Harmonia is Key’s 12th and most recent visual novel and was made to celebrate Key’s 15th anniversary. Very much like another one of Key’s famous works, Planetarian, Harmonia is a kinetic novel; a type of visual novel that offers no choices and thus no alternative endings, a single and set ending. Harmonia is unique among Key titles in terms of release, as it was first released in English before Japanese. It was released on September 23, 2016 in English and the Japanese release has yet to be announced.
I’m a huge Key fan, so naturally when I first heard news of this project I was excited and ready for another great work. At first glance it certainly came off as a Planetarian “rip-off” due to the similarities between the two; post-apocalyptic era, robot main character, kinetic novel. Regardless, I felt that this would be another great work by Key and worth a read, especially since I thoroughly enjoyed reading Planetarian, so why wouldn’t I love a work similar to it, right? Even if it is very similar, while on one hand I’d be disappointed with Key for the lack of creativity for a new work, I would on another hand enjoy it all the same. So, did I find Harmonia to be a “rip-off” of Planetarian or a new work in it’s on right, and did I enjoy it or not?
“Love is the one thing that will never hurt anyone.
This is a story of the distant future. An immense war left the world broken and torn. Ashes covered the sky, the land was stripped of vegetation, and water dried up. As a result, the human population drastically decreased. The remaining humans huddled together to survive.
During this time, an emotions-capable robot known as a Phiroid woke up in a decayed factory. Prior to the war, science created these human-like robots capable of feeling emotion. As new partners for the humans, the Phiroids promised better lives for all of humanity. However, upon waking, this Phiroid soon realized that its emotions were not functioning. Its right hand lacked artificial skin and the mechanical parts showed how its production likely went unfinished. This young male Phiroid had an innate desire to be with humans. And so it began a journey to obtain its lost emotions, and wandered across this devastated world. One day, the Phiroid was discovered by a young girl. Thinking he was a human, she began to look after him. She brought him to a small, but pleasant town. While living with the young girl, the Phiroid slowly learned about emotions” (Source: Steam)
Like Planetarian, Harmonia’s setting is a post-apocalyptic era set in the distant future. A war bringing about the current state the world is in. Before then, Phiroids were companions to humans, however in the more present timeline of the story, most humans think little of Phiroids, though some still wish for co-existence between the two.
While this does seem pretty similar to Planetarian with the apocalyptic setting and the human and robot dynamic going on here, I do feel that in a way Harmonia sets itself apart from Planetarian, although it is pretty similar in other ways apart from the setting and characters. I won’t exactly say this is a bad thing, per se… but without trying to spoil anything, I don’t know if it’s just me, but I will say that a certain scene near the end is a little reminiscent to another certain scene in Planetarian. To me, it just felt like a lack of creativity on Key’s part, which is just frankly disappointing. Apart from that, the story was very interesting. I finished it within a couple of days because I just couldn’t stop reading it, and I would have finished it within a day, but apart from working, I also wanted to space it out a bit to enjoy it. In the end, 2 days was all I could manage holding out for before getting impatient and dying to know the full story. At the very least, Harmonia does a good job at keeping you wondering.
Throughout it all, I had speculations, some of which were right, but the fascinating thing is, while I thought one thing, I was only partially correct in my speculation and there were things that I didn’t completely see coming. Although, looking back on it now, some things make since. There are little details scattered in the story that hint at some pretty shocking revelations that occur later in the story, plot twists, if you will. I won’t go into detail, because this wouldn’t be a spoiler-free review then, plus it would ruin the fun and enjoyment you get from reading it.
In the end, I’m going to give the story a 7/10. My reason being that while it is different in a a way, it is pretty similar to Planetarian, which just leads to a lack of creativity, which may or may not disappoint fellow Key fans who may have been hoping for a fresh new work. Now I’m not saying that it wasn’t good, it was a nice story, but it kind of just felt pretty simple compared to previous Key titles. It was nicely portrayed however, so that helps it a bit. But where it is really lacking is that it fails to portray some details and we are left wondering about some things that just go unanswered. At the very least, what helped to give it a good score was how the story was portrayed. It certainly had a knack for getting me caught up in the story and being fully emerged in it. It captivated me, needless to say.
Harmonia has a few characters, and some are quite… unique, I suppose would be a way to describe it. The appealing thing about these characters is that just when you think you got them down, they surprise you with something. This is actually a very easy-to-spoil topic, some I’m going to try and be brief and not go into too much detail. To put it simply, when a character starts acting in a certain way, you make assumptions as to why, and you think you’re getting to know their real personality, when you hit a different realization later on. Confusing yes, but this is a pretty touchy subject that dances with spoilers, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
Out of all the characters, the only ones I never really got into were Rei and Madd. Madd is simply due to the lack of screen-time. We do get enough to get an idea of his character, but not too much to get too attached. Then there is our main protagonist, Rei. On one hand, I get him, but on the other, I don’t. It may be due to his lack of understanding of emotions and the whole lack of memories, but I still just found him to be, how should I put this… dull compared to other Key male protagonists. I don’t completely know what it is, but I didn’t get too attached to him like I do the other Key protagonists.
