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She and Her Cat – Story by Makoto Shinkai and Art by Tsubasa Yamaguchi (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I feel that “She and Her Cat” will resonate for many manga readers who own pets.  It’s a simple and enjoyable story that people of all ages can enjoy.  And it’s a manga that I can easily recommend!

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© 2016 Makoto Shinkai/CWF-S&HC EF FILM PARTNERS/Tsubasa Yamaguchi. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: She and Her Cat

STORY BY Makoto Shinkai 

ART by Tsubasa Yamaguchi

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Kodansha Ltd.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Vertical Comics

RATED: ALL

RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017


“It was the start of spring. It was raining. That was the day that she brought me home.”

This is the story of Miyu, a woman who lives alone with her cat, Chobi. As Miyu navigates the world of adulthood, she discovers both the freedom and loneliness that come with living independently, and Chobi learns of the outside world through her actions. Time drifts slowly for Miyu and her cat, but the harsh realities of the world soon catch up…


Just the mere mention of Makoto Shinkai’s name and fans of his work go crazy.

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), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”), “The Garden of Words” (2013) and his most successful and critically acclaimed work, “Your Name” (2016) which became the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan and the highest-grossing anime film of all time, surpassing Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 film, “Spirited Away”.

But before Makoto Shinkai created these critically acclaimed works, he would create shorts and in 1999, he created the short “Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko” (She and Her Cat).

The short would receive a four-episode anime adaptation in 2016 as well as a one-shot manga adaptation by Tsubasa Yamaguchi.

And now that manga adaptation has been released in the United States courtesy of Vertical Comics.

The manga series revolves around a cat named Chobi (and viewed through Chobi’s perspective), brought in to the home of his female owner and the cat looks as the owner as kind, caring and beautiful.

While Chobi would find a female cat named Mimi that loves him, Chobi refuses to be with Mimi because he likes his human owner.  And through Chobi’s perspective, we see the emotional moments which his owner goes through.

From having struggles with her job, having troubles in the dating scene, the feelings of loneliness and going through sad emotions and even bouts with depression.

Chobi doesn’t know what is wrong with his human owner but he wants to stand by her and comfort her during her time of need.


Are you a caring pet owner?  And do you know how that feeling that whether your sad, depressed, angry or whatever, that loving pet just wants to be near you, no matter how you feel, during the good times and the bad times.

What if there was a story of your pet and their perspective of you as you go through your emotional up and downs?

This is a slice-of-life storyline presented by Makoto Shinkai of a cat named Chobi who is taken in by his human owner, so caring and cheerful.  But within a year, like every human that goes through ups and downs, Chobi observes that and sees his owner going through the rough work week, depression, the feeling of loneliness and wanting to be loved.

He doesn’t understand her but he knows that he just wants to be by her side to support her.

And if anything, for any caring pet owner, that’s why we love having pets.  That no matter what we are feeling, they are by our side.

And as a pet owner who has had several dogs (not cats) that lived long lives but we treated each with love and affection, I can easily say that each pet I have had, they were like family members.  I’ve taken care of these dogs since they were small and was there to see them through the end of their lives and many times when I have went through tough times, got angry, got sad, got depressed, those dogs were always there for me.

And that’s why I feel that “She and Her Cat” will resonate for many manga readers who own pets.  It’s a simple and enjoyable story that people of all ages can enjoy.  And it’s a manga that I can easily recommend!

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The Garden of Words (Story by Makoto Shinkai, Art by Midori Motohashi) (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

May 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

gardenofwords

Artist Midori Motohashi managed to capture Shinkai’s OVA on manga with efficacy. Capturing the emotion, while the anime does give us a more visual and vibrant perspective. Nevertheless, the manga compliments the film and has a short two-page story after the main storyline. The manga is definitely worth reading and revisiting if you did enjoy the original manga series.

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© 2012 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki. All Rights Reserved.


MANGA TITLE: The Garden of Words

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Makoto Shinkai, Art by Midori Motohashi

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Kodansha

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Vertical, Inc.

