To be honest, I’m not entirely certain how to begin this article. The impact this film made on me however is evidenced by the fact that I’m taking time away from designing Withering Whispers, Murder the Citizens: Misery Moment, the reboot of The Blackest Rain and other internal projects (all of which will have updates soon) in order to review it.
There will be spoilers, bee tee dubs.
Let me preface by stating that while I recall enjoying Cyborg 009, I was a kid when I watched it. This gave me the unique opportunity of entering this movie fresh with no pre-conceived thoughts or feelings towards it one way or the other. To be honest, I wasn’t ever aware that the original creator’s plans were to eventually have Joe and company fight God, or God’s will, so there were more than a few moments where I sat with held breath hoping and praying that a series I re-called enjoying a great deal was not about to spend an hour and a half attacking my religion.
What I got was an exceedingly interesting package that discussed the broad range and depth of faith and faith struggles in ways that I believe even the church and many Christians shy away from. Let’s begin, shall we?
In the Beginning, was the word…
Because anime/game/media in general, we begin our story with a “quote from the Bible” (hint: it’s not from the Bible) setting the stage for our narrative. This “quote” essentially begins in John, quoting “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”, and gradually makes its way through Revelations, stating how man through his sinful, prideful and lust ridden nature trampled on the faith and creed, turning away from God. We go on to sprinkle a bit of Nimrod and the Tower of Babel into the mix, and make our way to the hand of God, in this story referenced as His Voice, coming to wipe away the wicked world such that it may begin anew.
If you know a handful of scripture, this is basically the creation of the world and the covenant, our journey away from God, and the Rapture and apocalypse all rolled into one. Three things are very important to note at this point.
- This scripture is not in the Bible.
- This passage is never actually called a scripture by any character save the ones who don’t fully understand what is happening around them. The only three characters that actually have any form of belief are quick to point out this isn’t a verbatim scripture from the Bible.
- It’s worth noting that technically nothing that the poem says is wrong, it’s just not an actual scripture, rather an amalgam of several. It’s also worth noting that there are several caveats to the passage that are never stated by anyone in the movie; this is crucial for the point the movie is making.
The full passage as it is written in the (free with the movie) guidebook is bolded below:
In the beginning, was the Voice. And the Voice, was Him. And man would listen to His Voice in great awe.
But, through vanity, pride, deceit, and greed, man hoarded the riches of the earth, raising a great many towers, whose tops reached unto heaven.
As man’s arrogance scattered its people among the ravaged lands, so was His Voice ignored.
Yet, He gave man the chance to atone.
And flame and smoke and a great roar of lions fell upon the earth.
Though, pay heed, listeners to His voice: (here is the caveat no one mentions, and its absence is as important as its existence)
For, some ordeals waged in His honor may not force man to hear as thou.
May the devout bring justice to all people of the earth, and let mankind start anew.
May His Voice free us from sin, and bless us with glory, honor, and prosperity unending.
In a later article I’ll break down where each part of this passage was taken from the Bible, but the important thing is that when all the people in the movie start blowing up buildings and dropping bombs in the name of God, not one of them acted in accordance with the caveat. The caveat itself states, as we have seen in life, that many people will do awful things in the name of God, but those actions are not of God.
A More Dour Joe Than Last We Met…
These days it seems that Joe, a.k.a. 009 can’t find a whole lot of reasons to smile. In fact, as terrorists are bombing major cities the world over, we actually see Joe himself upset at the fact that someone beat him to setting off a bomb in Shanghai. What happened Joe? Why are you such a stark raving dirtbag now?
Well, it turns out that Joe has heard His voice, and feels compelled to reduce the planet to ash so that it can begin anew in God’s image. Because…ya know…that’s totally a thing God said to do (spoiler alert it’s not). However, as the movie progresses we’ll find Joe to be among the only two characters objectively examining how and why he’s reacting to His Voice the way that he is/was/does.
As the story goes on, we see Joe meet with a girl, a schoolmate, who brings him comfort and peace. Even as he sits with her, content and happy to be in her presence as she cradles him like a child, Joe wars with a dual nature. Inside he just wants to stay at peace near his friend, but at the same time he feels he must carry out the next terror attack and destroy Tokyo Tower, believing it to be God’s will.
Not long after, we discover that Joe has lost his memories, and Geronimo Jr. (another Cyborg) is sent to awaken him.