An amnesiac and “emotionless” Phiroid that just awakened in the beginning of the story. He desires to be of use to humans and goes out of his way to help them, all while trying to learn emotions.
(CV: Kaori Mizuhashi)
A young girl that finds Rei unconscious and brings him back to her village. Shiona is a kind and caring girl that is well loved by the villagers. She has a tendency to refer to things as shapes and colors.
(CV: Misaki Kuno)
A mysterious girl that resides in the village’s library and is always seen crying. Tipi has a habit of drawing a picture every day and has memorized all the books in the library, their contents as well as location.
(CV: Kenta Miyake)
The owner of the village’s general store. As his name suggests, he isn’t the most friendly guy and is always seen angry. He can be kind in his own way, no matter how angry he may sound.
Art & Animation
The art was done by Key’s Itaru Hinoue, who by the way resigned from Key after Harmonia’s release, sadly. I’ve always loved Hinoue-san’s art, classic Key, and it was certainly nicely done in Harmonia. Harmonia’s art also seems a little different from other Key works, as while the character designs are definitely the typical Key style, the texture/shading to them was different, at least it was for the sprites. I thought it was a nice touch for the story, can’t describe why, it just is. We get some pretty nice visuals and CGs. Some are a little lacking when compared to others, but I guess you can’t completely expect them all to be perfect, but the way Madd looked in his CGs just irked me a bit.
There is some animation to a degree, but it is limited to something as small as weather effects. The animation that is present however flows smoothly and was quite pleasing, it gave some background images a nice touch to go along with the sound effects.
As always, Key excels in gorgeous and fitting music for their projects. To me, Harmonia kind of has a combination of a Planetarian and Rewrite feel to it’s music, which is very nice and soothing for the soul. The insert song, Towa no Hoshi e (To the Eternal Planet), was beautiful and befitting of the story’s atmosphere. Meanwhile the ending theme, Todoketai Melody (Let The Melody Reach), was hopeful and inspiring. My only complaint about the music is that I wish there was more of it, only 15 tracks, not including the ending and insert song. It’s bigger than Planetarian’s Original Soundtrack, at least. It’s just a personal complaint, I love Key music and want more of it! Also, I’m presently anticipating the day the Original Soundtrack goes on sale, because I’m definitely going to purchase it; preferably a physical copy since I’m a collector. Come on Key, make my wish come true soon and take my money already, damn it!! /throws cash at screen (*ﾟｰﾟ)ノ
Music aside, sound effects were pretty good and nicely done, no real complaints here. The voice acting was pretty good, but nothing too grand. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything memorable. To me there was a lack of emotion when it came to any crying bits, but apart from that it was pretty good. If there was just a little more emotion put into it, I’d give this section a full 10/10, but I’ll be nice and drop it down just by one, because the voice acting was still pretty good. Props to Kenta Miyake, he had me jump out of my skin when Madd first appeared. I was truly almost as scared as our protagonist.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this kinetic novel. It had me glued to it so much that I actually forgot to jot down some stuff for the review to help me remember certain things I’d cover because I was too absorbed into reading that I didn’t want to stop. The story may not be grand, but it was nicely portrayed and I enjoyed the fact that once I thought I may have figured something out, I encounter a plot twist that reveals something obvious to assume and then some you didn’t entirely expect, if not at all. I’m not all that happy though that some things are left uncovered and leave you wondering, so that is a little disappointing. However, I didn’t really seem to take notice of it until it was over. I wanted to clap at the end, but instead I merely scream, “That it?!”
I wish there was just a little more…
Okay… guys! I think I’m a little broken over here. Like, I have mixed feelings on this. I love it, but I’m disappointed. I cried like a baby, but I don’t know what to feel. So re-visiting the questions asked in the intro: Planetarian “rip-off?” Yes, and no. I feel it sets itself apart from Planetarian, but is similar in regards to the atmosphere and human/robot theme here. Did I enjoy? Yes, indeed. I do think Harmonia is a very enjoyable series. I may have mixed feelings, but I did love reading through it and I probably will read it again sometime in the future in my free time. Whether you are a Key fan or not, if you enjoy post-apocalyptic series, dive right in. Even though it may have a few short-comings, it’s still worth a good read.
Visual Novel Rating: 8
Very good. Everything was portrayed nicely, but it gives off a feeling of something missing. Its considered entertaining and one can get enjoyment from reading it.
If you want to read the visual novel, then you can purchase it in English on steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/421660/