RATED: N/A

RELEASE DATE: October 28, 2014


Words are powerful. Insults and rumors can derail a career; a bit of encouragement can give someone the strength to pursue their dreams. When a high school boy skipping class to sketch shoe designs and a taciturn woman drinking a morning beer meet in a Tokyo park, they say little, but the woman bids farewell with an ancient tanka poem. Will the boy figure out the poem’s meaning – and its corresponding response – before it’s too late?


Just the mere mention of Makoto Shinkai’s name and fans of his work go crazy.

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), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”).

In May 2013, Shinkai’s latest film “Kotonoha no Miwa” (The Garden of Words) was released and the manga was serialized in Kodansha’s Monthly “Afternoon” magazine with artwork by Midori Motohashi from June through October 2013.

The graphic novel was released in the US on October 2014 courtesy of Vertical Inc.

“The Garden of Words” revolves around a 15-year-old student named Takao Akizuki.  Takao lives with a mother who wants to be young and an adult brother about to move out of the home.  Dedicated in pursuing a goal of making his own shoes, both his mother and brother feel that he won’t succeed.

For Takao, he loves sketching out shoe designs and when it rains, he tends to head to the park where he can find peace and quiet.  One rainy day, he skips the first class of school and heads to the park to create some sketches and notices a young woman drinking a beer in the morning.

The two don’t speak to each other at first but with each rainy morning, Takao finds the young woman named Yukari Yukino and both begin talking to each other and enjoy their discussions.  When she sees his sketches, she talks to him about shoemaking and for Takao, he wants to make a pair of shoes in her size. He measures her feet and both have fun.

But the truth is for Yukari, outside of her discussions with Takao, her life is not fun.  She is quitting work and we get a sense that something bad has happened to her.  She looks depressed and she feels the only time she has any happiness is talking with Takao.  But Takao does sense sadness within Yukari for some reason and he always hopes he can comfort her in some way.

But with the rainy season ending, both realize it’s time to pursue their regular lives but as the days go by with no rain, both realize how happy they are to be around each other.

After the summer break from school, when Takao returns, he sees Yukari and he is surprised.  Takao’s friends tell him that the woman is Miss Yukino who tool a leave of absence from school and talked about how she had troubles in the school because one of the male students had a crush on her, so the girlfriend of the guy, she and her friends began creating rumors about Miss Yukino and started to bully her.

Takao feeling hurt about what happened to Yukari, decides to confront the teenagers who caused problems with her.  But finding out that Yukari is actually a school teacher, it doesn’t stop him from wanting to see her.


In 2013, I first heard of “Kotonoha no Niwa” (The Garden of Words) reading Japanese newspapers and eventually seeing the flyer from Tokyo Anime Fair and just seeing the lush greenery used for the promotional poster and seeing two individuals, I knew already that Shinkai has returned to the more realistic type of storyline that made me love “5 Centimeters Per Second” so much.

And for the most part, the storyline of “The Garden of Words” nearly worried me.

Why?  Well, when it comes to student/teacher relationships and let me first preface that this is not about a student and teacher having a romantic relationship, Japan has flirted with the storylines quite often and have had great results in TV ratings.

Japan tends to visit a storyline known as “Kou Kou Kyoushi”  every 20 years via TV drama, originally starring in 1974, the series about an ill-fated relationship between a male teacher and his student and engaging in forbidden love.  With the last incarnation made in 2003, one can expect a new series in 2023.

In 1999, the drama “Majo no Jouken” surprised fans with its story of a female teacher and a high school boy engaged in forbidden love, another dark storyline about a doomed relationship.

And while Japan has flirted with the student and teacher relationship many times, fortunately, “The Garden of Words” is not about that type of relationship and Shinkai managed to come up with a storyline that isn’t too dark or ominous, let alone banal.

If anything, it’s about a teenager and a young woman who engage in discussion during the rainy days at a local park.  A teenage boy who dreams of creating shoes experiences his first feelings of love towards someone, while a young woman is lost in the dark after an unfortunate incident that has left her not wanting to live.

Both of these individuals needs that other person, for Takao it’s about needing that person that makes him pursue his goals of making shoes, something that his mother and older brother do not support.  And then there is Yukino, a woman who needs Takao, because he is the only person that has made her feel there is hope for living.

