Hoshi o Ou Kodomou – Review
Hoshi o Ou Kodomou Movie Review
(expect plenty of pictures)
I am sure many of you have been looking forward to the release of this movie, and on this nice Saturday afternoon, I have decided to sit down and watch this movie.
Hoshi o Ou Kodomou (aka Children Who Chase Lose Voice From Deep Below) comes 4 years after Makoto Shinkai’s last release 5cm per Second.
I have loved every work by Makoto Shinkai thus far and it was only normal for me to anticipate the release of this movie. The question is whether this movie actually lives up to Shinaki’s other works?
Japanese Title: Hoshi o Ou Kodomou
English Title: Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
Run Time: 116mins
Genre: Adventure, Romance, Fantasy
The story centers on Asuna, a girl who spends her solitary days listening to the mysterious music emanating from the crystal radio she received from her father as a memento. However, she embarks on a journey of adventure to meet a boy again, and thus comes to know the cruelty and beauty of the world, as well as loss. -ANN
It’s been awhile since I had last done an Anime Movie Review and this is a nice break from the weekly ups and downs of reviewing an on-going series.
Sadly, this movie had left me feeling somewhat disappointed. The graphics definitely showcase Shinkai’s signature touch, but the story on the other hand had left much to be desired. Although it was not terrible per say, I probably wouldn’t be re-watching this series for it’s amazing storyline but rather for it’s graphics and soundtrack.
The story follows a young girl named Asuna as she discovers the “meaning of life” (in a less cliche manner than it sounds). The plot is quite simple, Asuna spends her days in solitary and meets a boy one day who ends up saving her from death (although he’s the reason why she was in danger in the first place). She then goes on to develop a crush on the boy who then ends up dead the very next day. In order to chase after the past, she sets off on a dangerous adventure down to the world of Agartha to revive him. Along with her for the journey is her “substitute teacher” – Morisaki, whose main aim of the journey is to revive his dead wife.
The story had came across as being choppy and rushed, and although one might have expected the movie to have had more than ample time to cover its content in the 2 hours time frame, it had felt like the movie had tried to squeeze 4 hours worth of adventure into 2.
If you are wondering if the last image was of a scene fading out, then yes, you are right. =P I did put in a screen capture of a fading out scene to illustrate my point. =P Heh.
There are actually a couple of reasons behind why this might have happened. The first could be due to Shinkai’s storytelling style. Shinaki has been known for his brilliant backdrops and stunning atmosphere building scenes, however, things like this takes time to build up and due to that reason, we were left with plenty of “scenic” moments to admire the view and to appreciate the intricate details in the character’s behaviour. This is not a bad thing, but it can be an issue when you are trying to create an epic adventure with plenty of events whilst being limited by a time frame. Which leads me to the second reason – the adventure.
Touching on the fantasy adventure aspect of the movie; this had given off a slightly different vibe as compared to his previous works. Where his previous works were more technology focused (handphones, robots) and had paid more attention to character development, this movie had delved into the fantasy element and had focused a great deal more on it, thus stealing the spot light away from being a full-on heavy character based movie. I had enjoyed this change in the genre but at the same time the contrast became a tad too jarring at times when you are faced with the clash of fantasy vs modern technology. An example would be the scene of the Arch Angels attacking Shin on the hill.
Also, Shinkai’s previous works were more mellow and slower in it’s pacing as compared to this movie, as I had said previously, I felt that this movie had tried to compact too many different elements into the series and had played each one out too long. This had also resulted in the choppiness between the transitioning of the scenes. There were quite a few moments where the screen had faded to black in order to transition into the next chapter of the movie. It had left me thinking “Ahh, so that’s the end of that chapter. Now onto the next…”.
However, despite all these issues, the show had still retained most of the great aspects of Shinkai’s movies. Firstly we have the light romance. The movie develops a nice light-hearted romantic element despite it’s relatively bittersweet ending. Sure, the coming together of Asuna and Shun was super quick and unbelievable, but the writers had given us the excuse of loneliness being the reason behind this quick connection. Whether this is sufficient for you would definitely depend on what you expect out of the movie. For me, that was a barely passable excuse.
The character development in this series were nicely done as well. The amount of attention to detail that was place on the the main character, Asuna, had allowed Asuna’s emotions to come across really clearly. As for the supporting cast, each of the characters had their fair share of maturing through the process of this movie. The execution of character development was definitely not a neglected factor and had remained one of the main focus of the series.
Thirdly, we have the small philosophical inputs about life in the movie. Through the span of the movie we are brought on the journey revolving around the notion of life and death. The series had ended on a positive note telling us that we should appreciate the living and not hope for the past to fill/create our future. It is probably something everyone would have predicted a mile away, but it was done in a nice gentle manner that felt more like a “by the way” type of note towards the end of the movie while the rest of the plot had you mainly focusing on the journey.
Naturally, all of these factors had led to a couple of those signature bittersweet moments that every Makoto Shinkai movie has. Although the emotional connection in this movie was not quite as deep as with 5cm per second, I was definitely dropping a tear or two when mimi had died.
