Review for Sing a Bit of Harmony
Either I’m falling out of touch with current anime, or Crunchyroll are doing a woeful job of promoting their UK releases, or both. Actually, with the old Manga/Funimation offices closed in the UK, and their operations being run out of the US, it’s fair to assume that the UK market is little more than an afterthought for Crunchyroll at this point. There’s no fanfare, the only reaching out to UK fans is done on social media, and if you’re not tuned into Insta-X-Book or whatever is current, you’ll never know what’s going on. I’m tuned into these sites, and most of it turns into background noise anyway, so I knew nothing about Sing a Bit of Harmony when it was released in the UK. If I had, it would have been a day one purchase; instead I wound up getting it in a sale, months after the release. Now a company like Anime Limited would have made a big deal about the director of Sing a Bit of Harmony being Yasuhiro Yoshiura, the director of Time of Eve, and Patema Inverted. That would have enticed me out of my burrow and into a cinema; forget waiting for a Blu-ray release! For Crunchyroll it’s just another UK statistic.
Transfer students coming into class shouldn’t be out of the ordinary, but when Shion Ashimori transfers into Satomi Amano’s class, her world turns upside down, as Shion ignores the traditional self-introduction to glom onto Satomi as if they were best friends, intent on making certain Satomi is happy. That’s before she bursts into song!
It isn’t long before Satomi figures out the truth. Her mother Mitsuki works for the Hoshino Company on AI, and Shion is the blending of lifelike robotics, and a revolutionary artificial intelligence. She’s at the school as an experiment to see how the new AI interacts with people. Her mother’s career literally depends on how this experiment fares, and Satomi and her friends will have to keep Shion’s secret to protect her mother’s job. The only problem is that Shion isn’t doing what she’s programmed to.
Sing a Bit of Harmony gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese with optional translated English subtitles and a signs only track. The transfer is a good one, clear and sharp with rich, consistent colours. Detail levels are excellent, so fine that I actually saw moiré on a distant mesh fence in one scene, which is something I’ve rarely see on Blu-rays, and might be a reason to pester Crunchyroll for a UHD release. There is no sign of visible compression, other than some banding on a couple of dark scene fades. The animation is sublime, detailed and fluid, and very effective in conveying the emotional intent. To that end, the audio too is excellent, a nice immersive track that keeps the dialogue clear, while immersing you in the film’s ambience, and occasional action, and more importantly making the most of the music and the songs. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, with some nice inner sleeve art. The disc boots to a static menu, and you’ll find the following extras.
Sing a Bit of Harmony Prescreening Event (47:33)
Music Videos x2 (6:57)
Promo Videos (6:46)
Obviously there is a thematic connection with Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s earlier work, Time of Eve, but Sing a Bit of Harmony is a musical, a romance, a coming of age story on top of the flirtation with artificial intelligence and the interconnected world. It’s an amazing film, a stupendously good story, wonderfully told, and one that grabs hold from the beginning and doesn’t let up until the end credits. The songs are top-notch as well. There is nothing about this film that draws criticism. It’s just a perfect 110 minutes, and given its content, I am even more surprised that it was Crunchyroll that quietly booted it out in the UK, and it wasn’t given the usual Ultimate Edition fanfare that is its due, and what it probably would have gotten if Anime Limited had licensed it.
It’s a story about dysfunction. Satomi has been raised as part of a single parent family, by her workaholic mother Mitsuki. Mitsuki works for Hoshino, researching AI and experimental robotics, but she’s a woman working in a man’s world, constantly putting in overtime, and coming home late, aware that her job is on the line should she fail in the slightest, and there are plenty in the company who want her to fail.
Her daughter may seem to have her head screwed on straight at first glance, but she has plenty of issues of her own. She is the class rep in school, but the other students shun her, calling her “tattletale”. Her childhood friend Toma is a typical geek and member of the school’s Electronics Club, but an incident in childhood has made things awkward between them. Gocchan is a laid back guy who’s also in the Electronics Club, but Toma’s friend has issues of his own with his girlfriend Aya. And Thunder is a member of the Judo Club who has problems with his confidence. And into this loose circle of friends comes transfer student Shion.
Shion is the Hoshino AI experiment that Mitsuki is putting all her hopes and dreams into, placed into their school to see how she interacts with humans. But it quickly becomes clear that she isn’t following her programming, instead intent on making sure Satomi is happy. And it quickly becomes clear to Shion that Satomi will only really be happy if the people around her are happy too. It isn’t long before Shion is on a mission to make everyone’s life better, and everyone loves a good song!
It’s an awkward start, but the friends quickly become enamoured with Shion. But the consequences of her breaking her programming come to haunt them, and they wind up having to help their friend in turn. A heartfelt story, great animation, and engaging characters all come together to make Sing a Bit of Harmony a very compelling film. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the movie, and it deserves to be in every anime collection. The quality of the presentation is top-notch, great audio and visual and decent extras, all of which makes it feel strange to call this Crunchyroll release perfunctory, but this is a film that should have had more of a song and dance around its release.
Sing a Bit of Harmony is available from Anime on Line, United Publications, Anime Limited, and mainstream retailers.