Harmony (Hāmonī)

Harmony (Hāmonī) 2015

Just a short review today:

A little while ago I mentioned some context around production of three films released until the ‘Project Itoh’ moniker (which you can see here) and I suspect that Empire of Corpses is my favourite, but that isn’t to claim that Harmony was unenjoyable at all (or Genocidal Organ for that matter).

I will say that I didn’t find Harmony quite as atmospheric as EoC, but stylistically it’s definitely memorable, at times dream-like, and similar to the other films based on Satoshi Itō’s novels.

In all stories the speculative aspects were probably the main hook for me, both interesting and disturbing. Harmony especially, I think placed questions on what a relentlessly health-obsessed society would look like in the forefront, over character or story.

And while the oppressive elements of EoC or GO are balanced by either the boldness of the mash-up or relative calmness between skirmishing and slaughter, Harmony seems to balance the darker aspects with a somewhat half-hearted exploration of a lesbian relationship.

There, the villain manipulates the heroine, told largely via flashbacks in an ecchi style and maybe misses the chance to develop the characters. Or perhaps I’m just being too hard on the adaptation and the novel gives the relationship extra care?

Still, I think if you like stories that explore free will then you might find enough to enjoy here – there’s also some great costuming, a bit of action and intrigue but mostly, things like the use of colour and the time spent on the settings, the exploration of a futuristic world, that I enjoyed most.

(And also I should mention that the creepy performance from Reina Ueda as Miach Mihie really stood out too.)

3 Stars

Empire of Corpses (Shisha no Teikoku)

Empire of Corpses (Shisha no Teikoku) 2015

I was only vaguely aware of this film up until last year – but the cover art of the DVD caught my eye and so I did a little reading. I found out that the writer ‘Project Itoh’ was a significant voice in Japanese speculative fiction before his death at a young age, ten years ago now.

Empire… along with Harmony and Genocidal Organ are adaptations of his work collected under the moniker Project Itoh. Differing studios and teams worked on each film but you’ll no doubt recognise Wit Studio from Attack on Titan here.

So, finally to the film itself!

On one hand it’s definitely an exploration of personhood and life, of love and obsession, and while those aspects definitely worked for me, there’s just as much of Empire of Corpses that works as a fun mash-up instead.

There’s horror, action and (alternate) historical fiction all butting up against the philosophical elements in the movie, as the somewhat disparate historical figures of Holmes, Charles Babbage, Ulysses S Grant, Edison and Yamazawa Seigo (to name a few) are brought together in a world where a new breed of semi-autonomous zombies have been created – zombies who quickly became government fodder for war and labouring jobs.

While the colour scheme is mostly dark and somewhat muted, there’s still some spectacular high-contrast explosions and such that go hand in hand with action sequences and equally – a memorable opium-like haze of yellows, greens and pinks in a certain disturbing scene, and generally enough variety that it’s never dull.

The same can be said for the pacing, it’s got a good balance of ‘concept’ stuff spread between character development and action and of course the animation itself looks great, as most modern work does, so no gripes from me there. Bonus points for what is also essentially a quest storyline, as our main character Watson strives to save his friend Friday from living death.

Take a look if you’re a fan of zombies or mash-ups, I reckon.

4 Stars