October 19, 2022
Whether people and artificial intelligence will ever live together in harmony is still one of the biggest questions. But without trying, you will never get any result. Following Time of Eve: The Movie (2010) and Patema Inverted (2013), Sing a Bit of Harmony , a new original anime directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, hits Japanese cinemas in October 2021. The coming-of-age film focuses on this topic and has only one goal: to make everyone happy. Patrick Snir
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"Are you happy right now?"
Satomi Amano lives with her mother in Keibu, a small Japanese town that the tech company Hoshima uses as a testing ground for several AI-controlled systems and robots. Whether controlling household appliances or other technologies – language assistants and AI systems have already become an integral part of humanity. While everyday life would in fact be easy to regulate, Satomi does not fare that way. An introverted student, she is shunned by her classmates and has become estranged from her once good childhood friend Tо̄ma.
Meanwhile, her mother, who is employed by Hoshima as an AI specialist, is preparing a secret test of a newly developed AI prototype. The aim of this experiment is to accommodate the AI in a realistic-looking body as exchange student Shion Ashimori in Satomi's class for a few days. She should behave naturally and inconspicuously so that she cannot be distinguished from a human being.
But on the first day of school, this attempt quickly gets out of hand, since Shion has the habit of suddenly jumping into a song and finally malfunctions in front of the five students Satomi, Tо̄ma, Gocchan, Aya and Thunder. Despite initial difficulties, everyone decides to cover up the experiment to protect Satomi's mother.
In the days that follow, Shion strives to make Satomi happy. She supports Satomi in making friends, helps her friends with problems, and rekindles Satomi's relationship with Tо̄ma – all with the power of singing. Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that someone is mysteriously tampering with the school's security system recordings and Shion's telemetry results in order to hide Shion's unconventional behavior from Hoshima. When the company finally got wind of it, the experiment was threatened with destruction and discontinuation. However, Satomi and her friends decide to save her, and Shion's mysterious connection to Satomi is revealed.
image and animation
Sing a Bit of Harmony (Jap. Ai no Utagoe o Kikasete ) was produced at Studio JCStaff (including Toradora!, DanMachi and Golden Time ) under the direction of Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who also wrote the screenplay with Ichirō Ōkouchi. The coming-of-age anime premiered in Japan on October 29, 2021 before hitting theaters on July 26, 2022 through Crunchyroll (formerly KAZÉ Anime). A home video release on DVD and Blu-ray is expected on December 1, 2022.
Visually, the original anime impresses with atmospheric and colorful images over the entire duration. Studio JCStaff is once again characterized by a high-quality production, in particular due to the many small details in the picture and the intelligent interplay of light, shadow and reflections. Each sequence is not only at a spectacular level, but also provides an enjoyable feast for the eyes.
Kanna Kii's original character design harmonizes with the beautiful pastel and watercolor-like setting, which was more than solidly adapted for animation by Shuichi Shimamura. In addition, the animations also contribute to the successful arrangement and know how to convince with their fluid, modern camera work.
German translation and music
Crunchyroll not only brought Sing a Bit of Harmony to the cinema in the original Japanese version with German subtitles, but also optionally with German dubbing. This was created in the Oxygen Sound Studios in Berlin, for which Bartosz Bludau wrote both the dialogue book and directed the dialogue. Even if the songs were unfortunately not sung in German, the German cast is great.
Every single voice from the quintet manages to skillfully implement the different personalities. In the collective, Johanna Schmoll as Satomi and Patrick Keller as Tо̄ma, among others, succeed in reinforcing the character development also audiovisually. I would also like to give a special mention to Lin Gothoni, who lends her voice to Shion and also does an excellent job. As a singer, it would certainly not have been a problem for Gothoni to sing the songs in German. Unfortunately, they decided against it, which is why the flair is lost a bit in the abrupt songs.
The orchestral pieces of music, which actively accompany the plot, as well as the sensitive songs sung by the Japanese speaker Tao Tsuchiya are the highlight of the cinema film. Ryo Takahashi's succinct compositions give the viewer the feel of a Disney musical, enhanced by Tao Tsuchiya's excellent vocals. Due to the small number of songs and their sometimes catchy melody, there is still a lot missing to a real musical, but the direction is right.
Sing a Bit of Harmony has a surprisingly good pacing and the strength to illuminate each person's difficulties and insecurities with a kind of dramaturgy. However, these are always only briefly touched upon, which is why the topics in the plot lose themselves somewhat in complexity.
Almost like in a play, the anime film is divided into two acts or halves that have their meaning. While the viewer is supposed to be infected with the sympathy of the characters at the beginning, he is plunged into a sea of emotions from the middle. Yasuhiro Yoshiura did that surprisingly well, especially towards the end. However, the plot lacks a certain depth to leave the viewer full of enthusiasm after a running time of around 108 minutes. There are also certain similarities with films such as Disney 's Baymax or Locksmith Animation's Ron Goes Wrong.
It looks different in terms of image and animation, because here Sing a Bit of Harmony can convince with the atmospheric and detailed images as well as the fluid animation across the board. With this, Studio JCStaff has proven once again that they can produce amazing works. The different settings also bring a welcome change to static school settings and thus exploit the maximum color power of the film. In addition, we get a successful German dubbing that can keep up with the original.
The highlight in Sing a Bit of Harmony is the music by Ryo Takahashi, which accompanies the film throughout its duration with charming and catchy compositions. Tao Tsuchiya's singing also gives the feeling of a musical, even if the songs are very similar thematically. Despite its lack of originality, Sing a Bit of Harmony is definitely a watchable anime film with entertaining entertainment for all age groups.
Sing a Bit of Harmony is a heart-rending coming-of-age film that makes the viewer happy with excellent film music à la Disney. Studio JCStaff's fine work makes the original anime come close to being a visual masterpiece.
Images: ©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts,SBH Production Committee.