This week’s review is on Shinkai’s second short film, 星の声 Hoshi No Koe known in english as Voices of a Distant Star. This 25 minute short was actually one of the first films I had watched by Shinkai before I knew about Shinkai. Released in 2002, I don't think it is an exaggeration that
This week’s review is on Shinkai’s second short film, 星の声 Hoshi No Koe known in english as Voices of a Distant Star.
This 25 minute short was actually one of the first films I had watched by Shinkai before I knew about Shinkai. Released in 2002, I don’t think it is an exaggeration that it is one of the most recognised films of Shinkai by anime fans in the west.
Voices of a Distant Star is a short story about two middle school friends who are separated by time and space. Mikako the female protagonist of this tale is selected by the United Nations army to fight intergalactic threats to Earth and to go on an expedition across their solar system. Noboru, our male protagonist is left back on earth to live a normal life but has difficulty in moving on.
Voices of a Distant Star had quite solid themes such as loneliness, distance, longing and time. It all played out well especially in Noboru becoming an adult longing for his childhood with his middle school crush. When things were much more simple. Becoming an adult myself I could easily connect to the growing delay of messages he was receiving from Mikako. One minute you are constantly around someone, the next you are simply messaging them everyday, everyday turns into every other day and before you know it 5 years down the line you are messaging them “Long time no speak”. So much has changed about them and in their lives while for you it feels like you haven’t and nothing has changed.
The idea of being able to communicate by the heart through a common item was a great tool in this story and using the mobile phone as a method for communication has greater importance in 2016 than over a decade ago, because at least 90% of our communication is done through our mobile phones, even though we have advanced in other ways such as video messaging, social media etc. Noboru hangs delay onto his old cellphone in order to receive messages from Mikako and Mikako hangs onto hers because it is the only things that connects her to earth.
While the story has its sweet moments there are plenty and I mean plenty of nonsensical parts to it. Such as why would Noboru be stubborn and choose to not love someone else because of a crush he had on a 15 year old girl whose relationship he had with her lasted as long as his time in middle school? This is probably the most infuriating part of the storyline as it is human nature to change your mind and/or display impatience. Also, I am glad that the film could poke a bit of fun at itself at the ridiculousness of a 15 year old girl being chosen by the UN to go on a planetary expedition all of a sudden because she got good grades and was good at sports. Noboru’s comment, “ It seems, somehow, kind of like a stupid story.” hit the nail on the head and it was nice enough for Shinkai to acknowledge this through one of his characters.
I can’t get rid of the feeling that maybe the story would have been more believable if it had taken place just as they were finishing high school or college. Then you would have had this history between the Noboru and Mikako that would have lasted years and in turn would have been more meaningful. But at the age of 15, you’ve barely started your life. But lets ignore the story long enough to appreciate the design.
I wasn’t too crazy about the character designs, at times it looked awkward and unrefined, something that didn’t happen with She and Her Cat. Because of this you can very easily notice that this film has AGED. However, the strengths lied within the set design and the wondrous settings the movie took place in. While the locations on earth were limited and that 30%-40% of the film took place within the vacuum of space; When the film did venture to new terrain, it really was a sight for the eyes.
This time Shinkai didn’t perform a one man juggle but he did work on it as director, writer and co-producer. Shinkai’s landscapes are wonderfully fantasy like and it only becomes more stunning as you go through his body of work. Trust me it only gets more amazing from this point onwards.
The animation was a mixture of 2D and 3D. With the mecha and planets being made via 3D software called lightwave and everything else using after effects and photoshop on a power Mac G4- A POWER MAC G4. Unfortunately this is one throwback I would have been too young to remember. The character animation can feel stunted and awkward at times so it does make the 3D feel even more out of place despite how cool it is, but it is forgivable as an earlier work.
I complained about it in the review for She and Her Cat and I will complain about it again… can the text messages disappear anymore faster?! These huge long winding pieces of text hardly get a couple of seconds of screen time and so much of the story is in their messages . There is nothing spectacular about the character animation that I can talk in depth about and there’s nothing too bad about it that distracted me from the story being told, so it makes a pass.
