If you like keeping up with new anime movies, chances are that you came across Sing a Bit of Harmony in the last few months. Either that or you saw the meme making its rounds on Instagram about a girl who was incredibly good at judo while singing about it. This latest hit was produced by Shochiku who is known for some famous and stunning anime movies such as Violet Evergarden Movie, Koi no Katachi, and the recent Josee to Tora to Sakana-tachi. Co-produced by Funimation and JC Staff, the idealistic sci-fi spectacular was pre-screened in Scotland in early October before being released in Japan on October 29, 2021. While this stunning musical written and directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura is hitting theaters in the USA on January 26, 2022, the anime movie has already received some great awards like the Scotland Loves Animation Audience Award and the New York City Film & Television Festival: Best Animation.
With so many great things backing the movie, the expectations are high! Will this anime live up to the hype? Let’s dive into the review to see whether Sing a Bit of Harmony is as spectacular as it sounds!
Sing a Bit of Harmony Trailer
Life is busy as usual for Satomi who takes care of her house and tries to support her busy mom who works with Hoshima, the company that is the reason for the existence of helpful AI. With her mom being rarely around to support and being dubbed as “Princess Tattletale” at school, Satomi learned early to keep to herself because that way, she won’t be hurt anymore.
However, things change when the beautiful and mysterious Shion appears at Keibu High School. With a quirky personality, Shion draws eyes to her on the very first day when she sings and asks Satomi if she’s happy. Serenaded by her beautiful songs that seem to happen during the weirdest times and Shion’s strange goal of making Satomi “happy”, it doesn’t take long before Satomi and her childhood geeky friend, Touma, realize that Shion is actually an AI in a testing phase at their school.
This is a big no-no in the town that they live in so when popular and attractive Gocchan, the surprisingly caring Aya, and the guy who wants to ace judo, Thunder, find out the truth about Shion, the unlikeliest of friendships is born to keep her secret. Moved by her powerful songs that pour meaning into their lives, the group learns to move past their struggles and overcome them with support from each other. However, when someone is out to shut down Shion forever, will the group succeed in stopping them and proving that an AI can actually evolve to become as kind as humans? Will Shion achieve her goal of making Satomi “happy”?
Let’s Unpack the Rules of the Sci-Fi World
Sing A Bit of Harmony takes place in a futuristic Japanese town that isn’t overridden by technology as is usual in dystopian fiction. Instead, it takes the route of idealized sci-fi where the town retains its natural countryside enhanced by the use of AI. This perfect medley of nature and technology is what greets you first when you start Sing A Bit of Harmony. This is refreshing because it sets the tone for a more positive outlook on AI than implied by most Sci-Fi futuristic movies. This, of course, begs the question of how the world of Sing A Bit of Harmony functions and the anime establishes the “rules” of this sci-fi world pretty clearly from the very beginning. The AIs in this world don't seem to be tasked with many commands that could possibly evolve to jeopardize humanity.
As far as we can see in the movie, AIs are usually tasked with only one or two commands at most such as “Collect trash” or “Sow seeds in the fields”. Moreover, there are strict signs all over the town explaining that people shouldn’t interact with the AI or give them any more commands. This sets the stage pretty well for the positive, sci-fi world that the anime aims to be. Moreover, the use of Emergency Shutdown is a handy feature that everyone has on their phones which allows them to stop any AI that they consider to be malfunctioning at any time. This takes away the possible threat of one person or a group of people controlling all the AI in the world and it generally raises the levels of safety for humanity. Sing a Bit of Harmony takes away most of the looming threats in dystopian sci-fi movies but there’s always the sense of unease that something will go wrong.
Animation That Rivals Weathering with You
Now, we know this is a huge claim considering Makoto Shinkai’s exceptional direction of Weathering with You that garnered much fame and applause worldwide. But that’s exactly what was going on in our mind when we saw Sing a Bit of Harmony come to life with the help of JC Staff’s exceptional animation. The motions are fluid and dream-like, enhancing the plot and the expressions of the characters very well. The cinematography is unique and tells the story through its frames in a spectacular fashion. Almost all the scenes are extremely and intricately detailed. We can assure you that Sing A Bit of Harmony is definitely a visual treat for anyone who watches it.