The story is not as emotionally complex when compared to his 2007 masterpiece “5 Centimeters Per Second” but “The Garden of Words” is no doubt entertaining and emotional.

Artist Midori Motohashi managed to capture Shinkai’s OVA on manga with efficacy.  Capturing the emotion, while the anime does give us a more visual and vibrant perspective.  Nevertheless, the manga compliments the film and has a short two-page story after the main storyline.

The manga is definitely worth reading and revisiting if you did enjoy the original manga series.

 

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The Garden of Words (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Visually stunning with an immersive soundtrack and a story that is so emotional that for those who have never watched a Makoto Shinkai film will automatically become a Makoto Shinkai fan after watching this film!  “The Garden of Words” is highly recommended!

Images courtesy of ©Maoto Shinkai/CoMix Wave Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭)

YEAR OF FILM: 2013

DURATION: 46 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14 D

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: August 6, 2013

 

Originally Created by Makoto Shinkai

Written, Directed, Storyboards by Makoto Shinkai

Music by Daisuke Kashiwa

Character Design by Kenichi Tsuchiya

Art Direction by Hiroshi Takiguchi

Animation Director: Kenichi  Tsuchiya

Anime Production by CoMix Wave Inc.

Featuring the voices of:

Kana Hanazawa/Maggi Flecknoe as Yukari Yukino

Miyu Irino/Patrick Poole as Takao Akizuki

Fumi Hirano/Shelley Calene-Black as Takao’s mother

Megumi Han/Allison Sumrall as Satō

Mikako Komatsu/Hilary Haag as Aizawa

Suguru Inoue/Mike Yager as Matsumoto

Takeshi Maeda/Crash Buist as Takao’s older brother

Yuka Terasaki/Brittney Karbowski as Girlfriend of Takao’s older brother

When Takao, a young high school student who dreams of becoming a shoe designer, decides to skip school one day in favor of sketching in a rainy garden, he has no idea how much his life will change when he encounters Yukino. Older but perhaps not as much wiser, she seems adrift in the world. Despite the difference in their ages, they strike up an unusual relationship that unexpectedly continues and evolves, with random meetings in the same garden on each rainy day.

But the rainy season is coming to a close, and there are so many things still left unsaid and undone between them. Will there be time left for Takao to put his feelings into actions and words? Between the raindrops, between the calms in the storm, what will blossom?

Just the mere mention of Makoto Shinkai’s name and fans of his work go crazy.

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), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and in 2011, he directed, wrote and produced “Children Who Chase Lost Voices (“Hoshi o Ou Kodomo”).

In May 2013, Shinkai’s latest film “Kotonoha no Miwa” (The Garden of Words) was released.

“The Garden of Words” is a film that revolves around a 15-year-old student named Takao Akizuki.  Takao lives with a mother who wants to be young and an adult brother about to move out of the home.  Dedicated in pursuing a goal of making his own shoes, both his mother and brother feel that he won’t succeed.

For Takao, he loves sketching out shoe designs and when it rains, he tends to head to the park where he can find peace and quiet.  One rainy day, he skips the first class of school and heads to the park to create some sketches and notices a young woman drinking a beer in the morning.

The two don’t speak to each other at first but with each rainy morning, Takao finds the young woman named Yukari Yukino and both begin talking to each other and enjoy their discussions.  When she sees his sketches, she talks to him about shoemaking and for Takao, he wants to make a pair of shoes in her size. He measures her feet and both have fun.

But the truth is for Yukari, outside of her discussions with Takao, her life is not fun.  She is quitting work and we get a sense that something bad has happened to her.  She looks depressed and she feels the only time she has any happiness is talking with Takao.  But Takao does sense sadness within Yukari for some reason and he always hopes he can comfort her in some way.

But with the rainy season ending, both realize it’s time to pursue their regular lives but as the days go by with no rain, both realize how happy they are to be around each other.

After the summer break from school, when Takao returns, he sees Yukari and he is surprised.  Takao’s friends tell him that the woman is Miss Yukino who tool a leave of absence from school and talked about how she had troubles in the school because one of the male students had a crush on her, so the girlfriend of the guy, she and her friends began creating rumors about Miss Yukino and started to bully her.

