“Amazing Grace” & Redemption in Sora no Woto

It was amusing to hear a tank, an instrument of warfare, play “Amazing Grace.” Rio’s analogy, that of comparing musical harmony to a tank crew, was also odd. Oh, it isn’t that I disagree… good teamwork neccesarily requires harmony. A tank crew, however, simply isn’t the first thing that would come to mind. I will limit my prodding and jesting of the anime to just the opening paragraph though; this time, we’ll dive into “Amazing Grace” and its significance to Sora no Woto.

The creators seems to have taken “Amazing Grace” quite literally at first glance, but there’s a surprising amount of depth buried behind the saccharine layers of Sora no Woto.

Amazing grace! Wow sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

At this moment, the sun begins to peek through the tattered roof. Poor Kanata wasn’t literally blind, but everything around her lacked color. The lack of color also implies the lack of life, emotion, passion. As the sun pushes away the gray clouds, everything around her sudden comes to life.

Kanata’s once expressionless face even adorns a smile.

Her cheeks then flush with color, i.e. blood, also indicating life. We fast forward to the present where Kanata is literally fighting for her life against malaria.

And what should stir Kanata awake and thus back to life? Rio humming “Amazing Grace,” of course. It’s interesting, I think, that Rio should be carving an apple at the moment:

…in the New Testament, it is an emblem of the redemption from that fall. The apple is represented in pictures of the Madonna and Infant Jesus as another sign of that redemption. — Wikipedia

Of course, this is Wikipedia so take it with a grain of salt. I tried looking for a picture of Christ holding an apple, but I got some silly amalgam of Buddy Jesus and Apple computers.

Anyhow, the idea of redemption in the apple is interesting because redemption lies at the core of “Amazing Grace.” But why would someone as seemingly innocent as Kanata need any redemption?  At the end of the episode, Rio poses a question to Kanata:

Rio then answers it herself, “So their juniors can cause trouble for them.” As she sees it, when youths are protected by their superiors, it will imprint upon the youths something wonderful. When it becomes time for the youths to mature and lead, they can draw upon these positive experiences:

Perhaps this is where Kanata’s redemption lies. Think of her troublesome nature as her “original sin” — how might Kanata hope to redeem herself of her troublesome nature? By turning around and guiding another young soul.

‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

We first meet Kanata on a train and, through a montage, we see that she is on a long journey.

In many ways, she represents the wayward child, perhaps a result of war. But through the power of “Amazing Grace,” Kanata discovers a purpose to her life. She thus enlists in the army and finds her way to Seize. Seize may not be her original home, but it is where she will find her redemption. We also learn from this episode that Rio was troublesome in her youth. Although we don’t yet know the exact circumstances leading to her enlistment in the army, what binds Rio and Kanata together is their song.

He will be my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

This also mirrors Rio’s mini-speech to Kanata. Although the song references God, we can just take “He” to be any person of guidance, that superior that Rio speaks of. That superior will  protect the wayward like Kanata, who will later turn around and protect others.

In fact, the theme of redemption repeats itself over and over in Sora no Woto. How does “Amazing Grace” also encapsulate the entire anime?

For a war-torn world, the armistice represents the small window for redemption. It is a time to rebuild the world, to rebuild peace. Most of all, the end of war signifies the liberation of the human spirit. In times of warfare, society becomes regimented and perhaps necessarily fascist to aid in the war effort. Peace is when men and women can be free again. We can see the subversion of customs and protocol in the opening episode:

Most notable is how Kanata allows her uniform to be stained in this scene of mirth and fun. The uniform, a symbol of order, is drenched in a moment of chaos and anarchy. In a time of peace, her army uniform no longer symbolizes a fighter sent off to die in some faraway land; its meaning has been erased or discolored, redefined, redeemed: she becomes one of the people again. She is literally repainted to be like one of them.

The army itself is also going through a transitional phase. In peace, an army redefines itself. It should no longer be an instrument of war but of protection. We follow five girls in the army, but their orders are anything but warfare; the main priority now is the protection of Seize, but thanks to peace, even this has lost much of its wartime meaning. If the staining of Kanata’s uniform symbolizes the “welcoming home” of the troops, the re-assimilation of a Private to a private citizen, what might the mundane everyday tasks of Kanata’s unit represent? Through war, we receive trauma, which imprints upon the soul. Trauma traps its victim within a solitary moment of time, to forever relive the specific moment of trauma. But how do we overcome trauma? Through time and play. So perhaps through the mundane housework (time) and lax atmosphere (play) of the five girls, only can one move on from the trauma of war.

Finally, the theme of redemption is also repeated in the underlying myth of the anime. In the myth, five girls were essentially sacrificed to protect the town. In order to redeem themselves, the villagers ritually re-enact the story over and over again.

Perhaps necessary to repentance and redemption is that we never forget. What does Sora no Woto not want us to forget?

A winged demon that rains fire from the sky alludes to WW2. Perhaps the docility of Sora no Woto speaks to the anti-hawk sentiment found in the general consensus of the Japanese public following the war. I, however, hesitate to draw any further connections because it’s simply way too early in the anime.

To put it simply, “Amazing Grace” isn’t just a song Kanata and Rio happen to really like. “Amazing Grace” thus far binds the entire world of Sora no Woto together. It currently drives this anime forward, for better or for worse; the key to the redemption and rebirth of the characters and their world perhaps lie within its simple lyrics. Recall the first line to the song:

Amazing grace! Wow sweet the sound

Imagine a child like Kanata growing up in a time of war. Imagine what she would hear from the sky every night — perhaps she only heard death and destruction. Thanks to “Amazing Grace” one day, however, the sound of the sky has been redeemed for a child.

