[Spoilers for Eternal Sonata‘s ending]
As explored in Part 3, we’ve seen that Eternal Sonata portrays a society which is fallen, where men are overcome by their greed, vanity and lust for power. Yet against this grim backdrop, stories of hope emerge, providing a glimpse that all is not lost. That despite how fallen mankind has become, there is a hope that there is a source of goodness which is greater than the evil and failings of man, a hope that there will be a better ending.
These stories emerge through the tales of redemption of the various playable characters of Eternal Sonata. The personal stories of characters like Jazz, Claves, Falsetto, Crescendo and Serenade all contain elements of loss, salvation and redemption. However, the main thrust of Eternal Sonata’s narrative was always about the two main protagonists: Polka and Frederic.
The game starts with this narration from Frederic:
“Why? Why did it happen? Why was she destined to die? What crime could a girl like that have possibly committed to deserve such a grim fate?”
And thus we were introduced to Polka, the innocent girl who was destined to die. Later in the game we were told that Polka was different from others in that she was the only person with a perfect Astra; this was like saying Polka was the only “flawless” person in the universe of Eternal Sonata. At the end of the game, we would be told that Polka was the destined one, who’s role was to sacrifice herself (by jumping off a cliff) and this sacrifice would restore the scorched and damage land back to its original lush glory. But her sacrifice accomplishes more than just this, the universe is “restored” in the most literal of senses – everything is reversed, including time, and Polka is “reborn” as she falls from the sky in this newly restored world.
The parallels to the redemptive work of Christ are striking; like Jesus, Polka was destined from the beginning to be saviour. Like Jesus, Polka was blameless and “flawless”. Like Jesus, Polka’s death was a willing submission for the greater good of others. Like Jesus, Polka’s dealth brings restoration of the land, and of people. Like Jesus, Polka is eventually “resurrected”, although “born again” might be a better description for Polka. These parallels are so striking that one wonders whether the Japanese creators of Eternal Sonata are Christian (unlikely), or that the tale of redemption is so pervasive, so universal and so true, that it just keeps cropping up in works of narrative fiction across all media.
But there are differences between the sacrifice of Polka and the sacrifice of Christ. Just by turning back time so that history can play itself out again could be considered “restoration”, but that was hardly salvation. It could even be considered a cruel joke, a curse. There was no real hope. No many how many iterations we go through, there cannot really be hope if there was no better end in sight, This is where Frederic comes in.
Frederic François Chopin was a dying man. What was hinted by his biography (and the narration of the story), was that he was not a happy man lying in his deathbed. He was dying young, barely into his prime as a world-renown pianist and a composer. He was dying lonely, with several failed relationships with women, never been married and with no children. He was dying homesick, never been able to return to his native Poland due to the political strife of that era. He was dying without hope.
Yet the irony of the story was that the one who was without hope would be the only one who could offer hope. It was Frederic who broke the never-ending cycle by affirming Polka as a “Heaven’s Mirror”. It was Frederic who realized that despite his hopelessness (in real life), there was a rich beautiful world with people he loved on “the other side”, and this realization not only brought himself hope, but it created hope and life for everyone else as well. It was Frederic who broke the rules – Polka, as well as the World can be saved, not just either/or.
When Christ was denied three times by one of his dearest disciples and laid hanging on the cross, the most shameful instrument of death in the Roman era, it appeared all but hopeless. Could this truly be the messiah whose was prophesied to save Israel from its bondage? Yet, the irony of the story was that the One who appeared hopeless was actually the true hope provider. That only through His death on the cross, could there be hope for Israel and for the rest of humanity. It was Christ who broke the rules – God’s justice as well as God’s love was displayed, not just either/or.
Polka was the destined sacrifice, the blameless lamb to be slain. Frederic was the true hope-provider and the true life-giver. As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ was both. For those of us who are Christians, let us not regard too lightly this coming Christmas the true significance of Jesus the Messiah being born into this world, and the great joy and privilege we have to live for His glory alone.
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served, but to serve
And give your life, that we might live
There in the garden of tears
My heavy load, He chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
Yet not my will but Yours He said
This is our God, the Servant King
He calls us now to follow him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King
[Addendum: Read also Richard Clark on Christ and Pop Culture regarding the meaning of Christmas]