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Shelf Life
Children Who Chase Lost Voices

by Paul Jensen,

I had an introduction all ready for this week, and then the news about Crunchyroll and Funimation forming a partnership showed up. Serves me right for trying to get my work done early for once. This Answerman article explains things better than I could ever hope to, so I'll just offer a couple of quick thoughts. Merging the two companies' catalogs together seems like it'll make life a little easier for fans, and I like the idea of each company being able to focus more on what they do well. As for the industry implications, only time will tell how this all ends up working out. As long as there's new stuff on disc for me to write about in this column, I'm happy. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Children Who Chase Lost Voices

On Shelves This Week

Clamp School Detectives - Complete Collection DVD
Maiden Japan - 650 min - Hyb - MSRP $49.98
Currently cheapest at: $32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: At a special academy for the gifted and talented, three students form a detective agency dedicated to aiding damsels in distress.

Extra: Are you all ready for a blast from the past? Our most recent reviews for this series come from its VHS release way back in 1999. Yep, it certainly has been a while.

Maken-Ki! - Season 1 [S.A.V.E.] BD+DVD
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $29.98
Currently cheapest at: $21.77 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Ordinary teenager Takeru Ohyama enrolls in a new school based solely on its number of beautiful female students, only to find out that it's an academy for super-powered marital artists.

Extra: We've got a review of a previous release of this series, and it was also covered in Shelf Life. You can stream it on Funimation and Hulu.

Sakura Trick - Complete Collection BD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98
Currently cheapest at: $36.29 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: On their first day of high school, childhood friends Haruka and Yuu decide to make their relationship special by kissing. In the process, they discover feelings for one another they never knew they had.

Extra: Our coverage of this yuri series is pretty limited with just an Anime Spotlight preview. It's available streaming on The Anime Network.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 400 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.98 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Shy bookworm Yuki Nagato attempts to get the attention of her crush with some help from her best friend, as the three of them try to keep their school's literature club running.

Extra: Funimation is releasing a lot of Haruhi-related stuff this week. We have episode reivews of this alternate world spinoff, and you can watch it on Funimation.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - Seasons 1 and 2 BD, DVD
Funimation - 700 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$54.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.98 Barnes and Noble|$37.52 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Kyon just wants to lead a normal high school life, but his world is turned upside down when he meets an eccentric girl named Haruhi Suzumiya.

Extra: We've got reviews for both seasons of this main series. A few episodes are available on Funimation as of this writing, with more scheduled to coincide with the physical release.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - Ultimate Collector's Edition BD
Funimation - 1229 min - Hyb - MSRP $149.98
Currently cheapest at: $112.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: This set collects The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya, and Nyorōn Churuya-san into one box.

Extra: I used up most of the obvious review links in the other entries, so I guess I'll use this space to point to an article on the franchise as a whole.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan Suzumiya and Nyoron! Churuya-san - Complete Collection DVD
Funimation - 129 min - Hyb - MSRP $24.98
Currently cheapest at: $18.16 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Haruhi and friends return for a new round of zany misadventures, and the adorable Churuya-san explores her own little world in search of smoked cheese.

Extra: These two comedy spinoffs are are some of the few parts of the Haruhi franchise that haven't been reviewed here. They aren't streaming as of this writing, but they're scheduled to go up on Funimation on the 13th.

Shelf Life Reviews

After taking in the panty-fueled pandemonium of Punch Line last week, I decided to dial the manic energy back this week with a more leisurely stroll through Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices has all the trappings of a movie you might show to a friend or relative as an introduction to anime. It has a story about an ordinary person wandering into a fantastic world full of weird monsters and pretty background art, the themes are simple but relatable, and there are obligatory moments of really impressive animation. With all those elements in place and a big name like Makoto Shinkai as the director, it's almost a given that the movie is going to be pretty good. So the real question is whether it's merely impressive to look at or genuinely memorable.

The movie follows the story of a young girl named Asuna, who spends most of her time listening to a crystal-powered radio that her deceased father left behind. Her search for a strange melody that she once heard over the radio leads her to meet Shun, a young man from a mystical place called Agartha. When Shun suddenly passes away, Asuna travels to Agartha with her teacher, Mr. Morisaki. There, she meets Shun's younger brother Shin and embarks on a search for a way to bring people back from the dead.

If you've seen any of Makoto Shinkai's other works, then the beginning of this movie will likely feel familiar. There's a quiet, lonely protagonist wandering through a beautiful rural setting, with just a hint of something otherworldly going on behind the scenes. The pacing and atmosphere change up once Asuna arrives in Agartha, and the film becomes more of a grand adventure story than an introspective piece. To its credit, the movie handles the transition reasonably well; the art and direction really nail the feeling of exploring a strange new world. The gamer in me really wanted to pick up a controller and start exploring all the pretty vistas and lonely ruins.

Once you get past the atmosphere and into the heart of the story, Children Who Chase Lost Voices starts to exhibit a couple flaws. The film goes heavy on themes of death and grief, but Asuna herself rarely seems all that affected by these things. She misses her father and Shun, but her motivation for visiting Agartha is more a matter of curiosity than of desperation to bring someone back to life. That desire to bring back a loved one is more apparent in Mr. Morisaki, who has clearly devoted his entire life to resurrecting his wife. He's arguably the most compelling character in the story, with his flaws making him feel much more human even as they lead him down a pretty tragic path.

Ultimately, how much you get out of this movie will depend on whether or not you're okay with it being a little unfocused. There's a strong message of letting go of the people we've lost and learning to live without them, but a blind acceptance of the laws of nature is also painted as a source of stagnation and even decline in Agartha. There are some very moving scenes, but their emotional impact often relies more on drawing connections to the viewer's own experiences than it does on creating empathy with the characters. While the story works well enough to keep the audience watching, it sometimes feels like the script could've used just one more round of editing to get all the individual pieces in sync with one another.

The writing may not be perfect, but it's hard to get too mad at a movie that looks and sounds as nice as this one. The characters look good in motion, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the composition of each shot is thoughtful and artistic. The soundtrack complements the story well, and the song that plays over the end credits matches up neatly with the themes of the film. This Sentai Selects rerelease also offers a lot of extras for the price. There's a Japanese commentary track, along with a second disc full of interviews, promotional videos, and other interesting little tidbits. With both discs included in Blu-Ray and DVD format, the case is actually a little thicker than the average single-season TV series set. Considering you can pick up a copy for around fifteen bucks, that's not too shabby.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices isn't the best movie Makoto Shinkai has ever made, but I'd argue that it's still good enough to be worth watching more than once. It tells a decent little adventure story, and the movie nerd in me is already itching to go through it a second time and really soak up the beautiful background art. As long as you don't go in expecting to have your mind blown wide open, it's a fun journey that's worth its two-hour running time.

That wraps up the reviews for this week. Thanks for reading!

We don't have a Shelf Obsessed entry this week, but if you'd like to show off your anime collection, send me your photos at [email protected]!

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