But before that…
So Cain and John walk into a bar…
GB (it took me the entire movie to realize his name was Great Britain…so dubbed because he is from Great Britain…) and Jet (he’s the Cain in this allegory) meet in a restaurant to discuss the phenomena of His Voice. There isn’t much to go on, but it’s important to note that when asked if Jet’s mind if free and clear of sin and guilt for the attacks going on, he can’t answer. More on this in a bit.
Before Joe is able to decide whether or not he’s going to blow up the tower, cruise missiles start flying into it first! It’s then that Geronimo is called to beat the tar out of Joe and force him to awaken. As soon as the fighting starts, the girl disappears without a trace. How odd…
Geronimo puts the hurt on Joe until his powers and memories are near awakening. This is taking too long though, so Francoise jumps out of a helicopter:
Sufficiently made to awaken, Joe and Francoise rekindle their love as we get another crucial plot point:
Joe can’t age. Francoise, his beloved, has aged three years since he last lost his memories, while Joe remains the same. This doesn’t stop the rekindling, but it clearly hurts them both deeply knowing that someday she’ll die while he stays forever young.
Another important note later is that the memory wipes never took; Joe was aware of his purgatory, and it’s clear from how Francoise words their reunion “Another three years have passed. Once again, I’ve aged three years beyond you, while you remain the same…” that this isn’t the first time he’s been forced into an unwilling cycle of high school life while his friends and family move on without him, only to be awakened again and again as a living weapon for a war he’s not sure he believes in.
In the Name of the King…
So, it would seem that in addition to His voice, everyone is losing their crap over these apparent angel fossils that have been found. In the notes of the considerably less racist drawn (though woefully underused) apparent atheist 008, Pyunma, we find that anyone that looks upon these statues begins reciting the above passage.
Pyunma is in pursuit of the origins of man, even more so in the midst of the movie’s repeated terrorist attacks done in God’s name. Pyunma, and before him Great Britain bear witness to our second mysterious girl:
And not long after Pyunma is seen pursuing her, Pyunma disappears. The atheist’s last words as he witnesses an angel fossil?
“So that’s what His Voice really means…” as he has a placid smile on his face before disappearing.
That is super important, because fast forward to the God’s not real argument of the movie! Standing in the midst of a church, all of our heroes try to get to the bottom of these terror attacks, and the real meaning of His Voice.
Albert Heinrich, 004, takes to the pulpit as he reads Pyunma’s notes, stating clearly that Pyunma doesn’t believe in God or His existence, and believes that man only made God as a reflex to his fear of death, quoting Freud. Everyone begins discussing these ideas, with only Francoise, Ivan (the psychic super baby) and Geronimo pointing out each place where the arguments fall flat. Ultimately the greater majority of the group decides that His Voice is just a fabrication of the imagination, subscribing to the Gods and Earths craze that states that we are all God in our own rights.
Again, Francoise posits quietly her disagreement, but doesn’t argue too much. This too is important later.
Albert does admit that there is the possibility of God’s existence, and that government bodies and people groups have throughout history claimed God as an excuse for their atrocities (the KKK anyone?).
As an aside, Cain and Abel got into a fight in Dubai a bit before this debate went down…
Cain and Abel Round 2: Rumble in the (Concrete) Jungle…
Joe is branded a traitor by his creator, and takes some extreme measures to leave the base to try to intercept nuclear missiles meant to completely wipe the United Arab Emirates off the map. Once again, the soldiers bringing the payload are acting on God’s Will, as they understand it.
When Joe arrives, the bitter rivalry between he and Jet rises again. Joe makes one simple statement however that triggers their fight in the midst of a nuclear crisis.
“Are you here to perform the will of His Voice? If you tell me you aren’t, I’ll fight and stop you, and help the pilot fulfill his mission.”
Round 2: FIGHT!
Joe is actually quite happy about the outcome of the battle, with Francoise later explaining that Joe did the hail mary to prove that Jet was not a traitor. Jet still had a hand in some very troubling things during his prodigal son journey, but what’s interesting is that while he’s fine with the terror attacks done by an organization the US is working with in this movie, he suddenly gets his hackles up to fight the moment people start doing it in the name of God. Jet is shown throughout the movie to clearly struggle with his faith, and an interesting question is poised:
Is Jet mad that God’s name is being used for death, or is Jet mad that people are acting in God’s name at all?
Regardless, Jet and Joe are too late to stop one final missile, which in turn murders everyone in Dubai. Jet is far enough away from the blast to escape it, but Joe is presumed dead.