The score is touching and was composed by Tenma, who is a well known collaborator of Shinkai’s and composes gorgeous pieces of music for other works and anime I am familiar with. The aforementioned composer has composed music that really bring out the feelings of longing and it really suits Shinkai’s stories really well.
To conclude I actually much prefer She and Her Cat as a gateway to Shinkai, just because it really is impressive that he worked on that all on his own and proved that independent animation can make those all important breakthroughs. But saying that I still need to give credit where credit is due, as Voices of a Distant Star is the perfect set up to familiarise yourself with the themes and style of Shinkai that has trademarked him as the next Miyazaki. It will be here that his work only becomes more and more captivating as he plays around more with fantasy and space in his beautifully rendered films that not only captivate the eyes but also the heart and truly inspire just not a generation of animators but filmmakers as well.
Have you heard of Yeojin Shin? I can't for the life of me figure out how I stumbled across her work but this New York based animator and illustrator has quite a colourful portfolio full of gorgeous design. https://vimeo.com/131251109 Her work is a blend of motion graphics, 2D and 3D animation. Her
Have you heard of Yeojin Shin? I can’t for the life of me figure out how I stumbled across her work but this New York based animator and illustrator has quite a colourful portfolio full of gorgeous design.
Her work is a blend of motion graphics, 2D and 3D animation. Her piece that stole my attention at first was The Seed. You’d regret not familiarising yourself with her work, she is definitely one for your radar.
She and Her Cat is an award winning independent production by the man dubbed as the next Miyazaki. She and Her Cat is a story told by the viewpoint of a young woman's cat and its relationship with her.Produced in 1999 over a 5 month period, this short has beautiful
She and Her Cat is an award winning independent production by the man dubbed as the next Miyazaki. She and Her Cat is a story told by the viewpoint of a young woman’s cat and its relationship with her.Produced in 1999 over a 5 month period, this short has beautiful animation that slips straight into your heart.
The grainy black and white are an artistic choice that works well with the almost poetic/narrative nature of the shots paired with the narration of the cat. Stills are complimented by artistic pans and it is very easy to see how much the work of Makoto inspired the lot over at Wong Fu Productions, a good example of this would be their film When Five Fell.
Though the animation is limited it is timed suitably and the artwork is heavily detailed to make up for it. The simplicity of the design of the cat is still pleasing to look at despite at first feeling like it was probably in the wrong type of film at first. But from the effects, to the layout of shots to the landscape design everything comes with such precision and attention to detail, It is really remarkable and Shinkai only continues to shine and amaze his viewers from this point onwards.
If you are wondering how does he make his hyper realistic backgrounds, Shinkai has noted that he takes real pictures of places and edits them with computer graphics, but when it came to the characters they are drawn to contrast their environment in design.
My only criticism would be the fast bursts between text. At times I felt it was much to fast to get a good read off and required pausing, which really messes with the flow of the whole viewing experience.
It is nice to hear that an animated series of the film is scheduled to start for March, however it won’t be in the hands of Shinkai.
The film really reminded me of a French art film and very easily fit the tropes of one, while never leaving its Japanese roots and the haiku nature of the short. The music was very simple and I didn’t notice it so much, but from what I have read it was the only thing that Shinkai didn’t do. It is from this point on that Shinkai establishes his unique style as an animator and might I add to that as a film maker.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=GwUAwQRp850 Now that I have finished the #ChildhoodFavourites series; I am glad to announce that starting from next week I will be reviewing a selection of works from the great Makoto Shinkai! Just some brief history into this Animator and Director, Shinkai is very popular amongst anime enthusiasts and some of his
Now that I have finished the #ChildhoodFavourites series; I am glad to announce that starting from next week I will be reviewing a selection of works from the great Makoto Shinkai!
Just some brief history into this Animator and Director, Shinkai is very popular amongst anime enthusiasts and some of his more popular works are Voices of a distant star and 5cm Per second. He is very well known for his melodramatic themes, highly rendered imagery and stunning sets in his works, and I am so excited to be jumping straight into the bucket of stars that are his awe-inspiring films.