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15 Replies to ““Amazing Grace” & Redemption in Sora no Woto”

  1. When I think of the use of “Amazing Grace” in this anime, I quite agree that producers made a somewhat literal interpretation of the song. Said song should’ve had a japanese translation at the very least; and I also come across this thought:

    “What to kill to get a vocal version of Amazing Grace…?”

    And then I react, “Just please don’t let a non-English-accent-speaker sing it. o_o”

    Then a suggestion, “Susan Boyle version?”

    o_o

  2. Sora no Woto is shaping up rather nicely. I had a predisposition for it but I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m waiting for more before I draw any conclusions to any interpretations.

    1. The interesting thing is is that Sora no Woto is still facing hate for exactly this by taking (what I would call) the Kemono no Souja approach. Whereby there is a really long delay in any actual plot to focus on development between the characters and hints of the setting. Hence due to this, it’s been labelled by a impatient bunch of moe haters as such as a typical generic, moeshit slice of life.

      1. A good show can both introduce plot and develop characters. Just because I wrote all of this doesn’t mean the last two episodes were not boring and pathetic for the way they infantilized female characters.

        1. It’s a good thing there’s an armistice cause I would definitely not trust these girls (or rather just Kureha and Kanata) with defending my town.

    2. I’m still waiting for a plot ’cause the everyday antics of five girls can barely keep my interest. There are a few interesting things, like the song, but it also relies too much on anime tropes such as stock tsundere character, sleepy quiet Rei-lookalike, etc instead of having real, unique personalities.

      1. At least according to me the most original character thus far would be Rio because she simply does not seem to fit into any trope I can think of off the top of my head.

        Although at the same time I keep on getting the hints of Motoko Kusanagi whenever she appears on screen.

        Strange, I always thought Noel looked like Yuki Nagato. Although her sleepiness may be justified given that I’m guessing it due to her being exhausted from constantly working on that spider tank alone as well.

  3. I think your on to something with your comment about redemption and the relationship between Kanata and Rio. But, in the end I think it’ll be Kanata that does the “redeeming”, her spiritual journey is following quite closely Joesph Campbell’s idea of the Monomyth from his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    The journey to hero-hood/godhood is as much about the hero undertaking a physical, as undergoing a spiritual journey where the hero becomes aware of a greater power residing within themselves. In Buddhism and Shintoism there’s the idea that Buddha-hood/Kami-hood/godhood lies buried inside each of us just waiting to be awaken, and once awoken the hero becomes the master of both the physical world and the spiritual world where they aid all living people in their struggles.

    So, basically once the hero/Kanata makes her spiritual journey (discovers the true power of the music) she’ll be able to make use of her imperishable life/eternal flame doing whatever needs to be done. Joseph Campbell speaks to the hero in this state.

    “Even as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others that are new, so the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters others that are new. Weapons cut it not; fire burns it not; water wets it not; the wind does not wither it. This Self cannot be cut nor burnt not wetted nor withered” -The Hero with a Thousand Faces P206.

    What I’m trying to get at is that once Kanata makes the full spiritual connection with the music “the sound of the skies” she and her music for that moment will become everything, or the “redemption”, fire demons and modern battle tanks become meaningless.

    1. But, in the end I think it’ll be Kanata that does the “redeeming”

      We’re not really disagreeing. I just think Rio redeems her first, before she goes on to redeem whatever it is she’ll redeem. But it’s early and either of us could be right or wrong.

      her spiritual journey is following quite closely Joesph Campbell’s idea of the Monomyth from his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

      I think it’s too early to say this only because we haven’t seen her do much of anything, so I don’t know how her journey can even “follow quite closely” a monomyth.

      1. Point taken, it’s very early in the series, but if this follows a “hero’s journey” type formula, Rio is most likely to fill the role of the wise old woman/man helper/teacher for Kanata.

        You’re quite right about what has Kanata done? But, she already taken the early steps in the journey by “heeding the call to adventure”, by leaving home for a dream, and by “crossing the threshold”, she’s seen the giant skeleton in the lake, and she’ll most likely be entering “the road of trials”, where she must meet with, and overcome obstacles.

        The real difference between who can become heroes/redeemers is in their mindset, in these types of world redeeming adventures the future hero is the dreamer, the one who’s not hardened by the world around them. Because in this mythological method of storytelling the everyday world and the cosmic are really one in the same but only separated by our mental perceptions, so the hero/dreamer is one who’s able to link the two, it’s really not about physical skill or physical toughness, it’s more about how the hero perceives the world/cosmic. So, if there’s power in the music it’ll be Kanata’s inner nature or belief in the goodness/beauty of the world that will be the measure of her strength.

        Or, I could just be an over intellectualizing full of shit blogger on this series.

        1. I’m not saying you’re wrong. It’s just that so many stories start off with the same structure you just described and never quit hit their lofty aspirations. Sora no Woto’s first three episodes have been so mundane and a tad formulaic — aside from a few notable things — that I’m hesitant to say it’ll become anything much yet. Especially since Kanata is my least favorite character in the anime so far.

          Or, I could just be an over intellectualizing full of shit blogger on this series.

          Over intellectualizing beats under intellectualizing.

          1. No, it wasn’t intended to be a comment that I was angry that I might be wrong. Someone once left me a rant on my blog because they were pissed off at all of us/ or me for being an “over intellectualizing full of shit blogger” because they were mad that some bloggers guessed the outcome of a series quite a few episodes before it ended, so I and others ruined their fun. I should have just left that last part off of the comment because it could have been taken out of context.

            1. I didn’t think you were angry. I’ve faced the same sort of accusation before (e.g. “just turn off your brain and try to enjoy it”) so I just felt like replying to your last comment.

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