One of the many things that separates Christianity from other religions is the idea of the call. We do not believe in our faith because it is a collection of legends tended by our tribe, nor are they things we believe because to believe in Christianity is how one becomes a good American or Englishman. We believe in a faith that says that the God who made the universe now reaches into a world broken by sin and calls out to us to save us. In the anime series Sora no Woto (Sound of the Sky) some unlikely soldiers each are called by the song of a trumpet and led to lives of forgiveness and grace in a desolate world.
A young, cheerful girl named Kanata is on a train headed to Seize city. She has joined the army in order to learn how to play the trumpet. A long time ago, when she was alone and afraid, she encountered a beautiful soldier who played a song for her, a song that felt like the very sound of the sky itself. She soon meets the other four members of their tiny platoon: the boisterous trumpeter Rio, quiet tank driver and mechanic Noël, the motherly commander Filicia, and the orphan and martinet Kureha. All of them have their own secrets and scars from the past, and soon the tiny garrison of a sleepy town will have to face both their own histories and the threat of war once again. Even at the end of the world, war remains.
It’s a wonderful series, both heartwarming and melancholy. The world of Sora no Woto is profoundly broken. After a war with an unknown enemy, humanity won a Pyrrhic victory that left great wastelands and emptied the seas of life. Even pre-war technology was lost, with life reverting to a 1930’s level of life and memory of the war has faded into myth. But despite this, life goes on with people struggling to find happiness and joy in lives still recovering from the human conflicts that started after the end. Life is slow, but good in the sleepy city on the edge of nowhere. It’s hard to believe that this is the same director who did the ultra-violent series Elfen Lied.
The end of the world is a gorgeous place, too. Seize City is a beautiful town modeled after a Spanish city, and the animation sparkles and shines in almost every scene. The first encounter Kanata has with her new home is in the middle of a festival celebrating the flame maidens pacifying a demon from the ancient war, and it quickly draws you into the story. There are so many old ruins and lush, beautiful landscapes, and each detail draws you into a timeless, if slowly declining future. The plot also is deep and rich, as facts about the world and the pasts of each of the members of the Clocktower fortress are revealed.
Despite this, the series never loses sight of hope or joy. Kanata is relentlessly positive, quite naive, and works so hard to be useful that it brings a smile to your face. There’s plenty of funny moments, from Kanata and Kureha going ghost hunting, or having to deal with what would be a pleasant hike if not for the need to carry a massive backpack. There are also many heartwarming stories too, especially with the orphans from a nearby church.
What it also has is one of the most Christian-friendly stories I’ve seen in anime.
The trumpeter that touched so many lives is one. A member of royalty, she left her estate in order to serve among the common people and winds up touching their lives with her trumpet’s song; the parallels to Christ are strong and constant. The song itself, the one that Kanata calls the sound that fills the sky, inspires and in one case literally saves one character from the bowels of the earth as she faces death itself. The character faces a ghost of a dead soldier who represents the meaningless and failure of the past generation, as well as the sin the world has been cast into. When faced with him, all she can do is cry out “save me!” And salvation comes in the song of the sky.
Forgiveness is also important, forgiveness solely from grace. Another character’s past has a great sin in it, albeit one where she was used rather than consented to. When that sin once again rises up in her life, it is only the grace and compassion of someone she had wronged that can lift the burden from her tiny shoulders.
“You have suffered enough. So even if no one else forgives you, I will.”
There are more echoes of Christianity. Unusual for anime, Christianity is portrayed well. The local branch of the Helvetican Orthodox Church isn’t quite orthodox, as it fuses cultural practices from the Japanese who had settled the area after the devastation. There are still elements of treating Christianity as Shinto—the local nun is more like a shrine maiden at times than a nun. But on the whole, it’s a respectful treatment. Even Rio, who dislikes the church, reconciles with it in her own way when Kanata falls sick and needs treatment.
A final truth echo is the song of the sky itself. The song that inspired so many is none other than “Amazing Grace”!
Strikingly, yes, a Christian hymn is used as the main music piece of the show. In the West, we’ve grown familiar with it to the point of forgetting its power. Hearing it in an anime of all places, and so beautifully done too, startles you and hammers home the fact that the reason the sound that fills the sky is the call of God Himself. To find it in an anime, where Christianity is so rare as to be nonexistent, shocks and awes you.
Sora no Woto is one of my favorite anime for those reasons. While it’s not entirely Christian, few anime echo Christian themes like it does. When you combine this with the wonderful story, winsome characters, and beautiful animation, you have a sleeper hit of a series. It has very little objectionable content, with a rather unorthodox way of interrogating an enemy soldier and some mild violence being the only issues for believers. Kanata fell in love when she encountered the sound of the sky, and I think you might too.