Harmonie: Finding love in a lie

Harmonie 07

What’s a harmony anyway? To answer that question, we would have to know what a melody is. You likely already know what a melody is though, but let’s just state the obvious anyway. When a song gets stuck in your head, it’s usually the melody that you’re mentally hearing. Usually. Perhaps the more musically-inclined amongst us might hear a song’s harmony instead. Who knows? But let’s assume it’s the melody. So then, what’s the harmony? To put it as simply as possible, it’s all the notes being played around the melody. You could even say that the harmony supports the melody. Now, I’m sure someone who has actually studied music theory can give an even better answer than this, but for our purposes, a basic explanation will suffice. Even so, this doesn’t mean that the harmony is somehow less important to the melody in any way. Obviously, if you change the melody, the song changes entirely. But if you change the harmony, the song will change too. This is exactly what we see in Harmonie.

Juri used to be… what others considered to be a strange and weird. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’ve seen your fair share of anime, it’s likely you will have noticed a pattern: anime likes to portray a reality in which the popular kids are typically mean-spirited and condescending to others. Not all of them, but a fair share nonetheless. Cool kids in anime tend to sneer at the people beneath them, acting as if their time is too precious to be wasted on anyone who is remotely different. I’m not sure how accurate anime is compared to the real world, but in Juri’s friends, Harmonie echoes the same theme: “God, I’d just die if someone like that sat next to me!” But like I’ve said, people used to think Juri was weird too. In fact, even her own mom thought she was strange. Was she really, though? Well, as a young girl, Juri did have a peculiar quirk. She still does, actually. She seemingly has been having the same dream every night — a dream about a robot girl forming an unlikely connection with a human boy.

My initial reaction is, “Well, so what? It’s just a dream.” For some reason, however, Juri’s mom was really concerned for her little girl. It’s hard to imagine that anyone would get so worked up over a dream that sounds — to be quite frank — fairly innocuous, but then again, we don’t get to see the whole picture. All we know is that Juri composed a song to accompany the dream, and she also drew pictures of what she saw every night. Maybe there’s more to the story that Juri has forgotten. After all, this isn’t outside the realm of possibility as she has certainly forgotten about a lot of other important details, which I’ll get into in a bit. So maybe as a little girl, Juri was a bit too obsessed with her dream.

Harmonie 04

Eventually, Juri got bullied at school for being different, and perhaps her mother’s protective instincts kicked in. She enlisted the service of a psychiatrist to apparently help rid Juri of the dream. When therapy seemed to have failed, I can only imagine that frustration began to boil over in her mother: “She told me to stop making things up.” As a parent, it probably didn’t matter whether Juri was making stuff up or she was actually dreaming the story every night. Juri’s mother just didn’t want to see her little girl get bullied anymore. Like most parents, Juri’s mother was probably looking at the big picture, i.e. she knows how hard it’s going to be if Juri continues to be different. I’m not saying that the mother is in the right or anything like that, but it’s important to keep in mind that things are not as black-and-white as we would like them to be.

At the start of the short film, Akio reflects on people’s nature: “Everyone has their own world inside them. I’d guess [my best friends’] worlds are very similar to mine. That’s why we get along so well. But Makina Juri is different. I doubt I’ll ever step inside her world.” Now let’s replace the word ‘world’ with ‘melody.’ Juri had her own melody unlike anyone else’s. It made her different. It also made her seem weird. After having to deal with a tough and painful childhood, Juri decided to wipe her slate clean and start over in high school. She gave herself a new melody, and all of a sudden, she is now one of the more popular girls in the class. Still, you can’t ditch your old melody, can you? It’s an intrinsic part of who you are. Juri may have repressed a lot of her painful memories, but she has been subconsciously holding onto her old melody this entire time.

Juri gives Akio a media player containing the song she had composed, not realizing that a recording of one of her therapy sessions is still saved onto the device. She even carries pictures of her dreams with her — pictures she had drawn as a young kid — when most people would’ve either thrown them away or at least hidden them in some shoebox beneath the best. Yes, as much as Juri would like to outwardly reject her old melody, she clings to it to this very day. So when one of her friends plays a prank on her involving her composed song, cracks begin to show in Juri’s facade: “She’s always been weird. She really tried to change when she started high school, though.”