Takao feeling hurt about what happened to Yukari, decides to confront the teenagers who caused problems with her.  But finding out that Yukari is actually a school teacher, it doesn’t stop him from wanting to see her.

VIDEO:

“The Garden of Words” is presented in 1080p High Definition and looks magnificent on Blu-ray!  First, let me discuss how Shinkai Makoto has worked in his previous films, he and his staff tend to do a lot of research on locations, taking many photos in the process and use these photos as a source of inspiration for his films.  And often, the results are stunning.  From the way he captures sunlight on a building during a certain time of the day, sun and clouds interacting at a certain time of the day, many animated films tend to not show time during animation.  Usually it’s day or night, but with Shinkai films, you know when there is overcast, you know when the sun is rising or setting and he fully incorporates that to his films.

The other thing you will notice with “The Garden of Words” is his attention to detail with greenery (which were inspired from his research taken at Shinjuku Gyoen park).  The park looks so lush and beautiful and sets a feeling of peace and serenity for both the characters of Takao and Yukari.  Detail is also present during a scene where Takao is studying in his room, Yukari studying at work and just the scenes of rain hitting pavement, rain hitting a pond and the detail of these art backgrounds are fantastic and amazing.

Character designs are well-detailed, movement is well-done and for the most part, “The Garden of Words” is a film that looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO:

“The Garden of Words” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1.  The lossless track is well-done, from the moment you hear the rain hitting a pond, rain hitting pavement, the sound of the train and the train arrival announcement, the cars in the background.  The sounds are immersive as they come from the surround and rear surround channels.  Audio coming from the center and front channels are crystal clear, both voice acting tracks, English and Japanese are well-acted and I saw no differences between either lossless soundtracks.  But Shinkai fans with a good audio setup will enjoy listening to this film!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Garden of Words” comes with the following special features:

  • Japanese Commentary – Voice actress Risa Mizuno (of “The Place Promised in our Early Days”) interviews director Makoto Shinkai for the Japanese audio commentary.  Note: You need to select “languages” to find the audio commentary.
  • English Commentary – Audio commentary by Patrick Poole (voice actor for Takao) and Maggie Flecknoe (voice actress for Yukino).  Note: You need to select “languages” to find the audio commentary.
  • Interviews – (52:22) Interviews with director Makoto Shinkai, voice talents Kana Hanazawa and Miyu Irino.
  • Storyboards – (45:09) Watch the entire film with the Japanese voice acting but instead of animation, you will watch the original storyboards.
  • English Production Stills – (5:08) Featuring stills of the English voice talent working behind-the-scenes.
  • Garden of Words Japanese Trailer – (2:31) The Japanese theatrical trailers for “Garden of Words”.
  • The Works of Makoto Shinkai – (9:06) A featurette showcasing all Makoto Shinkai major animated works.

When it comes to the work of Makoto Shinkai, after the first film I was sold.  Similar to Studio Ghibli great, the animation prodigy who created an animated film by himself has since created one hit film after the other.  Where Studio Ghibli features a storyline that captures director Hayao Miyazaki’s thoughts on the world but yet manages to capture one’s attention towards fantasy and modern political issues, Shinkai Makoto films try to captivate you by stunning, heavily detailed animation that captures realism and characters that are emotional but well-thought out.

Suffice to say that with Shinkai’s first three films, he scored the home run with his 2007 film “5 Centimeters Per Second”, Shinkai would return to the more action/fantasy style of storyline in 2011 with “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”.

In 2013, I first heard of “Kotonoha no Niwa” (The Garden of Words) reading Japanese newspapers and eventually seeing the flyer from Tokyo Anime Fair and just seeing the lush greenery used for the promotional poster and seeing two individuals, I knew already that Shinkai has returned to the more realistic type of storyline that made me love “5 Centimeters Per Second” so much.

But seeing the duration at less than 50 minutes, I was a bit surprised but I figured, if Shinkai can tell a story this long, let’s see how things turn out.

And for the most part, after watching “The Garden of Words”, the time was appropriate and it’s a storyline that nearly worried me.

