Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sound of the Sky: What's Really Amazing About Grace

On Memorial Day, looking for a good military anime to watch, I ended up watching Sound of the Sky(Japanese: Sora no Woto) and absolutely loved it. It has a nice portrayal of a more idyllic military life in a world that has been torn apart by war, from which most of the characters bear scars from. The show overall is about hope in a desolate world, and the form of that hope is embodied in sound—specifically, the tune of “Amazing Grace”, which gets played repeatedly throughout the show.
Official art.
Of course, for Christians, we don’t need to be in a war-torn world in order to appreciate how amazing grace “that saved a wretch like me” is. The characters of Sound of the Sky are not explicitly Christian (the “sister” of the local Church seems to have inherited a lot of Shintoism into her religion), but nevertheless, grace plays a major role in resolving the show’s major conflict… but perhaps not in the way you might expect.
(Warning: Major spoilers after the jump!)

For most of the cast, the scars of war come primarily from loss of loved ones, but for Noel (who is my favorite character of the show, incidentally), circumstances are a bit different. As a child, she was considered a technological genius, and as such was tricked into helping bring a biochemical weapons plant back to life, which led to a deadly plague known as “The Invisible Reaper” and her gaining the nickname “The Witch of Helvetia”.
Never has a biochemical weapons expert looked so cute.
She lives with the guilt of the incident throughout the series, but it really comes back to haunt her once an estranged enemy Roman soldier (who looks a lot like one of the victims of the plague) ends up in the care of the main girls. Unfortunately, this leads a passionate warmonger (and Noel’s old boss back at the chemical plant) to take his squadron to take over the girls’ fortress, find the Roman soldier, and use her in order to incite war once again between the two sides. Meanwhile, a Roman force approaches to attack as well, meaning war is all too likely on the horizon again (despite there being a cease-fire call being played very faintly in the distance, heard only by main character and bugler Kanata).

It is here, though, that the Roman soldier extends her hand of forgiveness to Noel. After all, she understands what it's like to be a soldier whose job entails taking the lives of other people like her. And with that forgiveness, Noel is spurred into motion with some simple words:

"Go save more lives than you've taken."

The Sound of Redemption

Grace really is amazing. But if all grace is is forgiveness, sure, that's amazing for the person being forgiven, but what about the rest of the world? If grace was only about forgiveness, it honestly wouldn't be that amazing.

So why, then, is it "amazing grace"? Why is the sound that "saved a wretch like me" so sweet, if I am still a wretch? The really amazing thing about grace though is, it does not stop at forgiveness. It moves on towards redemption, towards turning a wretch back into the beautiful creation of God that she was intended to be.

And what's even more amazing is, the rest of creation doesn't have to just stand by and watch; it can also join in and be redeemed as well!

Noel takes the other girls of the fortress to the location of the impending battle in the Takemikazuchi, a restored Lost Technology Spider Tank of the same sort that had previously wrought much destruction on the world. The tank's advanced mobility and offensive and defensive capabilities allows it to easily make it past the tanks of those trying to stop them, being careful only to disable the tanks instead of killing anyone inside them.

The most terrifying Technical Pacifist ever?
In the end, one of the greatest killing machines on the planet is the thing that brings Kanata to the battlefield to deliver the cease-fire, along with one final rendition of Amazing Grace that stalls the soldiers on both sides long enough for a certain newly-appointed royal to bring the war to a definitive close. A machine of death becomes a machine of life. And that is truly amazing.

In the Bible, specifically the book of Romans, Paul talks about how it's not just humans, but all of creation, that has been affected by the curse that came from the fall of man:

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. - Romans 8:19-21 (ESV)
A machine, in and of itself, cannot murder. A sinful human who creates a machine can create it for the intent of killing. However, a redeemed human can set that machine free from its bondage to death, and turn it into a way to save lives instead.

But humans cannot do it on their own. That is why we need grace; it is that extra source of power, given freely to us regardless of all we have done wrong in the past, in order to overcome the wretchedness in our selves and become new creations. And in the redemption of our selves, we can then set about to do the work of God's will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven--and that means redeeming the world around us as well.

Grace. It turns a former slave trader into a slave freer. It turns the mastermind of a biochemical weapon into a master mechanic that can fix a machine of death, and then turns that machine from one that brings death into one that stops many deaths. It saves people from their wretchedness, and then clothes them in the glory of the children of God, so that they can go and bring a fallen world back to life and to the beautiful world God created it to be at the beginning of time.

Grace. It really is amazing, isn't it?

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