Harmonie 02

This is where Akio comes along. Apparently, our protagonist has perfect pitch, so he can reproduce any melody after hearing it just once. When he hears just a bit of Juri’s old melody, he becomes fixated by it. He asks her for the rest of the melody, because he finds it beautiful. As I’ve said, she gives him a media player containing not just her old melody, but one of her therapy sessions as well. I imagine that as Akio is listening to the first track, he falls asleep at some point during it. The second track begins to play, and it feeds our protagonist with visions of Juri’s dream. He doesn’t quite realize this at first, so he tells her about the dream the next day. Naturally, Juri feels as though she might have found a kindred spirit: “I get it. You listened to the song and the dream gets passed on!” Later that day, Akio realizes that there’s nothing supernatural happening here whatsoever. Juri had simply forgotten about the existence of the second track. She also can’t remember if she had drawn that pivotal scene in her dream, but she did. Akio even accidentally tears this very same drawing that I’m talking about, so he tries to reproduce it. But with Juri not realizing that Akio is merely copying one of her drawings, the reproduction confirms her misguided suspicions that Akio is a kindred spirit: “We’re the same.”

The short film suddenly ends there. We are left wondering what’s to become of Akio and Juri. Will they end up being a couple even though their relationship would be based on a lie? But are all lies bad? If Juri thinks she has found a kindred spirit, would it really do her any good for Akio to shatter her dreams? Akio’s words at the end of the short film would imply that perhaps he isn’t willing to confess the truth: “…Makina Juri’s world was, well, really surprising. But I could get lost in it.” The second sentence is the key here. Akio is just a reproducer, for a lack of a better word. Juri thinks she may have found someone who shares her melody just like how Akio’s melody is similar to his best friends, but she hasn’t. Akio has merely reproduced everything. He reproduced her old melody, he reproduced her dreams, and he even reproduces one of her drawings.

Like Akio said at the start of the short film, Juri is very different. Not only that, he doesn’t even think he could ever step into her world even if he later admits that he would like to lose himself in it. This willingness, therefore, counts for something. He is willing to harmonize with Juri in a way that makes her happy even if it’s all based on a lie. That’s not to say others haven’t tried to harmonize with Juri as well, but as I’ve said at the start of this post, different harmonies can change the tone of a song completely. Her mother and her former classmates used to think Juri was weird. They thus tainted her old melody, making it seem as though it is something painful that she needs to repress. Akio is the first person in Juri’s life who is willing to harmonize with her old melody in a different way. With him, she can think of her dream in a positive light: “The world was totally different from ours! I really like that one scene…”

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But still, it’s a lie, isn’t it? Akio is actually quite different from Juri. He’s a bit of an outcast which is somewhat similar to the girl’s former persona, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Akio’s just your typical kid with the average nerdy pursuits and interests. Their melody isn’t the same, and Akio knows it. But maybe that’s the lesson to be learned here. Couples don’t actually have to be the same in order to be happy with each other. In fact, just because two people are the same, it doesn’t mean they will work out as a couple. This is where our melody/harmony metaphor comes into play again. Sure, Juri can change herself to fit in with the popular kids, but without the right harmony, something feels nevertheless incomplete in her relationships with them. This is keenly reflected in how her friends don’t truly understand her, and neither does the popular guy who seems to think that the two of them are dating.

Meanwhile, Akio doesn’t share either of Juri’s melodies, but he understands her. Often times, young people will fall into this trap where they believe a couple in love must share common interests. But there are no rules to love other than that you do your best to support each other. Sure, it probably isn’t wise for two people in a relationship to have contradicting interests, but if the only problem is that you and your significant other do not like the same exact things, then so what? And likewise, just because a girl listens to the same bands that you do, it doesn’t mean that you and her are meant to be. Rather, it is more important that two people harmonize with each other even if they’re not singing the exact, same tune. Akio doesn’t actually share Juri’s dream, sure. But unlike everyone else in her life, he doesn’t instantly reject it. He opens up to it, and allows himself to see what she sees. He can support her in ways that no one else has or can, and that’s what harmony is all about.

