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Harmony by Project Itoh: A Dystopian Novel of Medical Nanotechnology and Totalitarian Kindness
Harmony is a novel by Japanese author Project Itoh, published in 2008. It is set in a future where medical nanotechnology has enabled a utopian society of health, happiness and social welfare. However, this perfect world is not without its flaws, as some people resist the oppressive system that controls their lives and minds. Harmony follows the story of Tuan Kirie, a woman who once tried to escape from this world with her friends, but now works as an agent for the World Health Organization. When a series of mysterious mass suicides threatens the harmony of the new world, Tuan must face her past and confront her old friend Miach, who has a radical plan to change the world.
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What is Harmony about?
Harmony is a dystopian novel that explores the consequences of medical nanotechnology and social engineering. It depicts a world where people are constantly monitored and regulated by nanomachines called Mediators, which are implanted in their bodies since birth. These Mediators ensure that people are healthy, happy and cooperative, by adjusting their hormones, emotions and behaviors. They also connect people to a global network called WatchMe, which allows them to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with others. This system is called Admedistration, and it is governed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which aims to create a harmonious world free of disease, war and suffering.
However, not everyone is satisfied with this world. Some people feel that Admedistration robs them of their individuality, creativity and freedom. They rebel against the system in various ways, such as hacking, terrorism or suicide. One of these rebels is Tuan Kirie, the protagonist of Harmony. She was once part of a suicide pact with her friends Miach Mihie and Cian Reikado, who wanted to die as an act of defiance against Admedistration. However, their attempt failed, and they were separated by the authorities. Ten years later, Tuan works as a WHO agent, investigating cases of mass suicides around the world. She discovers that these suicides are connected to Miach, who has survived and become the leader of a radical movement that wants to destroy Admedistration and create a new world order.
Who is Project Itoh?
Project Itoh is the pen name of Satoshi Itoh, a Japanese author who was born in 1974 and died in 2009. He was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 28, and underwent several surgeries and treatments. During his illness, he wrote three novels: Genocidal Organ, Harmony and The Empire of Corpses. All of them deal with themes of science, politics, war and death. He also wrote a manga adaptation of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, a video game by Hideo Kojima. He was influenced by authors such as George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov and Haruki Murakami. He won several awards for his works, such as the Nihon SF Taisho Award and the Seiun Award. He died at the age of 34, leaving behind a legacy of visionary and provocative fiction.
Why is Harmony relevant today?
Harmony is a novel that reflects on the current and future issues of technology, society and humanity. It raises questions such as: What is the role of medicine in improving human life? How far should we go in modifying our bodies and minds? What are the ethical and moral implications of nanotechnology and biotechnology? How does social media affect our sense of self and our relationships with others? What are the dangers of totalitarianism and conformity? How can we balance individuality and collectivity? How can we cope with the existential challenges of living in a complex and uncertain world? These questions are relevant today, as we face the rapid development and diffusion of new technologies that have the potential to transform our lives for better or worse. Harmony invites us to think critically and creatively about these issues, and to imagine possible scenarios and solutions.
Summary and Analysis of Harmony
Part 1: The Suicide Pact
The world of Admedistration
The first part of Harmony introduces us to the world of Admedistration, where Tuan lives. It is a world where people are constantly connected to WatchMe, a global network that allows them to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with others. WatchMe also monitors their health and happiness, and provides them with advice and guidance. People can access WatchMe through their Mediators, nanomachines that are implanted in their bodies since birth. Mediators regulate their hormones, emotions and behaviors, ensuring that they are healthy, happy and cooperative. They also prevent them from harming themselves or others, by inducing pain or nausea if they try to do so.
Admedistration is governed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has become the most powerful organization in the world after a series of wars and disasters that devastated humanity. The WHO aims to create a harmonious world free of disease, war and suffering, by applying the principles of medical ethics and social welfare to all aspects of human life. The WHO has established a global system of laws, regulations and norms that control everything from education, work, entertainment, religion, sexuality, reproduction, aging and death. People who violate these rules are punished by the WHO, either by fines, imprisonment or euthanasia.
The world of Admedistration is presented as a utopia, where people enjoy high standards of living, health and happiness. However, it is also a dystopia, where people have no freedom, creativity or individuality. They are reduced to passive consumers and obedient citizens, who follow the dictates of WatchMe and the WHO without question or resistance. They are also isolated from each other, despite being constantly connected to WatchMe. They have no real friends or family, only superficial acquaintances and virtual contacts. They have no sense of identity or purpose, only conformity and complacency.
The three rebels: Tuan, Miach and Cian
The first part of Harmony also introduces us to the three main characters: Tuan Kirie, Miach Mihie and Cian Reikado. They are three teenage girls who attend the same high school in Japan. They are different from their peers in many ways: they are intelligent, curious and rebellious. They question the system of Admedistration and its values. They seek for something more than health and happiness: they seek for freedom and meaning.
