Key’s newest story has finally been released after multiple delays. Harmonia is a kinetic novel, much like Planetarian, and got an English release even before the Japanese release. While the music and art were a wonderful immersion into the story, the actual writing itself was subpar. I do appreciate many of the themes and ideas it touched on, which I will get into later, but after an interesting first half, the actual plot becomes questionable, and somewhat loses an organized structure with things just kind of ending after some infodumping and speeding past obvious plot developments. While I’d recommend it to any Key fan, it wasn’t really anything that I’ll remember fondly. Spoilers below.
Harmonia exists in a world that reminds many of Planetarian – a post-apocalyptic setting where only a small number of humans remain. One day, a phiroid, a highly advanced robot that can even feel emotions, awakens after sleeping through an unknown amount of years. However, he realizes that he lacks the emotions a Phiroid should have and sets out on a journey to meet humans and learn about the emotions he has lost. Long story short, he meets a girl named Shiona who lives in a small, humble town and gives him the name Rei. As Rei interacts with Shiona and the townspeople, he begins to learn about the different emotions of humans: joy, anger, sadness, and love. As I skip a million plot points, eventually, an outside group of humans raid the town. Fleeing the town and confused about what just happened, Shiona explains to him the unfortunate path humanity has walked.
As Phiroids became more developed in their emotions, they began to replace human partners in relationships and even marriages. It takes work and love to grow a relationship; why spend time and effort on that when a Phiroid will already be programmed to give that to you? Over time, humans forgot how to foster love, and how to love, resulting in a great divide of humanity: those who wanted to continue to love and those who felt it was an unnecessary, inefficient, and outdated way of thinking, which comes off as some very blatant referencing to Japan’s own culture of focusing all their energy and time on work rather than relationships. In Harmonia, this causes the current situation of an impoverished humanity, and the divide between humans still continues, such as the raid on Shiona’s town.
The single thing that stood out the most to me in Harmonia was the direct and clearly intentional usage of the Lord’s Prayer. Shiona wears clothing that resembles a nun, lives at a church, and recites this prayer before meals. Even if it’s never addressed, she is obviously a Christian character. Yet as a Christian, one who loves others and prays for them, her lifestyle is viewed as outdated by other groups of people. I almost don’t even need to draw a parallel here. How many people today view Christianity as outdated? How many people see religion as something humans used to do but no longer have a need for? Thanks to science, we can now explain the mysteries of the world with experimentation and cold hard facts.
One of the characters describes this outdated way of thinking as a poison that needs to be eliminated. While I think, for the most part, people are not that vicious toward religious concepts, there are still a significant number of people who feel that the world would be better off without religion or that such concepts are a poison that the “older generation” forces upon their children. Frankly, I can understand this to a certain degree. At least in my own experiences with being taught Christianity as a child, its ideas, concepts, beliefs, and practices are taught so matter-of-factly to children of an extremely impressionable age that is difficult for me to really say I made the choice to follow Jesus as a child. A 5-year-old agreeing to what his mother has told him his entire life is not a real choice. It was only after I grew up, researched ideas for myself, and truly understood the weight of the Bible that I can say I made a true, personal choice. Oftentimes, the very accusers of Christianity were once the children agreeing to what every adult around them preached, so it is no surprise that they later hold the opinion that Christianity is a kind of poison.
Going back to Harmonia, Rei, refuses to accept the route humans have walked. Shiona and the town taught him many valuable emotions and what it meant to be human. So, he then sets out on a new journey, presumably with the goal of teaching humans how to love once again, just as he was taught. Although the story ends here, his path is surely one filled with troubles, danger, and hardships. Even just surviving in the post-apocalyptic world is hard enough. Trying to change the way people think – people who have no trouble killing those with “outdated” thinking – could not be a more difficult path. Christians need to do the same thing. Today’s world is filled with all kinds of difficulties. I recently started working full-time, and between that and the hours of commuting every day, I am finding I have hardly any time to even sit down and rest, let alone do the things I want to do like watch anime or read visual novels (or write this article). Not only do we live in such a fast-paced society, but we are also surrounded by people who don’t share our beliefs. Whether those people are truly antagonistic and believe Christianity to be a “poison” probably depends on your own individual situation. Furthermore, the equally antagonistic “Christians” who misrepresent Godly faith certainly don’t help our cause. Even so, we must persevere through the culture that tells us we are wrong in hopes that people will eventually accept our “poison” as the truth.
In a final epilogue of sorts, the story reveals a town where phiroids and humans live together in harmony. No longer do they need to worry about attacks from people who view both phiroids and the humans who empathize with phiroids as useless. Not much is explained about how this came about or what else is currently going on in the world, leaving much to be interpreted by the reader. However, it can perhaps be inferred that this place of harmony takes place in the distant future, and Rei is likely no longer a part of the world. Nevertheless, his ideals remain; his ideals are now reality. How long do you think it will take to change the world for the better? Your actions may make a tiny difference, but we may never see major change in our lifetimes. It may seem like a hopeless endeavor, but surely Rei did not give up on changing the way the current generation of humans thought and felt. Therefore, Christians should emulate Rei’s hope and hard work, so that even if the fruits of labor are never seen, the world may one day reach an understanding with Christian faith.
A theme of Harmonia is whether robots with emotions are more “human” than humans who have forgotten love. Are humans defined by our biological aspects or by something greater and more ethereal? Regardless of whether you believe humanity is something defined by God, religion, or something else, I think almost everyone can agree that being “human” – or rather, humane – is more than just the biological aspect. The trope of someone who is “no longer human” is everywhere in anime and fiction in general. For some reason, we all have individual ideas of what it means to be worthy of being called “human,” and this can correlate very closely with our ideas of morality. So then, are religious ideas complete garbage and a poison of the past? Or is there some forgotten merit to their underlying beliefs that keeps us from becoming like the humans of Harmonia?