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Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below - Anime Movie Review

Updated on January 4, 2012

Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below

Makoto Shinkai is becoming quite a name in the anime industry, with critical successes like 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days under his belt. Still, it's hard to argue that either of these movies have the same mass appeal as something from a studio such as Studio Ghibli. The reasoning for that is that even though Makoto Shinkai is a master at understanding human emotion (particularly with themes such as nostalgia, and loss), until now his chosen style of expression has been very low-key. Both of his mentioned earlier works were subtle, introspective works. And for the positive traits that they had, let's face it: they weren't exactly exciting movies. With his most recent film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, Shinkai proves two things to the world: 1) that he's not a one trick pony, and is capable of creating a genuinely exciting fantasy movie, and 2) that he is pretty darn good at picking really long, and pretentious titles for them. I won't hold that against him though.

The backgrounds of the film are stunning.
The backgrounds of the film are stunning.

Now, it's interesting that I compared the previous works of Shinkai to Studio Ghibli, because with this one, it's very clear -- really, it almost hits you ride on the head -- that Lost Voices borrows a lot from Miyazaki's work. Not only do characters look like Miyazaki's characters, the facial expressions often appear to be lifted as well. Not only that, a lot of the same motifs and themes appear, not limited to the strong female-child protagonist, and a clear message about environmentalism. Let's be frank, here. The movie is Makoto's love-letter to an artist that he admires. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Shinkai is a very talented artist, and much of his style seeps into the film. The color and light usage are distinctively his; and they make for one of the most beautiful looking movies I've ever laid eyes upon. And it's not like there's anything wrong with resembling a classic Ghibli movie. After all, they became classics for a reason.

At times, it's easy to forget that this is not one of Miyazaki's movies.
At times, it's easy to forget that this is not one of Miyazaki's movies.

If Shinkai did anything to tweak the Ghibli formula aside from the coloring style, it was the pacing. The first half of the movie is grounded in the "real world" that we know. Asuna is a student who goes to school, and spends her spare time enjoying nature, while using a crystal-radio to pick up music. She's just a girl who's enjoying life; and Shinkai takes his time to show it. The ball eventually gets moving, after the appearance of a strange monster, and a young warrior who protects Asuna from it. I don't want to give too much away, but when this happens, you should prepare to switch gears, as the movie begins to delve into the fantasy and adventure realm. As you can probably tell from any screenshot or the movie's official trailer, that fantastic-looking place is not Japan.

The vibrant colors of the movie are very pleasant to look at.
The vibrant colors of the movie are very pleasant to look at.

The story that unfolds is not as fleshed out as it could have been, but it's very interesting. The universe that the movie sets up, and the folklore that it rests upon really drew me into the film. Taken as a whole, however, the film is somewhat reminiscent of Full Metal Jacket, in that the two halves of the movie seem very much at odds with one another. Aside from the jarring effect though, it's not like either half of the movie is bad. In fact, they're both quite good; the second half is just a lot better. I feel another twenty or thirty minutes could have been used to build to the film's climax, as there were questions left open as to how the world of the film works. The film also ends a bit abruptly for my taste. All in all though, watching it was a very enjoyable experience. I very much consider this a step in the right direction for Makoto Shinkai. He clearly has an excellent imagination, and I'd love to see more movies that allow him to show his creativity like this one did.

Rating: 8.25 out of 10

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    • Chris Qu profile image
      Author

      Chris Qu 5 years ago

      Satoshi Kon was pretty great. My favorite one of his was Tokyo Godfathers I think... I've been meaning to re-watch Perfect Blue forever, too. :)

    • emmaspeaks profile image

      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      I'm a huge Miyazaki fan. I've never seen any of Shinkai's work, but after seeing the pics you've provided, I agree, if I didn't know it wasn't Miyazaki's work, I would think it was his. I will have to check him out. Another anime film director that I am fond of, but has passed, is Satoshi Kon. HUGE fan of his. Paprika is the bomb, and Millennium Actress blew me away. Another great hub!