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Children Who Chase Lost Voices (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

November 11, 2012 by  



Makoto Shinkai once again has created a masterpiece and another film added to his oeuvre of magnificent animated films created within the last decade.  “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is a gorgeous, touching animated film worth watching, worth owning and is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Makoto Shinkai/CMMMY. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Children Who Chase Lost Voices (星を追う子ども, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo)

MOVIE AIRDATE: 2011

DURATION: 116 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen, English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, English subtitles

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 13, 2012

Written and Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Music by Tenmon

Character Design by Takayo Nishimura

Art Director: Takumi Tanji

Animation Director: Takayo Nishimura

Anime Production by CoMix Wave Inc.

Featuring the following voice talent:

Hisako Kanemoto/Hilary Haag as Asuna Watase

Kazuhiko Inoue/David Matranga as Ryūji Morisaki

Miyu Irino/Leraldo Anzaldua as Shin/Shun

Fumiko Orikasa/Shelley Calene-Black as Asuna’s Mother

Junko Takeuchi as Mimi

Rina Hidaka/Emily Neves as Mana

Sumi Shimamoto/Shannon Emerick as Risa/Lisa Morisaki

When she hears a strange song from a crystal radio, Asuna tunes into more than just a magical stream of music. Soon, she is transported to a mysterious world where mythical beasts roam and brave warriors fight for their lives. Agartha is a land of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable danger – a place where, it is believed, even the dead can be brought back to life. But at what cost?

Makoto Shinkai, the former Falcom graphic designer, who took the anime industry by storm back in 2001 when he released his anime OVA titled “Voices of a Distant Star”, which he created on his Power Mac G4 and using several software and voice acted by he and his wife Miko and music provided by his friend Tenmon.

The OVA inspired many for the fact it was independent, created on a small budget but looked significantly better than some major anime series by well-known animation studios.

Suffice to say, the person who grew up inspired by Miyazaki films was now given a chance to create more animated films and he would eventually achieve success with “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” (2004) and “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007).

In 2011, Shinkai returned with the animated film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”) which he directed, wrote and produced.

And now the film will be released in the U.S. on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is a film that revolves around a girl named Asuna.  A girl who is good at school but because her father had died, she had to grow up quickly and managed to take care of herself while her mother, a nurse, worked long hours at the hospital.

In her spare time, Asuna likes to go to a cliff area overlooking the mountains and listen to music with her cat’s-whisker receiver (a crystal radio receiver that is powered by radio waves and uses no batteries) that her father gave her a long time ago.

One day, while at school, the students receive a warning that there have been possible bear attacks and they must be careful.  While walking to her clubhouse on the bridge, she is approached by a large creature who looks as if he will attack her.  Out of nowhere, a boy named Shun saves her and manages to kill the creature.  But a train comes and there are witnesses.  While Shun manages to help Asuna escape, she worries about his wounds.  Shun kisses her on the forehead and leaves.  While looking at the stars, it is thought that he may have died.

The following day, Asuna hears that a boy was found dead near the river and believes it may be Shun.

After hearing the substitute teacher, Mr. Morisaki, talking about bringing back someone from the dead, her teacher asks her if she is the one who came across a person from Agartha.  She is told by the teacher about Gods (gatekeepers/Quezalcoatls) who guided the path to humanity until they no longer were needed.  When humanity grown, the Gods were no longer needed but that the land of Agartha, a mystical place possibly underground, those who find Agartha can resurrect the dead.

While walking home, she sees her cat Mimi and Asuna runs towards the cliff area and finds a mysterious boy who she thinks she is Shun.  But while the two are talking, they are approached by a group of men in military fatigues known as Arch Angels and a helicopter and are wanting him to give them a clavis (jewel).

Immediately, they are fired upon and they escape to a cave which may lead to Agartha.

But as the two think they are hiding in the caves and are safe, the men continue to pursue them and both escape under the caves and come into contact with a gatekeeper (a huge lizard).  But because the polluted air, the gatekeepers have lost their minds.

The Gatekeeper attacks the boy but he tells Asuna he doesn’t want to kill the gatekeeper but wants to make him sleep.

As the two were able to escape, they are approached by the Arch Angels, it was revealed that the commander is Mr. Morisaki.   He explains that he wants to find Agartha in order to resurrect his deceased wife.  It is also revealed by the boy that Shun died that day for going up above land and that he is Shin, the younger brother of Shun.

As Mr. Morisaki is intent on going to Agartha, Asuna joins him and together both enter the realm underwater and hope they can go to the Gate of Life and death and bring back the souls of people they cared about. But will quickly learn that the world of Agartha may not be safe at all.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is presented in 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen and English and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles

It’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality for this animated film and also the best audio, there is a Blu-ray release for this animated film that will be released on the same day of the DVD.

As far as the DVD is concern, the film has the trademark of a Makoto Shinkai film.  Beautiful, well-detailed clouds.  Characters that almost have a Studio Ghibli look and scenery that is lush and well-detailed with animation design that is shaded, colorful but art backgrounds that are just stunning to look at.

Personally, this is one film that would look amazing via HD on Blu-ray but for DVD, picture quality is very good.

