The movies we must watch through to the end so we can make an informed decision about whether they are bad or not.
Hoshi wo ou kodomo, or Children Who Chase Voices From Deep Below, is the latest movie from Makato Shinkai, an amazing background artist who is well known for Voices From a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and 5cms per Second. The more his movies I watch, the more he reminds of Zack Snyder. Both Shinkai and Snyder are able to bring amazing visuals to life, Shinkai in 2D and Snyder in 3D. They both suffer from the same weakness.
They are terrible story tellers.
Ok, maybe terrible is a bit harsh. Neither of them are very good, and it shows up in the characters, pacing, and plots of their movies. If either of them teamed up with a skilled writer, they would probably go on to create the greatest movies ever known to mankind. (Snyder or Shinkai, if by some kind of miracle you read this, I would write the yin to your visual yang).
Hoshi wo is the story of Asuna, who is a lonely girl who spends her afternoons after school sitting up on a mountain listening to a radio which is powered by a strange crystal. One day she meets a boy, Shun, who says he is from Agartha. She befriends him, and agrees to meet him the following day. A terrible event occurs which sets her on her path to Agartha with her teacher Morisaka, to attempt to retrieve the souls of the ones they’ve lost. (I’ve already made it sound way more interesting than it actually is, but I don’t want to give away too much).
As I have already said, the animation and backgrounds for this movie are visually amazing. Unfortunately Shinkai is obviously trying to mimic Studio Ghibli and borrows much of his design influence from Miyazaki’s earlier movies.
The story has potential, but ultimately is too inconsistent and often plods along. Events occur and you are often left wondering why the characters are doing what they are doing, or why we are being shown this? That’s probably the biggest question that people will ask the most. Why, why, why?
Movie rating: If you are an anime fan, watch it when you have nothing better to watch. If you aren’t an anime fan, don’t waste your time. Pick up any of Miyazaki’s classics instead.
Ok, now I am going to rant a bit, so SPOILERS AHEAD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
What is up with these characters? Let’s start with Asuna.
After the movie is finished we basically find out that Shun is the first friend for Asuna (he also gives her a kiss on the forehead if that’s meant to mean something). At least, that’s what I guess he’s meant to be. The problem is that she is not unpopular. The other children all admire her, several of the children talk to her at the start of the movie, adults talk to her quite happily. So after Shun dies, Asuna wants to go to Agartha to bring Shun back. At least, that’s the way it should be. The problem is that we never get to see them actually become friends. At best Shun is a cute guy that Asuna sees and gets a bit of a crush on. There is absolutely no reason for her to go to a strange land and try to bring him back from the dead.
Except, maybe she’s going back to find her father’s soul? Yes, her father is dead, and the movie seems to hint that he has some connection to Agartha. I’m guessing it’s how Asuna got the magic stone, or clavis, for her radio, that she uses to listen to the songs of the dying in Agartha. Oh, and we find out early that she just decided to put the clavis in her radio. Really? You thought it would be nice to put a crystal in the radio for absolutely no reason? This may be a subtitle problem, but I don’t think it is. Maybe there’s something about radios I don’t know…
Asuna also suffers as a damsel in distress, despite being the movie’s protagonist, she spends most of the movie wandering around or getting into trouble only to be saved by…
Shin! Shin doesn’t like Asuna very much (in one scene he even seems to hate her) but he keeps on saving her. He even says at one point that he doesn’t know why. He came to the surface to fetch the clavis that his brother Shun took, since it allows surface dwellers to reach Agartha. When Asuna and Morasaka end up in Agartha with him, he tells them they can leave without the clavis but leaves them to their own devices. The problem is that everyone but Shin seems to know the history of surface dwellers, and that them being in Agartha can only end very, very badly. Poor Shin, he should have probably spent less time playing Call of Duty with the surface dwellers. Oh, and Shin may as well be the identical twin of Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke.
Then there’s the relationship between Shin and Shun. At the end of the movie, only after Asuna starts crying, do we see that Shin cared about his brother. Up until this point, everyone expected Shun to die (apparently he was sick or something), and Shin was supposed to be jealous of Shun because Shun was, you know, better than him at sensing the clavis, or, something. I’m really not quite sure. Shun was also taller than him, and that probably helped him pick up girls at the Agarthan clubs, so Shin is probably jealous of that as well.
Morisaka Sensei, you are probably the most interesting character of them all. Honestly though, you should have slit Shun’s throat for killing your recently resurrected wife, even if it did save Asuna. After all, you didn’t want to sacrifice her, but if it meant getting your wife back, you’re not going to stop the God of Life from taking Asuna’s life. Not to mention that you also lost an eye so that she could be brought back. After all you did, and all you gave up you decided “It’s ok that you killed my wife, who I have been trying to bring back to life for the past ten years Shin. The mystical God of Life told us that we have to let go of the ones we love after they’ve passed on. If only I’d been told that sooner…”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on about how there’s a military cult who knows about the existence of Agartha, but when they find out there’s a way for them to get there, they only send three guys because it’ll be more covert that way. Oh yes, three guys and a Cobra attack chopper, because the Japanese are so used to Cobra attack choppers flying around. Or about how Asuna’s mother seems fine with her disappearing for at least two nights. Or how Shin has effectively been expelled from Agatha because he chose to help the surface dwellers that he hated. Or how Morisaka stays in Agartha, even though almost everyone there is trying to kill him. Or how the main theme of the movie is meant to be that people must let go of everything and everyone we love because we all die, although we only discover this through a lovely line at the end of the movie!
To quote Charlie Brown, “Good grief!”