Why?  Well, when it comes to student/teacher relationships and let me first preface that this is not about a student and teacher having a romantic relationship, Japan has flirted with the storylines quite often and have had great results in TV ratings.

Japan tends to visit a storyline known as “Kou Kou Kyoushi”  every 20 years via TV drama, originally starring in 1974, the series about an ill-fated relationship between a male teacher and his student and engaging in forbidden love.  With the last incarnation made in 2003, one can expect a new series in 2023.

In 1999, the drama “Majo no Jouken” surprised fans with its story of a female teacher and a high school boy engaged in forbidden love, another dark storyline about a doomed relationship.

And while Japan has flirted with the student and teacher relationship many times, fortunately, “The Garden of Words” is not about that type of relationship and Shinkai managed to come up with a storyline that isn’t too dark or ominous, let alone banal.

If anything, it’s about a teenager and a young woman who engage in discussion during the rainy days at a local park.  A teenage boy who dreams of creating shoes experiences his first feelings of love towards someone, while a young woman is lost in the dark after an unfortunate incident that has left her not wanting to live.

Both of these individuals needs that other person, for Takao it’s about needing that person that makes him pursue his goals of making shoes, something that his mother and older brother do not support.  And then there is Yukino, a woman who needs Takao, because he is the only person that has made her feel there is hope for living.

The story is not as emotionally complex when compared to his 2007 masterpiece “5 Centimeters Per Second” but “The Garden of Words” is no doubt his most visually stunning film yet.  The amount of detail that is captured in the art backgrounds is simply amazing.  The use of CG to give the sense of rain drops hitting water or the small things in life from a train passing by, the sound of the train station and the city, the rain clouds coming in.  Just small details in life that are captured with efficacy in an animated film.

Most animation companies do not go for that type of realism.  Yes, you do get realistic photos of a neighborhood or setting, but Shinkai films go even further by capturing environments and weather but also capturing the sounds that one would hear in that setting. It’s amazing work that he and his staff are able to capture!

The picture quality on the Blu-ray release of “The Garden of Words” is stunning, the lossless soundtrack is immersive and there is a good number of long special features included with this release, from commentary to the storyboards for the entire film.

The voice acting for both Japanese and English soundtracks are well-done.  Both voice talents were able to capture the emotional moments of the film remarkably well and for the most part, I’m more than happy with how this film and the casting for both Japanese and English soundtracks.  The Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and you get a very good number of special features included!

While many have asked if I liked it better than “5 Centimeters Per Second”, my answer is that I enjoyed his 2007 film much more, because the character interaction and its dramatic storyline was much more complex let alone it was a longer film that captured a relationship over the years.  “The Garden of Words” is still a beautiful and captivating film but nowhere near the brilliance of Shinkai’s 2007 masterpiece.  But I would say it’s my favorite Shinkai film after “5 Centimeters Per Second”.

Visually stunning with an immersive soundtrack and a story that is so emotional that for those who have never watched a Makoto Shinkai film will automatically become a Makoto Shinkai fan after watching this film!  “The Garden of Words” is highly recommended!

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

November 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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!

 

5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

June 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

“Shinkai Makoto’s third animated film is just PERFECT!”

DVD INFORMATION:

DVD TITLE: 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (Byousoku 5 Centimeter)

DURATION: 65 MINUTES

DVD INFORMATION: English 5.1 Surround Sound, Japanese 2.0 with English Subtitles

CATALOG #: DFCS/001

COMPANY: ADV FILMS

RATING: TV PG

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

STAFF INFORMATION:

STORYBOARD, ORIGINAL CHARACTER DESIGNS, SCREENPLAY, DIRECTOR AND ORIGINAL AUTHOR: Shinkai Makoto

KEY ANIMATION DIRECTOR AND CHARACTER DESIGN: Nishimura Takayo

MUSIC: TENMON

PRODUCED BY: Shinka Makoto – COMIX WAVE FILMS

PRESENTED BY: Shinkai Creative – COMIX WAVE FILMS

Beginning with the lyrical image of cherry blossoms falling at five centimeters a second, Makoto Shinkai paints a breathtakingly vivid tableau of young love, desire, loss and hope. Told in three heartbreaking chapters, we follow the young dreamer Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, silence and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to crush the delicate petals of true love. Finding beauty in everday objects and moments, Shinkai reveals he is a master of animation and haunting, beautiful storytelling. Fall in love with this gorgeous, thoughtful film, hailed by critics and audiences alike for its beauty, truth and innovation in animation.

