It’s not odd for me to come out of an anime movie confused, but utterly perplexed is new. Harmony is the complete opposite of what I have come to expect from anime. Most of the time they are visually stunning, i.e. the artwork for the action sequences are incredible, they have a kernel of an interesting idea, and then there is all the exposition and whining to fill out the runtime to feature length.
Contrarily, all of the action in Harmony can be seen in the trailer, i.e. the part with the jet being shot out of the sky. There’s a chase scene later in the movie, but as far as chase scenes go it is about as exciting as watching elderly slugs push across frozen concrete. Although it lacks in action, almost completely, it makes up for the deficiency in story. To paint it in broad strokes, Tuan, our angst-filled hero, is hunting for a terrorist who is threatening to destroy the sterilized world by turning humanity’s perfect heath against itself. Harmony is more of a thriller/mystery than sci-fi action. The twists and turns are a bit formulaic but entertaining. And there’s no whining.
SUH-weet, sweet Jesus! Hallelujah!
Then the movie gets philosophical. At first I must admit I enjoyed the explication (as I did spend too much of my young life pursuing a degree in philosophy). This is part of the standard “talky” part of anime or, in other words, the part that cool animation cannot get across. So the characters blather on endlessly, explaining everything so the plot can get to the next cool fight. Problem is, there was no fight to get to, just another scene with more talking. The story became a recursive loop, a gravitational collapse, that no amount of intelligence could escape.
Things went weird. Concepts got mashed together which I’m not sure are comparable, e.g. one’s free will = consciousness. And then for a good measure they started tacking on a lot of neuroscience stuff. All of it was in English, and none of the words were GRE words, but because of the sheer volume of information it wasn’t long before I was completely lost. Most of the sciency stuff was plausible enough, or at least easy enough to suspend my disbelief about, but by the end I was so dizzy I wasn’t sure what I had just witnessed.
So, I turned to my daughter, whom I figured would understand what I was too damned old to get, and asked, “What did you think?”
“It would be better as a book.”
The ride home was silent as we both were trying to untangle what we had just watched. Or maybe it was just me. Kate is far more able to let shit slide than I am. When we got home my wife asked what we thought of the movie. We looked at one another and answered with a shrug, “Dunno.”
I think Kate was right. Maybe if I read the book the anime is based on I could plot out what in the hell the characters are talking about. Maybe the story would make sense. Maybe I could determine if the whole thing was good. Of course, that would require getting the book, reading it, and working out the ideas. Meh. I don’t know that Harmony would stand up to that kind of scrutiny, nor is it worth the time even if it did turn out to be better than a’ight. So I think I’m just going to call this one an “eh” and get on with life.