Music That Speaks To Your Heart
The music, directed by Yohei Matsui, is, of course, the perfect addition to the already perfect animation and the plot. As a musical, the music has its own set of expectations. Songs in a musical must be entertaining and catchy so that one doesn’t lose interest in watching the movie. It needs to be clear enough so that anyone listening to it is able to understand the core meaning of the song at first listen. Sing A Bit of Harmony actually manages to bag all of it. There are many toe-tapping numbers in the movie that capture our hearts just on the first listen. The lyrics, while directed at the characters in the movie, feel like they are being sung to us, the audience, and we find ourselves relating to it because we’ve faced similar things in our lives. Some of our favorite numbers from this movie are You Need a Friend and Lead Your Partner.
Oh, You Think That AIs Will Only Bring the End of Humanity? Think Again.
Like we mentioned earlier, there is the sense of unease for the audience that something will go around and the robots will take over the world. These cliched sci-fi tropes are exactly what we think the movie challenges. There are some key moments where we get the cold feeling that perhaps, something will go wrong and this will bring about the end of humans. For example, when Touma disabled Shion’s Emergency Shutdown, it was a clear red flag for most of us who have grown up watching many dystopian sci-fi movies. Another example is the cute garbage can that monitors the school grounds sometimes looks creepy, probably because of its cutesy presence in the most inopportune times. When Shion and Touma trick Satomi into thinking that something is wrong to make her come to the solar panels, we end up thinking “Uh oh, this is where the Emergency Shutdown will be ineffective”. However, nothing bad happens in any of these examples and we end up feeling silly for worrying. We think that these additions speak to the message behind Sing A Bit of Harmony: While AIs can evolve and go rogue, when we restrict them with a set of perfect rules, perhaps, they will grow to be some of the best friends that humanity can ever make.
Love That Transcends Any Code or Order
While artificial intelligence is certainly an important element of the movie, the core theme is the friendship between Shion and Satomi. Or, to be exact, the influence of Shion on a group of high-schoolers. Even though Shion’s primary goal is to make Satomi “happy”, she still helps the other members of the group. This is where she learns the true meaning of happiness.
Shion helps Aya and Gocchan make up and let go of the tension between them through her song. This moment gives us depth and a look into the kind of people Aya and Gocchan are. Known as the “popular people”, we immediately assume that Aya and Gocchan are arrogant and not worth a second thought. But with the help of Shion, we actually realize that there is more to this couple than what we see on the surface and they evolve into something more beautiful because of Shion. We realize that Aya is extremely caring and that she sees Gocchan struggling while he puts up a facade because of his insecurities. But that’s not all Shion does with the group.
Thunder loves judo and wants to excel at it, though he never could because of his own shortcomings. Shion shows him how to excel at judo with her singing and dancing claiming that it’s just like dancing and he has to follow his own heart and she helps him to actually win a judo match. While Shion is primarily doing many of these things so that Satomi is happy, Shion herself realizes that when the people around you are happy, you yourself become happy with them.
And last, but definitely not least, the tension between Touma and Satomi is resolved when Shion helps Touma realize that the reason Satomi is called “Princess Tattletale” was because she was trying to help Touma get his clubroom back. When Touma and Satomi resolve their conflict, Satomi’s own loneliness is also eased away. From a life where Satomi didn’t care about anyone in school and had an estranged relationship with her mother who was never around, because of Shion, Satomi found a great group of friends that wanted the best for her and was able to mend her relationship with her mother. We know what you’re thinking, there’s a lot that’s going on in this movie. And it’s true! But Sing A Bit of Harmony actually manages to address each arc and give it a resounding conclusion that rings true till the very end. We don’t want to spoil the core message of the anime but we can guarantee that it will be a treat!
Sing A Bit of Harmony, as you can tell, has already captured our hearts at Honey’s Anime. The animation, the music, the plotline, the themes and the characters are all strong and perfect in their own right that when they come together, they create something truly unique and memorable. We recommend that you catch this movie in the theaters near you when it releases on January 23 and we can guarantee that this will be a treat that you will wish you can watch all over again!
What do you think about our review on Sing A Bit of Harmony? Is it on your list to watch this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!