by Kim Morrissy,

Kimi no Koe o Todoketai
Nagisa is a little impatient because she cannot find her future calling, before wandering into a mini FM radio station that has been out of use for several years. On impulse, she tries to become a DJ, and her broadcasted words unexpectedly reach people.

The first thing that you need to know about this film is that it very explicitly revolves around the Shinto concept of kotodama. The word translates literally to “the spirit of words” and refers to the idea that words have mystical powers that can directly influence the outer world.

In the context of Kimi no Koe o Todoketai (literally “I want to deliver your voice”), it's not a difficult concept to understand. Positive words can make good things happen, while negative words can cause accidents and unhappiness. Our protagonist Nagisa can literally see the spirits leave another person's mouth, and this shapes her actions throughout the film. She knows that words have power, so she uses the local radio station to reach out to others. “Kotodama really does exist!” she insists at multiple points in the story.

Needless to say, this is some pretty cheesy stuff, even if you know about the context of kotodama. The story of Kimi no Koe o Todoketai is unabashedly sweet and syrupy, and that's honestly the best thing about it. The film manages to coast along through the strength of its feel-good scenes alone, which is fortunate given that the story written around them has some major flaws.

The most glaring issue with Kimi no Koe o Todoketai is that half the main cast is irrelevant to the story. Of the six girls who participate in the radio club, only three of them are involved with the main plot. The others may be present in key scenes, but they only ever exist in the background. This problem was most notable with Ayame (the glasses girl) and Otoha (the piano girl), who never get any development past their introduction scenes.

In general, the six-girl ensemble feels like a setup better suited to a television series than a movie. There are interpersonal conflicts and drama, but Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai feels very much like a typical “slice of life” anime about high school girls who join a club. The tone is quite similar to shows like Hanayamata and Tari Tari, where the characters create their club with a clear end goal in mind. What makes these kinds of stories succeed is the character dynamics, but Kimi no Koe o Todoketai never gives its own characters enough time to establish real chemistry. When the girls make a radio show together, it's mostly just depicted through montages, while Nagisa explains in a voiceover how everyone is becoming such good friends.

It's also worth pointing out that some of the interpersonal conflicts in this film are underwhelming. Kaede and Yu's subplot in particular is rather baffling in execution. Kaede is resentful of Yu because she's apparently good at everything. The moment when Kaede changes her mind about Yu is presented with a great deal of dramatic weight, but what she learns is so self-evident and trivial that one has to wonder why it's depicted with so much gravity.

The main plotline, which revolves around a girl named Shion and her comatose mother, has a satisfying conclusion at least. But this plot point is also completely forgotten at times throughout the film, despite the fact that Nagisa's stated goal for the radio club is to “reach Shion's mother.” None of the girls besides Nagisa and Shion are shown to have a strong emotional connection to Shion's mother, which makes their scenes ultimately irrelevant to the climax of the movie. As the girls amble around having fun with their radio program, it feels at times as if communicating with Shion's mother was only a secondary goal for them, even if the narrative wants us to believe that it's their priority. Kimi no Koe o Todoketai feels like a story that's torn between two different narrative goals and can't quite manage to achieve either of them.

Yet in spite of its weak narrative, Kimi no Koe o Todoketai manages to be a charming film. A lot of this has to do with its simple and uncomplicated presentation. The character designs aren't very detailed, though not to the point of being samey. They have a smooth and shiny look, as if they're permanently glowing, which perfectly suits the bright and cheery outlook of the film itself. The seaside town these characters inhabit also has a soft idealized look about it, as if it came out of a painting. The animation isn't terribly standout or detailed, but it doesn't need to be. Kimi no Koe o Todoketai is such a genuine and earnest film that it's tough to hate.

I feel that the overall merits of Kimi no Koe o Todoketai are best encapsulated by its voice acting. The film was created as a project to train aspiring voice actresses, and as a result, most of the voice actors in this movie are newcomers. Their performances are far from perfect - Nagisa's voice actress in particular sounds permanently chipper even when the scene doesn't call for it - but there's a sense of freshness to these voices that I don't get from watching a lot of anime. It's entirely fitting for a team of amateur voice actresses to work on a movie about girls who start an amateur radio club. I get the impression that the actresses related personally to the characters they played, and this came through in their acting. As overwrought as the climax can be, complete with a cheesy insert sung by all the actresses, its emotional beats still land.

In the end, what you get out of Kimi no Koe o Todoketai will depend on how much of a fan you are of the “cute girls doing cute things” genre and all the baggage that entails. It's arguable that the artistic merits of this film were constrained by the need to showcase the voice talents of the six girls, even when the story itself didn't actually need all of them. However cynical the business side of this project may be, though, the film itself has a genuine heart that manages to rise above the mediocre scripting. But those who are looking forward to Studio Madhouse's first anime-original movie in years may find themselves disappointed by this sweet yet ultimately clumsy film.

Overall : C+
Story : C+
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B

+ Has a lot of heart, character designs and art are simple and appealing
Half the main cast is irrelevant to the story, characters are underdeveloped, weak voice acting

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Production Info:
Director: Naoyuki Itou
Script: Manabu Ishikawa
Music: Akito Matsuda
Original Character Design: Toshinao Aoki
Character Design: Aya Takano

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Kimi no Koe o Todoketai (movie)

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