But God, What of Your People?
In the climax of the movie, the group is split into three distinct and equally important storylines. Jet returns to America to confront the shadow organization working with the NSA only to discover they’ve been acting on His Voice with the terrorist suicide bombings all along. When Jet returns to the Pentagon to report this, he’s framed for the Dubai incident and his commanding officer scoffs stating “His Voice? Heh. I’ll deal with His Voice myself.”
And then as Jet is beaten and tased, a literal deus ex machina drops a boulder on and kills the CO. Again, we see our mysterious mute little blonde girl, obviously the form God is taking in this movie, watching Jet after performing divine intervention. Jet stares at her for a time, and then blacks out.
When he comes to, everyone is afraid of him. Finding security footage, it turns out that the Pentagon wasn’t bombed, rather he blacked out after hearing His Voice and proceeded to destroy most of the facility. It’s worth noting a few things here:
- The Pentagon is famously considered to be a parallel for the shape of the pentagram.
- The Pentagon super computer is known as The Beast, another name for Satan.
- Jet destroys points of the building, but is not shown to directly harm any people in the building.
Still, Jet is attacked on site.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Istanbul secret headquarters of the cyborgs is attacked by a horde of androids/robots (there’s room for debate here) sent to make sure the cyborg heroes are framed for the terror attack in Dubai. Albert and company do their best to defend the base, while Joe has a heart to heart with an angel.
Remember her? Joe shares his despair at having failed and being the only survivor. The girl laments how sad this must make Joe, and once again bids him to rest in the wake of the destruction. She then tells Joe that God won’t give him more than he can handle.
As an aside that’s totally not true, and thankfully the movie later proves that point and shows why the whole interaction was so important. Joe wakes up on the beach in Dubai and realizes that the girl was a watcher angel sent to gently direct him to properly comprehending the meaning of His Voice.
Just as the cyborgs are about to be overwhelmed, Joe arrives and uses his accelerator power to make short work of their foes:
As they discover one final terror attack, Joe reveals that at last he is able to hear God clearly. He states that though God spoke to many, they chose to interpret it by their own state of mind and desires. Suddenly the attacks such as those on the UAE make a lot more sense now, don’t they?
Joe explains that this was not God’s will, but man choosing to act on God’s word in their own way. He promises to complete the mission and stop the bombs no matter what.
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Joe and company get to the submarine and stop every launch save one. One final warhead escapes into space, and Joe knows what he must do.
Let’s stop for a moment and examine our heroes:
- 001, Ivan, or as I call him Super Baby was never going to have a life outside of birth to death being the operator and dispatcher as well as tactician for the cyborgs despite being a literal baby.
- 002 Jet walked away from his family after a Cain and Abel battle with Joe. He struggled obviously missing his friends, but not knowing how to return as he became the prodigal son.
- 003, Francoise, is the only one on the team clearly defined in this movie as a Christian. She wants for the fighting to end, and for everyone to be able to truly understand what His Voice means.
- 004, Albert, is a philosopher who toys with the idea of God but doesn’t quite believe. He clearly needs something to show him otherwise.
- 005, Geronimo, is shown to at least have respect for God even if his religious affiliations are unclear.
- 006, Chang Changku listens intently on the earlier debate, but seems to be content to just see where life takes him.
- 007, Great Britain, clearly wants the whole group to atone for their dereliction of the battle for the safety of innocent lives, and is actually the first to be taken up by God in the movie.
- 008, Pyunma is a clear atheist who, upon having the opportunity to see and hear God for himself is joyous and is the second to be taken up by God.
- 009, Joe, is not our Jesus figure, rather is our Simon Peter and Saul turned to Paul rolled in one. In addition, stuck in limbo, or Sheoul, and trapped in a never aging body while his beloved will eventually grow old and die, Joe is still the only person in this movie who vehemently fights for God even as he struggles desperately with coming to terms with His Will.
If This Cup Could Pass to Another…
Joe asks Francoise to give Ivan the coordinates for the missile and teleport him there. A tearful Francoise asks him why he’s going on what he knows to be a one way trip, as Ivan will lose the last of his powers after teleporting Joe so far away (thus giving Ivan a chance to be a regular baby). Joe states that he understands now that this is the reason why God spared him. Joe realizes that he is meant to be the one to make mankind’s final appeal, in essence also becoming our Moses in the wake of this world end event, and stop the final missile.
Francoise, it is important to note, does not try to stop Joe. She kisses her beloved, and sends him on his final mission.
