the uncomfortably not too distant future, the nanny state has become Big Brother.
The World Health Organization (WHO) serves as its Stormtroopers. It is not
exactly the UN agency we know today, but probably not so different from how the
global bureaucrats would prefer to operate. Almost nobody questions the
ideology of “Lifeism” that has sacrificed free will for the sake of health and
safety, except one of the elite Helix Inspector charged with maintaining the
rigid social order. Tuan Kirie will indeed find herself conflicted when she
links a mysterious outbreak of suicides to a childhood friend long presumed
dead in Michael Arias & Takashi Nakamura’s adaptation of Japanese science
fiction novelist Project Itoh’s Harmony (trailer here), which screens
nationwide for two days only this Tuesday and Wednesday.
to the nanotech implants that activate in adulthood, citizens under WHO’s
jurisdiction, most definitely including Japan, closely regulate what they eat
and scrupulously avoid danger. Miach Mihie was not having any of it. The
charismatic goth girl resolved to kill herself, as did fellow classmates Kirie
and Cian Reikado. However, only Mihie successfully carried out the plan—although
it was not for a lack of trying on Kirie’s part. Ostensibly, Kirie and Reikado
recovered, becoming duly healthy and contributing members of society. Kirie
even joined the ranks of the Helix Inspectors but she had ulterior motives.
Only while serving in war zones on behalf of WHO’s health and safety
imperialism can Kirie smoke, drink, and generally enjoy an unhealthy lifestyle.
is obviously not her commander’s favorite, but she has her talents. Those
skills will be needed when thousands of people simultaneously commit suicide,
presumably under the influence of some sort of mind control technique. Kirie
has plenty of personal motivation, having watched Reikado’s suicide first-hand.
She is also alarmed by rhetorical similarities of the terrorists claiming
responsibilities and her long lost friend Mihie.
investigation will take her to some fascinating near-future locales, including
a Baghdad reborn as an unregulated pharmaceutical research Mecca and a Chechnya
that is still brutally repressed by Russia. Evidently, some things do not
change in the future, particularly the pernicious desire to sacrifice freedom
for safety. Sadly, there is nothing outlandish about Itoh’s social speculation.
Does anyone doubt whether the architects of Obama Care would install the
nano-medical-minders on the general populace if they had half a chance?
Harmony is sure to
discomfit critics because it is actually based on very real and discernable
current trends rather than paranoid fantasies in the Handmaid’s Tale tradition. Under WHO, all of Japan is a safe space
and it is no fun whatsoever for a free-thinker like Kirie. Yet, ominously, it is
still not safe enough for some social engineers.
is a strong, rebellious character, whose considerable emotional baggage
manifests itself in credible ways. Just as importantly, the film’s increasingly
sinister internal logic is consistently observed. There are also some striking
visuals, including some rather stunning future metropolis backdrops.
If you want to see smart dystopian science
fiction on the big screen, skip the sketchy and didactic High-Rise and opt for the whip-smart Harmony instead. It is refreshingly ambitious anime in all
respects. Recommended for fans of animation and social science fiction, Harmony screens tomorrow (5/17) and
Wednesday (5/18) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: Animated films, Anime, Dystopian Cinema, Japanese Cinema, Project Itoh, Sci-Fi films