First we have our main lead Asuna who goes on this crazy hunt due to loneliness and the feeling of never having belonged to Earth. Honestly, I have no clue what the girl was thinking when she had decided to go after a guy she had known for a day. Perhaps it is due to her age that she seems to act on instinct rather than actually thinking things through but that was still rather implulsive for a girl who is meant to be top in her class. I wouldn’t say Asuna is a charming character but I wouldn’t say that she isn’t either. For me, she is probably the most boring character in the movie and the least impressionable of the lot.
Then we have our supporting cast. Shun had appeared in hopes of fulfilling a dream and then dying soon after, which then leads to his brother Shin having to clean his mess up. Shin journey from being a puppet, due to his gratitude over the village raising he and his brother when they were young, to becoming a rogue was a rather abrupt one. It seems like Asuna has this mysterious generic-main-appealing-character phermone that allows her to hook everyone around her in. Of course, who can forget Shin’s crazy jumping ability? For a character that seems normal, he sure has a habit of leaping off cliffs without any problem but ends up injured when he gets punched. =P
As for Morisaki, his story was really simple, and he is probably the character that has changed the least over the span of the movie. His intentions had never changed and neither did his unwavering will to get what he wants. The only character development we get out of him is his back story and that was more than enough for me. You may argue that his personality had changed towards the end, but when he is left with no choice but to accept an unchangeable fate, it is quite hard to call that a change in personality. I am not a big fan of abrupt changes in personality, and it was quite odd to see it in a movie like this where I had expected a very down-to-earth approach to the character development.
Now this is the reason why you should watch the show. Even if fantasy is not your cup of tea, the pretty visuals does more than enough in supporting the plot during it’s weakest moments.
Everything that you would have expected out of this movie was definitely present. Dynamic visuals, intricate details, gorgeous backgrounds, brilliant lighting, fluid animation and definitely the signature Makoto Shinkai skies. This is the very reason why I wouldn’t mind watching it again. The world that was created in this movie was absolutely magical and beautiful. Not to mention the fact that the cinematography in this movie was also very well done.
As I had mentioned, one of the reasons why the animation comes across as being so much more magical than many of the other series and movies out there is due to the use of lighting in this show. The crisp lighting makes everything seem so much more realistic and picturesque. From lens flares to the use of shadows down to the flickering of light in a refection, these were the things that gave the animation an extra edge above others.
Then we have the fluidity of the animation, the first few scenes with Asuna running around the hills would have done it’s job in showing us how nicely animated the characters were. Sure, they are never always perfect, but it was definitely exciting to watch each intricate movement the characters make.
As for the world of Hoshi o Ou Kodomou, well, like I had said, it was beautiful, I can’t do much more than to show you screen captures. The scenery of Earth and Agartha were nicely textured with lovely detail that had created a painting-like environment. As for the skies, if you haven’t seen any of Shinkai’s other works, you would be in for a treat as no movie of his is completed without an inspiring image of a starry sky filled with hope overlooking a beautiful horizon.
Oh and how could one ever forget those memorable moments with the wind blowing through the characters’ hair. 😄 This movie was definitely filled with those moments, but where the anime series Chihayafuru had made it something over dramatic, this had given the world even more life and made it all the more realistic.
The character designs are as usual quite plain and simple. In its own way, it is effective as it not destract the viewers from the actual world created in the movie. The characters are never pretty nor ugly, all of them have this plain average forgettable appearance, where after the movie, all you remember are the actions/impression of the characters rather than the looks of the characters. Perhaps in that sense, things remain timeless. This also aids in allowing the viewer to connect with the characters that they see on the screen.
I had really love the opening music for this movie and have added the youtube vid to this review for you to listen to it. =)
You are probably familiar with the Sound Director in this movie as he had done the music for all of Shinkai’s other works. Tenmon once again does a good job in creating a suitable soundtrack and integrating it with the mood of the movie. The gentle piano tones really suit the style when it comes to the emotional/reflective moments in the movie and this is also another reason to love the show.
The movie is definitely worth watching if you are able to overlook the slightly-above-average storyline. The visuals as well as the music are fantastic, and the movie definitely holds the unique Shinkai flavour that many of us love. Although this is somewhat different from what I had expected it to be, it was still a decent watch. The impact that 5cm per Second and Hoshi no Koe had on me was still a lot stronger as compared to this movie, but neither was watching this a waste of time. One thing that I do recommend is that you should watch this movie in as high a resolution as you possibly can because it just makes the experience all the more better. This is one of those shows where having a good screen would actually make a difference in experience.
Movie Rating: 7.5/10
– ra is tired after writing such a long review. I hope you liked it. =)
Ra’s Question Corner
Which Directors would have you lining up to watch their work?
Apart from Makoto Shinkai, I think the only other director that had me anticipating each of his work was Satoshi Kon. May be rest in peace. =(