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.