Shinkai Makoto has been someone of a hero for me. Back in 2002, when he won the award as “Most Valuable Newcomer” at the Tokyo Anime Fair 21 for “Voices of a Distant Star”, I was blown away by his work for creating a short animated film by himself using only a Power Mac 7600/120 computer and various consumer and professional design and animation software.

In 2005, he returned with another award winning film titled “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” and his third film “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” which hit theaters back in March 2007 was another award winner for “Best Animated Film” at the Asian Pacific Film Awards.

But what makes this film different from his previous work is simply amazing. The previous films were very good but “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” is just perfect!

From the screenplay, the animation, the music – everything in this film is just perfectly done, well-planned and there is no doubt about it, Shinkai Makoto is one of the most brilliant animators in the world. There is something about his way of thinking, his way of animation that people just fall in love with.

With this particular film, “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” is a film divided into three parts.

The first part titled “EXTRACT” features two friends, Toono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, both attend a new school (fourth grade) with each other.   They have the same class and they enjoy the same things.  As they grow older, both are very fond of each other but in many ways, have difficulty expressing their true feelings for each other. During junior high, Akari moved away and transferred to a new school in a town in the Tochigi Prefecture. The two kept in contact ala penpals through letters sent to each other quite often.

When Takaki’s parents move towards a country area (Kagoshima Prefecture) near the ocean, their distance has increased. Both are still wanting so badly to see each other, wanting to communicate their emotions to each other but still have difficulty in doing so.   One year after Akari has moved away and a week before Takaki moves, they both agree to meet each other in Akari’s hometown. What will happen when the two reunite?

For those wondering about the title.  From the initial starting scene of part one, the title is derived from Akari telling Takaki that a cherry blossom petal hits the ground in 5 centimeters per second.

The second part is titled “COSMONAUT”. The story continues years later as we learn that Takaki lives in Tanegashima, an island that is used by the National Space Development Agency of Japan for rocket launches. Takaki plans for college and to return to Tokyo but in the meantime, his classmate Kanae has fallen in love with him. In fact, it’s more like love at first sight.

She very much wants to tell him how she feels about him but as for Takaki, his mind seems to be somewhere else. In fact, he seems to be texting on his cell phone quite a bit? Who is he texting to? And will Kanae reveal her love to him?

It’s very interesting to watch this second part and to see how Takaki has been since moving to a new area and how one yearns for the past.

The third part is titled “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” and without revealing too much of this final part of the film, the story revolves around Takaki who is now an adult possibly in his late 20’s. Working for a company and his life has changed since his teenager days. All I can say is this final segment alone is just one awesomely, beautiful visual piece with the awesome music of Yamazaki Masayoshi’s hit song “One More Time, One More Chance” and just how everything just fits.

The storyline for each three parts is definitely heartwrenching and there are words said by each character that one can just come away watching the film and just realize how touched they were.

GRAPHICS:

The film is presented in 1:71:1 and is presented in 16:9 anamorphic. For me, what was accomplished via background art, character design and just overall animation was just perfect. The staff traveled to various locations and took thousands of photos and within the year and a half of making this film, you can’t help but just be amazed of how much was put into this film.

From various scenery, skylines and locations in Tokyo or somewhere in the country, you get not a few but MANY background art variations. The way the sky, the city or town, the hills, the snow, the trees, the vehicles, a building or buildings, indoors, you name it…they take you on one hell of a visual tour that just screams of awesome, beautiful backgrounds.

I am just amazed of how realistic the background art was done and even though Shinkai says that he and his team are not trying to reach realistic sceneries but more of a scenery that one has in their memory of, I’m just digging every aspect of it.

The character designs are just impressive. From the emotional standpoint of the characters, to breathing patterns, the flow of wind and how it affects the characters, was remarkably done well on this film as well.

