, but the creators took a lot of time to establish the characters and their relationships. There's some clichés being used (the kind captain, the tsundere corporal, the quiet genius with a lack of common sense), but it's never distracting. And through the adventures of the girls, you gradually get to know the city and the world outside a lot better -- excellent pacing and plotting. Only at the end does the series feel a bit rushed and do they need a Deus ex Machina to set everything right again. It's a fault I find easy to forgive because of what came before.
Visually, the series is very nice. The backgrounds are detailed and sometimes have a grimy feel to them: this is a part of the world that has been decaying, and it shows in the locales. The character designs are nice and the animation is fluid and detailed. There is some CGI, but you'd be hard-pressed to point it out. The voice acting is quite nice too, with a nice mix of veterans and new talent.
- Interesting setting;
- Excellent character-focussed story-telling that shows a lot of the setting.
- All the usual character types;
- Rushed ending.
All in all, I liked it a lot! I'll give it an 8.