Sing A Bit of Harmony Review: A Singing Robot Finds Happiness For Her Friend

sing a bit of harmony anime film feature image
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

Sing A Bit of Harmony is the latest film directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who’s most known for his direction on the ONA series Time of Eve, Pale Cocoon, and the sci-fi film Patema Inverted. This particular film is like taking a slice-of-life highschool romance drama series with sci-fi elements and turning it into a musical. All these creative elements somehow blend in the best ways and result in a film that steps outside of boundaries while asking a simple question: what is the role of a robot in human society? 

The story follows Shion Ashimori, an AI robot who wants to bring happiness to the lonely high school student, Satomi Amano. To help her out, Shion uses her beautiful singing voice to serenade Satomi and her curious classmates. After helping Satomi make new friends and getting through some drama, Shion’s actions lead to a conflict that will drastically change the relationship between robots and humans. 

sing a bit of harmony film cast of characters
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

Sing A Bit of Harmony’s plot is split into two halves. The first half introduces Shion to a human environment and plays out like a high school romance drama, with a familiar cast of characters with different backgrounds and personalities. There’s Satomi, the co-protagonist who becomes an outcast after getting the school’s popular soccer club disbanded; Touma, her awkward, computer geek childhood friend; and Gotchan, the jaded popular guy who’s good at sports and school. Then you have Aya, Gotchan’s self-professed girlfriend with a mean streak for Satomi, and Thunder — a strong willed judo student with a heart of gold. 

At first glance, this cast appears as stock anime characters you’d find in any seasonal romance drama. However, I was impressed at how much focus and development were given to evolve their story arc. For example, Shion helps clear the misunderstanding between Satomi and Aya by encouraging the latter to be more honest with herself and confess to Gotchan. After taking Shion’s advice, her courage pays off, and she and Satomi reconcile. Another example is when Shion helps train Thunder for his judo matches with a snappy jazz song. By practicing with him, she provides the confidence he really needs. You really connect with them in the end and see how they fit within the story as it progresses. 

sing a bit of harmony film satomi and aya fight
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

The film’s second half then adopts somewhat of a heist-like scenario that heightens the climactic stakes when both Satomi and Shion’s safety is threatened. The tone shifts from a slow-paced high school romance to a high-impact thrill ride and successfully delivers an emotional gut punch. It was engaging to see the solid dynamic and camaraderie between Shion, Satomi, and the rest of the gang suddenly break down. It was at that scene where I felt everyone in the theater was hooked. The film then reaches towards a satisfactory climax through various circumstances, where everyone has reconciled and come together to help Shion be who she really is. It culminates into a well-paced chase scene that delivers a banger of a conclusion. 

“As much as Satomi and the others evolve throughout the film, Shion grows the most in her character arc by learning to value her friendship with them.”

Yasuhiro Yoshiura is a brilliant science fiction director, and Sing A Bit of Harmony has some similarities with his earlier work, Time of Eve. Both anime explore the role robots play in society and whether or not they should be seen as disposable tools to be taken for granted. Should robots simply be seen as everyday tools or are they as complex as the humans that made them? Although the film takes its time to answer these questions, it clearly sides with the latter by showing us the inherent value technology can bring to human society by spotlighting the humanity behind these advanced machines. 

This is best exemplified in Shion’s character arc, where the movie excels at showing us how much humanity and value she brings to Satomi’s life. Throughout the film, we learn how she adopts a kind personality and why she deeply cares about Satomi. Although the antagonists of the film see Shion as mere property for their large company, Satomi and her friends see her as a close friend with passionate feelings that brought them all together. 

sing a bit of harmony film shion and friends
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

As much as Satomi and the others evolve throughout the film, Shion grows the most in her character arc by learning to value her friendship with them. She’s aware of what makes her different from humans and learns to deal with newfound emotions. She becomes a bit human like everyone else by doing her best to help them out and fit in when necessary. It’s this realization of their differences that lead her to make a crucial — and human — decision in the end. 

Sing a Bit of Harmony also really excels with its music, and I’m not necessarily talking about the score. Tao Tsuchiya gives Shion a terrific singing voice through various standout diegetic musical numbers. The musical aspect, while limited to certain scenes and less common than your typical live-action musical, make for a unique and fun experience with the way they’re set up in certain situations. A variety of musical styles are showcased at the right times, and Tsuchiya’s vocals provide a range that makes an outstanding impact. 

sing a bit of harmony shion singing
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

There’s one particular sequence in a solar panel field where Shion and the others plan an impromptu musical performance. It features a brilliant display of colorful fireworks that burn brightly as Shion belts out a harmonious musical note. This particular moment of the film is a prime example of the film’s colorful and vibrant musical sequences. It takes what’s already a solid and consistent animated film and elevates it to spectacular levels. It’s the best moment in the film and has as much impact as a musical scene in Belle or a Disney film. 

sing a bit of harmony film fireworks scene
©YASUHIRO YOSHIURA BNArts, SBH Production Committee

A knock against Sing A Bit of Harmony is that it can be predictable, with derivative characters and story beats similar to any anime with a high school setting. I actually missed the first few minutes of the film while coming into the theater but was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to figure out what was going to happen next.

Despite the familiarity and cliches, the film doesn’t linger on them for too long. Details and hints about a character’s origins are strategically placed and revealed in the perfect spots for great story pacing. You don’t feel as bombarded with new information and revelations the first time they’re introduced because it was subtly hinted at before. 

I’ve dreamt of one day seeing an anime musical come to fruition, and Sing a Bit of Harmony is the closest thing to it so far. While not a traditional musical per se, the science fiction aspect of the story gives the anime film some narrative depth, sympathetic characters, and a message to think about as the technology around us becomes more advanced.

William Moo is a freelance writer who has previously written for OTAQUEST and MANGA.TOKYO. He enjoys watching lots of anime every season and reading from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter @thewriterSITB.
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