Thursday, March 19, 2015

Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Hoshi o Ou Kodomo; animated fantasy drama, Japan, 2011; D: Makoto Shinkai, S: Hisako Kanemoto, Kazuhiko Inoue, Miyu Irino

Teenage girl Asuna lives alone in her house on a countryside with her mother, but still often thinks about her late father. One day, she is attacked by a giant lizard on the bridge, but saved by a boy, Shun, who claims to be from the mystical country Agartha. After Shun is found dead, Asuna follows her teacher, Morisaki, who crosses the barrier into, Agartha, the world of the dead, to find his deceased wife there, Lisa. Asuna hopes to find her dead father. On their way, they encounter bizarre creatures, and Shun's brother, Shin, who helps them survive. They reach their destination and a strange creature that uses Asuna's body to channel Lisa. Shin destroys the crystal that enables that process and Asuna is back to her body. Asuna and Morisaki thus leave and go back to the surface.

After several critically acclaimed short and feature films, director Makoto Shinkai surprised rather unpleasantly with his 3rd feature length anime film, "Children Who Chase Lost Voices", which is a step back compared to his excellent "Voices of a Distant Star" and "5 Centimeters Per Second". A retelling of Orpheus, "Children..." is a bizarre patchwork that is never really sure what it wants to be, and the incomplete ending - which makes all these goals of the protagonists obsolete, and is unusually syrupy and dishonest - leaves an incomplete feeling as well. Actually, the film is more bizarre than it is harmonius. It has one great sequence of elevated suspense (during sunset, Asuna and a little girl are trying to escape from a desolate place by staying on the sunny side of the ground, because the bizarre humanoid rock creatures that want to attack them cannot stand light and can only walk in the shadow) and a couple of fine emotional moments (Asuna is about to cry, but Shin tells her: "Don't just cry now!" However, as soon as he says that, he bursts out crying first), yet the fantasy world is overall not that grand whereas the dramatic conflicts seem confusing at times, especially the painfully prolonged story of Morisaki who wants to be reunited with his deceased wife. Shinkai once again has some stylistic tricks that justify this film, albeit they seem rather schematic and overlong in this edition. A nicely animated and rather good film, yet surprisingly poor with that true inspiration.


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