Review: Harmony

We’re presented with a sterile future Japan run by the ‘Admedistration’ and a militaristic World Health Organisation who have developed ‘WatchMe’ system, nanotech that regulates people’s health and well-being to the point of a lack of individuality. Our protagonist is WHO investigator/enforcer Tuan Kirie, who ten years ago fell in with a non-conformist radical named Miach Mihie who wanted to beat the system. It got to the point where Miach, Tuan, and one other girl made a suicide pact that only Miach apparently went through with. Now, after being reassigned back to Tokyo, Tuan catches up with the third friend from 10 years ago, Cian and whilst the two are having dinner, Cian flips out and violently commits suicide. She’s not the only one, as it seems to be sweeping the city like a plague. Tuan begs her superiors to let her investigate, and eventually she starts to suspect that past events in her own life are somehow connected to the current series of suicides. Miach couldn’t possibly still be alive, could she?

It’s probably going to be too talk-oriented for those used to action-packed anime, but this 2016 flick from directors Michael Arias (an American in Japan) and Takashi Nakamura manages to give us a really interesting supposedly Utopian worldview. Beyond the usual anime military/police procedural tropes, there’s some seriously fucked up things going on here. Scripted by Koji Yamamoto, it’s like “The Virgin Suicides” mixed with some distinct technophobia, anti-conformity (anti-pinko), and some really, really  creepy social engineering. Everyone gets turned into “Stepford Wives” on acid. This may not have the surface level thrills or bad arse protagonists of many other anime flicks, and it’s not nearly as obsessed with robots and shit getting blowed up real good, like the anime flicks you may have grown up on. However, I’m kinda glad this one offered up something different to what I was used to (Though I confess to not being much of an avid fan of anime).

It also happens to look great in terms of the animation itself. There’s some differences here and there from the traditional anime look that you may be used to, with particular fondness for pink and purple hues but also some textural touches. It’s not what you would call photorealistic, but certainly some more 3D-looking images from time to time. Look at those sunflowers early on, for instance. It’s a very, very pretty film.

Gorgeous-looking, thematically fascinating anime with a particularly vivid worldview. If you want an anime flick that doesn’t overly depend on action or destruction but is actually about something, this is pretty strong stuff. Some Sapphic overtones don’t hurt, either. It won’t be for everyone, but I really dug this.

Rating: B-


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