This is review number one hundred and ninety. I’m close to reaching the 20% of my goal. This is a great personal achievement to me and I hope I can push on even further. Anyways, I’ll be reviewing a movie. I’ll be checking out a 2011 movie titled “Children Who Chase Lost Voices. It’s a two hour movie about people trying to bring the dead back to life. There’s a lot more to it than that though. It’s a good movie, I guess, so let’s read on.
The anime is about a girl named Asuna who meets a boy named Shun. She is a bit of a loner ever since her father died and she has somehow found comfort being around Shun. Shun is not from this world though and he died soon after. Asuna learns that Shun came from Agartha or, as some call it, the underworld. She was soon plunged into an adventure travelling into Agartha. She is asked a very important question: If you can bring back the dead, will you do it? How far will you go to be with someone no longer in this world?
Taking the Pants Off
Makoto Shinkai. I f*cking hate this guy. The rest of the world likes him though and he is praised like he was the only guy on the planet with a dick. He has an “artistic” touch that makes his anime pretty good. I’ll admit that. He makes visually appealing anime that hardcore and casual fans alike can fall in love with. He can’t do cinematic stories though. I’m sorry but I don’t have the same profound experience people get when they watch “5 Centimeters per Second” or “Place Promised in Our Early Days”. They have amazing visuals and music that can capture your attention but their narrative sucks. I won’t be nice about it. I will praise his artistic eye but he does not know how to tell a story. Seriously, it’s like his particular directorial style I’ve come to known. He makes massive eye candy that wins him boatloads of acclaims and awards but he cannot tell a proper story. Please understand. I grew up falling in love with Satoshi Kon pieces that rattles your mind as you watch it. I’ve fallen in love with Hayao Miyazaki pieces not for their artwork but his ability to wake the child inside of me while staying true to his Toei Animation roots. Makoto Shinkai awakens the bitchy art snob in me that praises a picture of a black and white puddle of mud and calls it a masterpiece. No. As someone who loves an anime for its narrative, I am not a fan of this guy. So I tried this movie he made called “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” released back in 2011. Here’s the short version of this review: The artwork is outstanding. The story and the characters are shallow. If you like staring at a moving piece of art then go watch this. Fancy more substance in your 2 hours then watch something else.
The movie started out pretty slow. You were first immersed in the director’s amazing art skills as you watch Asuna go about her everyday life. It honestly feels like a Studio Ghibli movie where the scenes are slowly coming to life as Asuna moves about in it. Who would’ve thought the movie is actually a Sci Fi Adventure anime and the first thirty minutes of the movie is actually just mindless fluff? Keep in mind, I hate the director but I will not let it affect this review. I’m more mature than that. The anime started out pretty lumpy with a false pretense welcoming us. We are introduced to the characters for a bit while the anime slowly laid the groundwork for the rest of the movie. It took about thirty minutes for the movie to actually present its story though. The premise is actually pretty interesting. Asuna, through some weird sequence of events, was suddenly thrown into Agartha where it is rumored that you can actually bring back the dead. Along with her pet cat creature and her substitute teacher, they travel this vast world trying to find a way to bring back the dead. The journey isn’t easy though and this world has a few surprises in store for our heroes. All of the hardship is worth it though just so they can spend more time with people the world has taken from them. It’s an exciting premise if there ever was one. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
The premise is really wonderful if you ignore the fact that the movie ate thirty minutes to present it. This was the first problem of the anime though. The story was really mishandled. It’s a fairly straightforward movie. The characters travel in this new world while they slowly get accustomed to all the things about it. It’s a journey from point A to B. It’s pretty simple. The problem was the subplots attached to it. There seems to be a lot of things presented in the anime to bog down this simple story it has. Let’s focus on the first thirty minutes. It featured Asuna spending time listening to a radio powered by a crystal. It can somehow pick up mysterious music that Asuna is very fond of listening. This is somehow related to Agartha, or the Underworld. How so? The anime never really clearly explained. Ok, that’s fine. What about the opening pretense about Asuna not having any friends ever since her dad died? She somehow just suddenly fancied this boy named Shun. Maybe she likes her. Ok, that sounds nice. So, the anime will feature Asuna’s journey into making friends and maybe get a coming of age story out of it? Sadly, no. The subplots mentioned in the first thirty minutes of the anime that was supposed to fuel the rest of the anime was really just fluff that no longer mattered as the anime progressed. No, let me give an “artistic” explanation to it. These things were subtly hinted and it gradually fused with the overarching story the anime had. In other words, really bad storytelling.
To be fair, the Sci Fi aspects of the anime were really amazing. The Agartha world in the movie really came alive and the various things in it were nicely conceived. I love the RPG-esque aspect of the anime with all the nice looking monsters and the backstory of the world they were in. The addition of the mythology and various legends to compliment the Sci Fi aspect was also nicely done. I wished the anime focused more on it, to be honest. The situation of the people in Agartha, further explanation of the cool looking Gate Keeper monsters and the fantasy element the movie has nicely woven was pretty exciting to watch. It really took me by surprise and made me tune into the anime some more. The anime had a lot more things to feature though.
Then there are the characters. They are bland and horribly shallow. The characters in the anime were really plot devices that moved the story along. They functioned within the story but they never had a chance to really stand out. The problem was the story though. There was never really a clear focus on the characters and it was more about their journey in the world and the backstory behind it. There were flashbacks and necessary fleshing out but they still weren’t interesting enough to actually make the audience care about them. Asuna was a pretty decent main character. One of my personal gripe with her is that I don’t really understand why she is taking this journey to revive the dead. In the realm of thirty minutes, she fell in love with a boy that suddenly died and then took a journey to Agartha. Is it to revive the dead boy? It was never clearly defined. Subtly hinted but never directly mentioned. All she did throughout the journey was enjoying cooking and sleeping with her companions. No further character development or necessary monologues from her to give us a better understanding of the character we are following for 2 hours.