The dream itself seems to be a reflection of the short film, but not quite. In it, a robot girl is drawn to a tower where she finds a young boy playing a song with three jars. The jars are each filled with three different colors. As they spend time together, the girl twirls and dances as if she is happier than she has ever been. Eventually, other robots — they’re all male and dressed to the nines for some reason — tries to pull the two kids apart. We don’t exactly see what happens next, but we do get a happy ending. The two kids eventually return to their tower, and the robot girl pulls up her dress to reveal her innards to the human boy. We see that she is seemingly powered(?) by fluids of three different colors — the same colors as the fluids in the boy’s jars. We then get a close-up to the robot girl’s face where we see she has shed a tear. Can robots even cry? You wouldn’t think so, and this shows that she’s not quite the same as the other robots.

Harmonie 01

There’s thus something human in the robot girl, human enough that it allows her to connect with the human boy. The other robots, like the popular kids at school, are of a higher class. Supposedly, the markings on their bodies signify that they are nobility. As for the humans in this strange world, they tend to huddle in dilapidated buildings, which implies that they are of a lower class relative to the robots. They are perhaps analogous to the outcasts at school. Maybe the robot girl had once been a human, but she became a robot to seek happiness. In the end, however, she ends up connecting with a human boy instead. Therefore, we see two characters from two different worlds come together just like how Juri, a seemingly popular girl, has made a connection with Akio, a seemingly awkward and nerdy boy.

Although at first glance, it may seem as though Harmonie ends somewhat abruptly, I think the short film ends up saying everything it needs to say. There are, of course, some questions left unanswered. The ones that stand out the most to me has to do with the psychiatrist. Why does she call him creepy? Why are her visual memories of him so messed up? Then again, her visual memories of her mother and her classmates are the same way, so maybe it’s just a coincidence. Still, you have to wonder if the story is perhaps alluding to something darker and more traumatic in the girl’s past. Plus, why does the girl dream the same dream every single night? That can’t be right, can it? Or is it just a reflection of her creativity being suppressed because being different is considered a bad thing? After all, Juri says this early in the short film: “I like boring. I hate standing out.” In any case, the answers to these questions are not critical to the story, which is primarily about Juri finding her harmony.

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9 thoughts on “Harmonie: Finding love in a lie”

  1. I see you’re checking out those Anime Mirai shorts now. I don’t know much about the recent ones, but “Minding my own business” from 2011 was really good. it stands out from many others of these shorts which are more conventional anime fare.
    There was also “Kizuna Ichigeki” which had some really cool fighting animation, though not much else.

  2. I didn’t really like Harmonie. I kinda like the idea of everyone having different worlds inside them, but the actual story of a boy bonding with a girl through said worlds never resonated with me. Maybe if the characters were more interesting, but I couldn’t buy into either Akio or Juri as little more than ideas.

    So are you planning to check out Chronus? It’s the only other Anime Mirai short from this year that got subbed to my knowledge. I liked it, but I’m a fan of the kind of “bonds forming through life-threatening stakes” story that it tells, so there you go. Plus, it’s Studio 4C, so you can’t go too wrong with them.

    1. I just like Harmonie’s message. True, genuine human connections do not require like-minded people. It simply requires a little bit of sympathy. Akio admits he’s nothing like Juri, but that’s okay.

      And yeah, I’ll eventually get around to the other Anime Mirai shorts except for, y’know, the Trigger one. I tend to do them every week to fill the gap left by the Nanana debacle.

  3. A lot of people short change the concept of having “the same dream one’s entire life” because “all my life” and “I dream of it every night” are usually used as hyperbole. But actually imagine having the exact same dream EVERY time you go into REM sleep. Same images, same events, same characters, etc. Night after night since as long as you can remember.
    Of course she became obsessed as a child. It’s a marvel Juri didn’t go utterly batshit crazy.

    Considering how detailed her drawings were, I wonder if the therapist tried helping her channel it into a positive source. Sometimes with people who have these kind of overwhelming fantasies (that aren’t built on conspiracy, anway), it can be incredibly healthy for them to turn them into a book or something. Maybe her mother would’ve been against that, as she might’ve been afraid it would only make her worse, or maybe they did try this type of approach and it really did only get worse.
    I doubt that, though, Juri isn’t in a mental hospital. The therapist at least let her play the piano. Dude sounds like he was doing a good job, from what we hear.

    Man, can you imagine if the mother had taken her to a psychiatrist who just wanted to get a paycheck and prescribe pills?

