Sunday, March 4, 2012

Voices of a Distant Star

Hoshi no Koe; animated science-fiction romantic drama, Japan, 2002; D: Makoto Shinkai, S: Chihiro Suzuki, Sumi Motoh

In the future, a teenage girl admits to her boyfriend that she became a member of a UN space army that will go to battle an alien race that invaded Mars. The distance quickly leaves a strain on their relationship. While piloting a robot in the UN army, the girl sends text messages via her cellphone to her boyfriend, but as the army pushes the aliens further and further away from the Solar system, their messages take longer and longer to reach Earth. In the Oort cloud, the army takes warp speed and goes to Sirius, which means that now it takes 8 years for her message to reach her boyfriend. In a battle, the human army achieves a victory, while the girl's spirit wonders away into space, in order to be with her boyfriend again.

After his short debut film, "She and Her Cat", director Makoto Shinkai managed to assemble another independent - practically home made - anime short movie, "Voices of a Distant Star", a blend of "Nadesico" and "Dark Eyes", that quickly drew attention worldwide and became his breakthrough flick. Despite the science-fiction segment, this is basically a simple poetic essay, an intimate romantic drama revolving just between a girl and a guy, that taps a theme many can identify with - long distance relationships - and manages to carry it wonderfully throughout its 25 minutes of running time. The theme was so strong that Shinkai made its thematic twin five years later with "5 Centimetres Per Second", just without the science-fiction elements, restructuring the storyline about the "interrupted romance" caused by distance. In that aspect, the two short action sequences near Pluto and the alien home plant in the Sirius system are actually even redundant since the only thing that sticks with the viewers is the melancholic-gentle relationship between the separated couple, equipped with a few brilliant solutions (i.e., in one scene, the boy is sleeping on a table, holding his cellphone in his arm, and as soon as a petal falls on it, it receives a new message from his girlfriend - so subtle and so sweet at the same time), solid animation and an esoteric ending that hints at love linked even after death, that all form a small modern jewel that seems so easily to pull off, but obviously had a lot of effort put into it.


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