Tuan is the protagonist and narrator of Harmony. She is a smart and independent girl who likes to read books and learn new things. She is also cynical and sarcastic, often mocking the absurdity and hypocrisy of Admedistration. She is dissatisfied with her life and her society, but she does not know how to change it or what to do with it.
Miach is Tuan's best friend and love interest. She is a beautiful and charismatic girl who has a strong personality and a sharp mind. She is also radical and ruthless, willing to do anything to achieve her goals. She is the leader of the suicide pact, and the one who convinces Tuan and Cian to join her.
The failed attempt to starve themselves to death
The three girls decide to form a suicide pact, as a way of escaping from Admedistration and expressing their individuality. They choose to starve themselves to death, as they believe that it is the only method that the Mediators cannot prevent. They also think that it is a symbolic act of rejecting the consumerist and hedonistic culture of Admedistration. They plan to die together on their 17th birthday, which is also the day when they will receive their final exam results and their career assignments.
However, their plan does not go as expected. They manage to avoid eating for several days, but they start to suffer from the effects of starvation and dehydration. They also face the pressure and suspicion of their parents, teachers and classmates, who notice their strange behavior and appearance. They try to hide their condition and their intention, but they are eventually discovered by the authorities. They are taken to a hospital, where they are force-fed and treated by the Mediators. They are also interrogated and punished by the WHO, who considers their act as a crime and a threat to the harmony of the world.
The girls survive, but they are separated by the WHO. Tuan is sent to a reform school in Mongolia, where she is brainwashed and trained to become a WHO agent. Miach is sent to a mental hospital in Japan, where she is lobotomized and turned into a vegetable. Cian is sent to a foster home in Australia, where she is adopted by a new family and given a new identity. They lose contact with each other, and their memories of their friendship and their suicide pact are erased by the Mediators.
Part 2: The WatchMe Incident
Tuan's life as a WHO agent
The second part of Harmony jumps ten years later, when Tuan is 27 years old. She works as a WHO agent, traveling around the world and investigating cases of mass suicides. She has become a loyal and efficient employee of Admedistration, following the orders and rules of the WHO without question or hesitation. She has also become a cold and cynical person, who does not care about anyone or anything. She has no friends or family, only colleagues and superiors. She has no hobbies or interests, only work and duty.
However, Tuan still feels a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction in her life. She does not enjoy her job or her society, but she does not know how to change it or what to do with it. She also feels a vague nostalgia for her past and her friends, but she does not remember them clearly or understand why they tried to kill themselves. She tries to fill her void with drugs, alcohol and sex, but they only provide her with temporary relief and pleasure.
The mysterious mass suicides around the world
Tuan's life changes when she is assigned to investigate a series of mass suicides that occur around the world. These suicides involve thousands of people who suddenly kill themselves in public places, such as stadiums, parks or squares. They do so by various methods, such as shooting, stabbing or hanging themselves. They leave no clues or motives behind their actions, except for a cryptic message that says "
Tuan is puzzled and intrigued by these suicides, as they seem to defy the logic and control of Admedistration. She wonders how these people managed to overcome their Mediators and WatchMe, and why they chose to end their lives in such a dramatic and violent way. She also wonders if there is any connection between these suicides and her own suicide pact ten years ago.
The reunion with Miach
Tuan's investigation leads her to Japan, where she discovers that one of the mass suicides took place at her old high school. She decides to visit the school, hoping to find some clues or answers. There, she meets an unexpected person: Miach Mihie.
Miach is alive and well, despite having been lobotomized by the WHO ten years ago. She has escaped from the mental hospital where she was kept, and has become the leader of a radical movement that is behind the mass suicides. She has also regained her memories of Tuan and Cian, and has been looking for them ever since.
Miach reveals that she has hacked into WatchMe and Mediators, using them as tools to manipulate people's minds and emotions. She has convinced thousands of people to join her cause, and to kill themselves as a way of protesting against Admedistration and creating a new world order. She has also created a virus that can infect and destroy the Mediators, freeing people from their control and influence.
Miach invites Tuan to join her, and to remember their friendship and their suicide pact. She tells Tuan that she still loves her, and that she wants to die with her. She also tells Tuan that Cian is still alive, and that she is waiting for them in Australia.
Part 3: The Harmonious World
The truth behind Miach's plan
Tuan is shocked and confused by Miach's revelation. She does not know whether to trust her or not, whether to love her or hate her, whether to join her or stop her. She decides to follow Miach, hoping to find the truth behind her plan and her motives.
Tuan learns that Miach