Unfortunate events prevent Joe from stopping the bomb, but Jet reconciles with his brother and flies Joe close enough to finish his mission. Jet wants to take the burden from Joe, but they both understand that this is Joe’s divinely appointed task to carry out. Jet sacrifices his body, and Joe goes on to make his final appeal.
Begging God to spare man, Joe makes the appeal you’ve heard in every movie, we’re foolish and wicked but have good hearts blah blah blah, with one important difference.
Joe acknowledges that sin controls our hearts. He acknowledges that the more of us grow together, the more this invisible force seems to compel us to do awful things. He then goes on to state however that another nature dwells within us that can take our faults and compel us to overcome them and to do good.
Then, eyes filled with tears he screams to his heavenly Father. “All of these people who have fought for your name, who have died for this faith, who have sacrificed everything, will you just blow them all away?! ANSWER ME, GOD!”
And then the bomb, rather than crashing to destroy Earth, blows up with Joe on it in the shape of a cross.
A New Beginning…
When it appears that Joe and Jet have at last succumbed to the long goodnight, Francoise is the only one with sense enough to pray.
In the epilogue, we see a somewhat older looking Joe waking up in a house in Venice. Going to a window he sees Francoise walking on water to the house carrying groceries. Christians don’t get pissy; Peter did it, Jesus said anyone with enough faith can do it, move on past the imagery that you should in fact be pleased about.
Reuniting with Joe, Francoise goes on to state that she once believed that God would not give us more than we can handle. She then shows Joe the angel fossil mural in her flat, stating that she’s come to realize they aren’t fossils at all. Rather, they are monuments that stand for those who sacrificed everything for the faith. Let’s look back at the one Pyunma found in Africa:
Note the spear protruding from his side? A few things:
- This is the first fossil found, and the one that made everyone start reciting the passage.
- No one that saw this particular fossil is explicitly stated to have done acts of terror.
- When you look at it in the context that it is not supposed to mean they found Christ’s corpse, rather this was a monument to Christ’s sacrifice, it’s some really amazing imagery that they chose.
Later we see Great Britain uniting with Pyunma in this village, and Jet greeting them seated in a nearby chair. All three are shown to be walking/sitting on water. Jet asks if this is heaven, since GB and Pyunma are there. GB admits that he doesn’t know, while Pyunma simply continues to smile happily. Happier than we’ve seen him in the entire movie.
The professor appears with the other cyborgs and states that no, this isn’t heaven, rather this is the world that was made by one who believed in His Voice and prayed with all his might. In accordance to this, when Joe asks Francoise how he came to be back on earth, Francoise gives a knowing smile and states “About that, it’s a mystery. But, the fact that you’re here is proof that he heard your prayers.”
I’ll note that The Mysteries of Faith is one of the titles we use to refer to the Scripture.
Jet is pissed, stating that if this world is supposed to be all nice and whatnot then why are there still wars going on outside of the city. The professor, who did not believe in God before the movie began, states with a smile “Yes, the situation has changed, but if the world is in turmoil, isn’t now the time to stop running away, and stand and fight for your justice?”
The prodigal Joe takes his father’s hand, and returns to join the cyborgs.
After the credits role, we see one last angel fossil on the moon, representing the fact that Joe willingly laid down everything he held dear for the faith. And I had shivers and chills run up and down my spine.
So Where Does This Leave Us?
This movie was phenomenal on so many levels. I have never seen a movie so unashamedly both challenge and affirm theology in one go. The movie had no problem portraying the atrocities done in God’s name, and had no problem asking the hard questions about Faith that many fall away from.
Yet in the end, Joe and Francoise never lost their faith and never stopped fighting for it. Ivan got to be a normal baby, Pyunma came to know Christ, Jet’s prodigal journey ended, GB stopped needing to question, Joe and Francoise finally get to be together, and the true meaning of His Voice was heard at last.
As I stated, there will be a companion article to this one taking the movie scripture by scripture scene by scene for a more in-depth look, but I’ve gone on long enough. I’ll suffice to state that I have never in my life seen a movie handle Faith as well as this one, and wish that Christian studios would stop making Christmas specials and realize that there is so much more that we can do.
This is why I fight so hard for my studio. This is why I want you to pick up and read Murder the Citizens and my upcoming novels Pretty Little Whispers, A Comedy of Kismet, The Blackest Rain, Intervention;Solstice and more.
Because as Christians we can do better, and we need to do better.