    It’s a damn crime this won’t be an actual show with such an amazingly well done short and pretty interesting premise, but considering how that other unique romance anime is going (the one with the memory disorder and the jackass), maybe it’s best it ends here. I think you’re right in that it says what it needs to. Should probably leave it as is.

    Probably what I liked most about Harmonie is the play on romance anime. It’s obvious, painfully so, but it’s actually good here since it’s being done with such interesting little cues littered throughout the story.
    – In that shot with Juri looking back at the friend pranking her she has on a rather despicable anime-villain expression, but it turns out she’s genuinely sorry for upsetting her.
    – Even when she’s acting oddly her friends, who did call her weird, are into hanging out with her
    – The “cool punk” type character is introduced by remarking rudely on the protag and his buddies’ noise, then we see how he stole Akio’s chair, how he interrupts Juri and Akio, that he apparently tries talking to Juri about what he saw, and then how confrontational he gets with the protag. Until Juri slaps him you can be forgiven for thinking the cool kid was targeting Akio from the get-go. But he wasn’t. The only time he really gets uppity with him is when he gets jealous. He’s a dick, sure, but he’s portrayed as more human than most would-be anime bullies. Actually, it’s probably unfair to call him a “bully”. Just a dick. He doesn’t argue with Juri about her choice post-slap and doesn’t even glare or anything at Akio in the end. He just looks kind of…sad.
    _Of course this would change if it was turned into an anime, since you can’t possibly have a romance anime wherein all of the characters act like functioning human beings. That’s just absurd! Where’s the drama? Where’s the episode with NTR themes? Where’s the episode where Akio slips up because Juri was to close and B-BAKA THAT’S, LIKE, AN INDIRECTLY INDIRECT HAND-TOUCH!!!
    …Yeah, better as a short. Much better as a short.

    Anyway, it’s the first short I’ve wanted to rewatch right after watching it just for the feel and tone of the anime. Actually I’m doing so right now. Haha! It’s really damn good.

    1. It’s a damn crime this won’t be an actual show with such an amazingly well done short and pretty interesting premise,

      Where would the story go from here? I can’t imagine seeing more than an episode or two at most.

      1. precisely, for show like last year little witch academia, they could always expand out the setting, so it is possible to turn that into an actual show.

        But this show, just feels self-contained. Sure if in a show, they could get into more details about the doc and why does she fear him so. The show could go into what happens later after they start dating, but honestly though, is that really important?

        This show had an message and it was able to let the message go across without being too draggy or turning into a tangled mess.

  4. Oh, crap, I wrote that essay but forgot to mention:
    Thanks for clarifying all of the musical similarities in the story, mate! Seriously. I mean, I could tell it obviously had those kind of similarities just by the name but I didn’t know what they were until your analysis. Learning about that stuff colored my perspective on things.

    Just a side note: Her rainbow-like tubes reminds me of that super heated crystal heart P3’s Aigis has that Minato supposedly touched (if you went that far with her). It’s probably more sweet and romantic to reach out to a rainbow than an artificial organ so scolding hot it sears the finger print off your finger. HAhaha!

  5. It took me long enough to write this response! I said that I found the ending a little disappointing and rushed. I’m going to explain why (or so I hope!).

    First of all, I liked it. It was great for a short because it was self-contained and I don’t really think that it would work in a long series. I also like your take in it! In Spanish, we say “finding my other half/my soul mate” as “finding the other half of my orange”. I don’t like that phrase that much, because it implies that your soul mate must be an exact copy of you, like both halves of an orange. Most of the time, that’s not the case :P And here, Akio did not have her dream, but he wanted to know more about it. He isn’t the other half of the orange, but he was interested and fascinated about Juri’s half. (weird metaphor, and weird english)

    But well, that’s, for me, the story of this short. Having an own world, sharing this world with someone else. That’s pretty interesting and I really liked it, but I find all the details about the “creepy doctor”, the “pushy mom”, all over the place and not resolved. I feel like the short wouldn’t have feel so rushed if they simply ignored this details. Because they didn’t do anything with them! It just felt unresolved, like they leave all those things in the ground and didn’t care to bring them back and give them a meaning.

    1. Yeah, I get that feeling. I don’t think the short is perfect or anything. But I think it’s good enough. A solid B for me if I had to grade it.

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