The rest of the characters were just as weak as Asuna. One of Asuna’s companions was trying to actually revive the dead. He had a strong conviction and reasons to bring back the dead. The problem with this one was that he remained an enigma until the end of the anime. We simply know him as the guy who wants to revive his dead wife because she died way too early. His personality starting out in the journey was a bit cold. You’d expect him to open up a bit to Asuna and maybe slowly tone down his cold personality. Nope. That never happened simply because the anime never really wanted him to. He is just that character that wanted to revive someone. It starts and ends there. Basically the rest of the cast was just like him. No character development. They have a decent fleshing out to match the progression of the story but not enough to truly define the individual. There were a lot of things about the story that the movie was still focused on so the characters really took a backseat over anything else. This is a problem towards the end of the anime because I personally no longer care for the characters. I have no reason to. Yeah, go revive your dead wife. I no longer give a sh*t. The story just went there without me emotionally investing on the characters. That’s something I cannot really get into.
The anime basically crumbled towards the end. The overarching story was honestly just too big to fit into the time frame of the story. Some things were rushed, some things were left unanswered, some things slowly lost its purpose and the direction of the anime became muddled. I honestly think the anime tried to make a great cinematic story to pair up with the stunning visuals but it just couldn’t. It was a simple story trying to be complex but ended up having too much to present that the most important thing it was supposed to focus on was lost among the clutter it was trying to setup. There is potential in this movie. I honestly think that the story can be fixed and organized in a way to make everything fit into each other to create a great anime. Let’s not do that though because why put effort on the story when you can make scenery porn that’ll make simple minded viewers wet themselves and rate the anime a perfect ten. God, people love this movie. I do not understand why.
This is really just my opinion though and there is praise in this review below so don’t worry. I just can’t understand what people see in this “talented” director though. In terms of overall experience, I actually value Mind Game more than this anime. Mind Game was an artistic expression through and through. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a movie trying to capture the Studio Ghibli experience but tries to overcomplicate itself. There’s amazing art though so no one is offended. Or maybe people just really want an anime movie that looks complex without actually being complex. I don’t know. Someone set it straight for me though. I would really like to know why people love Makoto Shinkai so much.
Sight and Sound
This is where the movie truly shined and this is what really made the director massively acclaimed. The visuals of the anime are really just outstanding. First of all, the scenes are really just breathtaking. He has a way of really capturing beautiful angle shots to make the sceneries in the anime more special. They are truly picturesque scenes that can really take your breath away. The details of simple scenes like a forest full of leaves on the ground and trees everywhere looks so very outstanding in the anime. There is also Studio Ghibli like backgrounds that you can easily notice like the way Asuna’s house was designed. The company has a way of making every day Japanese objects looks surreal while maintaining its simplicity. This was also present in this movie. The visuals and the animation of the first thirty minutes was actually the big reason why the movie gave off a Studio Ghibli vibe that will most definitely attract viewers.
The best kind of visuals that I really admire though are the ones that captures a huge landscape where you can see the immense details of the things in the land and the shining stars in the sky. This was the kind of visuals that people love from Makoto Shinkai. The rather collage-like photoshopped images but they aren’t because they are wonderfully digitally rendered and the way the characters move around in it simply gives it life. It’s outstanding and you will see this all throughout the movie so expect to get your breath taken away. Another thing about the visuals in the anime was the color scheme. They really just pop and the combination of the colors made the scenes truly fantastic. It’s very high quality and you don’t see the kind of vibrant colors like the one in this movie. It was refreshing to the eyes yet it also stays true to the simple designs of the scenes.
Character design is pretty simple. I’d say it looks just like characters from Studio Ghibli movies. It’s the kind of simple design that doesn’t really draw you towards them but solid enough to make the animation shine through. The designs on the monsters are pretty impressive though. They really look menacing but they have little details that make them standout. They have great ancient looks to them and a bit of prehistoric appeal that looks pretty awesome. The incorporation of various mythologies to the design of the monsters was also pretty nicely done.
The animation is pretty amazing. The characters move around a lot and the animation was able to showcase it perfectly. The movements were pretty simple but it was still nicely presented. There are some fight scenes in the anime and some adventure type scenes that are also nicely done. Majority of the scenes involve simple movements though that does give the characters more personality than the story has ever given them. Simple mannerisms and just the way a character move had a lot of personality in it that is unique to them. I love how that kind of detail was presented through the animation.
The soundtrack of the anime is pretty outstanding as well. I personally love that orchestra music that gives an emotional edge to the various sceneries in the anime. Simple music that compliments the visuals of the anime combined for an amazing anime experience. The anime has no OP. The ED is “Hello Goodbye & Hello” by Anri Kumaki. This is a really wonderful song that captures the spirit of the anime about losing some you love and moving on. Anri’s voice was very heavenly and the mellow pace of the song was a nice touch. It had a lot of emotion to it that nicely resonates with the rest of the anime. It’s truly outstanding.
5/10 “Stunning visuals but a movie is more than that. It also needs well rounded characters and a nicely conceived story that quite frankly no amount of stunning visuals can ever replace.”
I’m one of those haters of this movie. To be fair, I did fell in love with the visuals and I think Makoto Shinkai will forever be praised because of it. This guy was known for short animated pieces though and it’s obvious his talent doesn’t translate well to long movies like this. Two hours of a muddled story and weak characters but amazing animation may please people. I am personally not one of them though. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli movies with a nice touch of Sci Fi and Fantasy then you should check this one out. If you value story more than visuals though then I’m sure you can other things to waste two hours on.