Jonathan Clements introduced Sing a Bit of Harmony to the audience at Scotland Loves Anime as “Skynet meets Glee”, and that’s spot on.
Our friendly robot needs to pass for a human, but she wants to make people happy. Is that human?
This vision is in our near future, and single-task household AIs are common; robots tend fields in Japan, but life is very much like ours.
A private research lab creates not just an AI but a robot body that looks human.
Our scientists, the leader of whom, is the mother of the lead character, Satomi, need to show that their creation can pass undetected among humans. So, on the sly, they send the robot to school. Oh destiny, the games you play, our robot-riding-AI ends up in the same class as Satomi.
The AI-bot, Shion, is friendly. Weirdly friendly. One of the first things she does is sing. Her arrival at school is a hilarious scene, and, amazingly, Sing a Bit of Harmony manages to keep that beat going.
It’s a plot
The premises kinda works! Trust me.
Shion, our school girl bot, is created in slightly unorthodox ways – which will be important later – so the decision to prove viability through a secret field test is plausible enough for the show (especially for an anime audience) to progress.
What’s inexplicable at first is all the singing. It’s a musical anime, so, well, just live with it. Except, in a twist, that can be explained later too.
And since Satomi’s mum created Shion we can hazard why the friendly Terminator (a singinator?) fixates on the chronic loner.
Satomi isn’t having a good time at school, routinely mocked and called Princesses Tattletale for some past social sin. Perhaps the bot’s attention, the AI that just seems to like singing, will be good for her.
Or, perhaps it’ll go badly wrong when an unlicensed robot is essentially left unshepherded among school kids. Well, this is a 12A rated anime, so it won’t go that badly wrong.
I’d watch this as a pick-me-up. That’s as spoilery as I’ll get.
I’m no expert, but I did enjoy the songs. There are no belting ballads here, though, nothing to remember. I’m bad with music. I’d struggle to even hum a tune. I don’t remember them, but I remember all the musical interludes being acceptable, appropriate and fun.
I wouldn’t normally go see a musical (though Chicago and Phantom are both crackers), and it wasn’t an attraction for Sing a Bit of Harmony. As it turns out, Sing a Bit of Harmony is musical-lite.
In fact, I’d hazard that if you wanted to see a musical anime that the low number of songs in Sing a Bit of Harmony could be a disappointment.
Look and Feel
Sing a Bit of Harmony not only is superbly animated, but it also has some absolutely stunning set pieces. These are a reason to watch.
I also loved the near-future vision of the show. I can believe in this future.
I want to believe in this future.
AI shows can be cringy at times, especially if you know even a little about it. Amazingly, Sing a Bit of Harmony manages to avoid almost all of the pit traps that usually annoy geeks.
While “Skynet meets Glee” is a great elevator pitch for the anime, the Skynet angle is potentially misleading when it comes to the look and feel. There’s no darkness here. Yes, there are hardships to overcome, but those are tackled through the goodness of the human heart. And the AI heart too? Well, that’s for Sing a Bit of Harmony to explore.
It’s two thumbs up from me. The Scotland Loves Anime festival audiences (Edinburgh and Glasgow) also voted this the best film (of those in competition) from a competitive slate.
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