SOUND:

For the Japanese audio, it’s presented in 2.0 with English subtitles with encoding at 224kbps while the English dub is in 5.1 and encoded at 448kbps.

As for the voice acting, I primarily watched the version with the Japanese audio but also watched it in English. My only problem with the English dub is when the beginning scenes feature a junior high Takaki, he sounds no different from an older Takaki. While in the Japanese version, there is a difference and amazingly, even discussed further about that situation by Shinkai and the voice actors in the bonus features.

But it was pretty cool to watch both because in a way, the variety of emotions in Japanese and the English dub, there with each character is different and you can probably watch both versions and come away with something different emotion-wise but both voice acting are well done.

The fact that for the Japanese version, what these voice actors were able to accomplish for their first time voice acting and the direction that Shinkai and staff wanted to achieve was impressive and you learn all about the casting selection and his experience on the special feature interview.

As for music selection, I was impressed by the music used. When I heard LINDBERG’s “Kimi no Ichiban ni” in the second episode, I realize that they put the time period at around 1996. I was surprised to hear LINDBERG but even moreso suprise to hear Yamazaki Masayoshi’s hit song “One More Time, One More Chance” and how it was utilized for this film. Excellent!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

For the special features, I can’t tell you how happy I was to have an in-depth interview with Shinkai Makoto on this DVD. The interview lasts around 36 or so minutes and Shinkai really shows us what was on his mind from the creation, finding locations, the voice acting, the man is quite meticulous in his planning and he knows what he wants and how to work with great people and work together.

Also, where the previous films, distance and speed were a focal point.  Although distance is involved, he wanted to show the speed of how things change within time and how he shows the changes in different time periods of the characters is impressive.

I actually was surprised to hear about the growth of the staff and how everyone worked at his apartment and how the apartment could not handle electricity-wise of all the computers used for the film. So, he rented another apartment for more of his staff nearby and how they all worked together. It’s so amazing!

He’s also so down to earth that even during the interview, his cat was walking around his office and that’s something you just don’t see in an interview. That was interesting to see.

And to make things even more special is similar to a Robert Rodriguez or even Quentin Tarentino DVD of them helping film fans understand how they shot certain scenes, on this DVD, Shinkai has no problems of showing his thoughts of a creation of an anime and will show you steps of how they accomplished certain scenes and the staff using Adobe Photoshop for the backgrounds and character designs. I was so happy to see them talk about this and I just wish there was so much more.

I really enjoyed how they would show the original photo of the scenery and then show the after animated version, especially adding snow and giving a wintery feel. That was cool to see!

Shinkai has definitely become a fan favorite because of what he was able to accomplish by himself with “Voices of a Distant Star” but his approach to creating an animated film is just so avant garde, unique and fresh that I’m just proud of him and his work and how he plans things out. Especially his mentality and his observance of people, especially on how he selected his voice actors.

Also included in the bonus feature is interviews with the Japanese voice cast and the challenges they faced (since for many of them, it was their first voice acting job) and more importantly what scenes touched them and how they reacted to the film after watching it.

These are lengthy interviews and was very happy to see this.

Last is “THE MAKING OF 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND MONTAGE” features behind-the-scenes shots of Shinkai and staff but also a few shots used on location for the film.

I can’t tell you how much I loved this film.  Shinkai achieved perfection with animation, background art, screenplay, voice acting and the music, everything is just amazing!

This is not a film that could be live-action but done in animated form and even animated, almost reaching realistic settings through the background art.  Shows the talent of Shinkai and his staff.  Absolutely awesome!

There are not many people who have achieved perfection but it’s amazing how Shinkai Makoto has evolved from a guy working on his own to winning an award, to getting a second film and working with a staff and now, his third film and a DVD that just showcases his mindset and what he set out to accomplish.

This is one DVD that deserves an A+, 5 out of 5 stars and simply a must-buy!  Highly recommended!

+  Animation, background art, music, voice acting and involving, heartwrenching storyline achieves perfection in many levels!

+  Informative interviews and very cool bonus features!

+ An anime that will probably be regarded as a classic!

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