As far as the soundtrack is concerned, the audio is very good. Not only do you hear the ambiance of bugs, outdoor environments such as Asuna running on the grass and the roar of the gatekeepers and izoku, the audio is well-done through the surround channels.  But no doubt, I can’t help but think how much more impressive the soundtrack would be via lossless (Blu-ray).  But those who purchase the DVD should be pleased by the overall soundtrack. As for voice acting, both Japanese and English soundtracks are well acted.

As for subtitles, the subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Children Who Chase Lost Voices” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Makoto Shinkai, Asuna voice actress Hisako Kanemoto and the “Hoshi o Ou Kodomo” production crew.
  • Interviews with the Staff and Cast – (55:40) Featuring interviews with the voice talents Hisako Kanemoto (voice of Asuna), Miyu Irino (voice of Shin/Shun), Kazuhiko Inoue (voice of Ryuji Morisaki) and filmmaker Makoto Shinkai.
  • A Brief Interview with Makoto Shinkai – A text based interview with the director/writer/producer Makoto Shinkai.
  • The Making of Children Who Chase Lost Voices – (45:18) Similar to previous Makoto Shinkai releases, a making of diary of the creation of the animated film, discussion with the cast and crew and overall making of the film.
  • The Works of Makoto Shinkai – (7:26) A look at Shinkai’s previous work.
  • Japanese Promotional Video – (5:04) Japanese PV for “Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”.
  • Japanese Teasers – (2:26)

If experience is a factor of determining a person’s ability to create amazing work, with only three major films under his belt, there are still some who claim that Makoto Shinkai has many years to go to prove he is the real deal.

After watching “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, I have to differ.  As filmmaker Jean Vigo had done in France, creating only three films in his career but yet his life was cut short of tuberculosis, cineaste yet consider Vigo as one of the great French filmmakers of all time.

Makoto Shinkai may have gotten into the industry through a different process than other veterans but there is no doubt that his talent is a rarity.  As Shinkai was influenced by the great Hayao Miyazaki, many who have watched Shinkai’s work continually grow within the last decade, can’t help but be amazed of his accomplishment with three films and the growth as a director, writer and producer.

Shinkai has been a rarity in which he works with the people that he wants to work with, he creates and writes anime the way he wants to do it and so far, many people all over the world have been overjoyed by his work because its not more about creating animated films for the sake of commercialism or the sake of getting something out there to make profit for a major studio.  He creates a film because of his passion for it.

Prior to watching “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, I have always felt that Shinkai’s “5 Centimeters Per Second” is his true masterpiece.  A gorgeous animated film that was not only heartbreaking but also beautiful and touching.  It was a film about life and love that many people have experienced.  Love, heartbreak but people moving on.

With his latest film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, you can apply the same idea of love, heartbreak and people moving on but in a context of alternate worlds and one wanting to bring back a deceased loved one.

The film looks absolutely gorgeous from its animation to its art backgrounds.  Each scene can be appreciated for its beauty and for anime fans, Shinkai’s films are almost like a painting that you just loved to look at over and over again and sometimes after looking at it, you have a different interpretation.  This is not a film that is commercial or quickly made.  It was well-planned and perfectly executed.

The characters of “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” are all characters who have lost a loved one and no doubt has altered or changed their lives.  Asuna, losing her father and having to grow up in order to prove to her mother that she is old enough to take care of the house while her mother works.  But then seeing that side of her that wants that peace and serenity and take out this radio which reminds her of her father.  It’s her time of remembrance but also her time of reflection.

The two other characters outside of the protagonist are quite different.  With Mr. Morisaki determined in bringing his wife back, part of us can’t call him an antagonist because we know that a man who found love, lost his one true love, will do all he can to bring his love back to life if he can.  It’s hard to dislike a man with those intentions, but at the same time, we know that his actions are against people who live in Agartha.

For Shin, he lost his brother, but he hasn’t had the time to mourn.  If anything, he is conflicted of his goals to save the one girl that his brother saved, despite her being a “top-dweller”.  But knows that by assisting her, he himself can be banished from Agartha.

While the film may seem complex with its concept of hidden worlds, Quetzalcoatls (gatekeepers) and people who are trying to protect their land from the top-dwellers, the storyline is easy to understand.

Like previous Shinkai films, people trying to seek resolve may be disappointed.   There are no easy answers to the storyline of Shinkai’s films.  Like in reality, things happen and people must live life by adjusting to their new environments and the new people that they are with.

I’m sure the gate is still open for more stories that involve Asuna, Shin and Mr. Morisaki but similar to “5 Centimeters Per Second”, I looked at the film as we experience life with the people we love and as we get older or years pass by, some lose those people they were once close with.  Fall outs of relationships or by unfortunate circumstances including death.  There is no going back to the past nor is there reviving the deceased, one must move forward.

As for the DVD release of “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, as mentioned, if you want the best in video and audio, the Blu-ray is the way to go.  But as for the DVD itself, the DVD looks good and fortunately the special features were put on a second DVD disc.

Overall, Makoto Shinkai once again has created a masterpiece and another film added to his oeuvre of magnificent animated films created within the last decade.  “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is a gorgeous, touching animated film worth watching, worth owning and is highly recommended!

 

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