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
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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.
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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