Review: Harmony

Harmony by Project Itoh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is clearly a reaction to Japanese society, but it’s also prescient (given when it was written) about our current situation where no one wants to experience anything that could bother them. It’s incredible that he saw this coming 11 years ago. This is not to say that I’m one of those people who rails against “cancel culture” and so forth. I think it’s a positive thing, in general, that folks who traditionally did not have a voice in the world now can speak out against injustice. But there is definitely a vocal minority who refuses to deal with anything that might unnerve or challenge them. Of course this thin line (which I imagine myself to be on the correct side of) is why I originally considered starting off this review with the sentence “This book is dangerous.” I could definitely see some people taking this book as an example of why everyone should be able to say and do anything; who cares what others think?

As to the Japanese part (I am, admittedly, speaking second-hand), there has been a growing sentiment (certainly extant when Project Itoh was writing this book) that the society has become polite to a fault. That those who express their discomfort or issues with others are committing a faux pas against the greater society. And so Harmony conceives of a Utopia that is also a dystopia for some. The suicides mentioned in the book mirror the increasing numbers of Japanese men checking out and/or committing suicide. (And we see some evidence of the same happening in China and maybe among Gen Z here in America)

The other brilliant aspect of this book is the way it shifts between parts. Originally you think the story is going a certain way and then with each part, it shifts and now you’re in a different story than you thought it was going to be.

I think the fact that I liked it so much and had such a hard time truly explaining it to others, means it’ll probably be incredibly divisive. Still, I recommend it to folks as more relevant now in 2021 than it was when it came out in 2010.

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