My final #childhoodfavourites, a Richard Rich film called The Swan Princess. Based on the famous world renowned Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (who knew !!). I remember being mystified by the title sequence as a child and that reeled me in. But several years later lets see if I still have the
My final #childhoodfavourites, a Richard Rich film called The Swan Princess. Based on the famous world renowned Swan Lake by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (who knew !!). I remember being mystified by the title sequence as a child and that reeled me in. But several years later lets see if I still have the same eyes for it.
Our story opens with narration and a king pacing up and down in worry. We are told that he is waiting for the birth of his child. For a few more minutes we are clued in by the narrator that there is a banished sorcerer called Rothbart who wanted to be King. Plus we are told how Odette’s father and Prince Derek’s Mother, decide on a way to unite their two kingdoms: have their children fall in love and marry.
But obviously in typical romance fashion Prince Derek and Princess Odette grow up with a strong dislike for one another and their incompatibility is shown to us via montage and song. Finally, there is a change once they meet again as adults and it is love at first site. Derek, lost for words, hastily proclaims his love for Odette- calls for their marriage and all within a few seconds throws years of “bonding” away when he implies that he wants to marry her because she is beautiful and nothing else.
Odette and Father leave the Queen and Derek on bad terms, and on their journey back to their kingdom, are attacked by Rothbart, who fights the King and guards all in the appearance of a dragon. Odette is kidnapped and Derek turns up to the scene just in time to speak to a dying king. Derek swears to find Odette and defeat the beast that had killed the king and his men.
Odette has been held hostage by Rothbart and through very detailed exposition- we are clued in that there is a curse on Odette that turns her from Swan to human and back when the moon reflects on the lake. Rothbart lets Odette know this will continue to happen unless Odette marries Rothbart making him king or very specifically, she must have the man she loves confess his undying love for her to the whole world.
And in very typical fairy tale fashion! Odette makes friends with some critters and they dedicate themselves to helping her find her one true love and breaking the curse. Through misunderstandings, near death experiences, actual death and sudden changes on how ownership of the kingdom works; Odette and Derek are reunited again, Rothbart is defeated (far too quickly) our couple marry and live happily ever after.
There are many and I mean many issues with the plot, more than can be numbered. You can bet that this review is going to be pretty hard to write without making a single reference to Disney. Urgh my winx club senses are tingling because a romance that doesn’t need to exist is existing.
I realised how nonsensical it was to decide to have your kids marry, when both the King and Queen could have got together and this film would have wrapped up in an instant. They were both widows, if my memory serves me well. The whole scheming to have their children fall in love was unnecessary and a waste of time especially during a time when it was normal to marry for political or monetary gain; but this is a fairy tale and what not.
Child and teenage Odette seemed more rounded and interesting than adult Odette but Prince Derek stayed stiff throughout, never really having any changes. Eventually, both characters remain incredibly uninteresting and under-developed throughout the whole film. They merely exist as tropes to the fairytale genre. While they weren’t the very dirt from the bottom of the barrel, the laziness of their characters had them competing with the worse.
“She started out as such an ugly duckling and somehow suddenly became a swan.”
I found both of their instantaneous attraction to one another shallow and unconvincing, at some point I thought some justice could have been given to the story of the couple started off married, then probably more time could have been spent on making them more interesting and a bit more dimensional.
Instant attraction after years of loathing all because they are both now hot? Maybe this film could have gone somewhere with their shallow attitudes towards love but I have to hand it to Derek for potentially liking her way before they meet as adults. This film could have been Shrek before Shrek, something that subverts the fairy tale tradition. It is a shame it took itself seriously. If only the antagonist didn’t attack Odette, she would probably go on to rule her kingdom unwed and be the best queen there ever was. Derek was an idiot by saying “what else?” but I really think he is simply an idiot and Odette should have been better off without his “love” and darn it what was so wrong that no one could be King or Queen without being married? Wouldn’t being an only child and no one left to rule be fine? If Derek was actually friends with Odette or made a promise to her dying father to save her, I would have understood his obsession to find her. But how did he not move on? Was the power of attraction telling him she was still alive? He really should have given up and then one day received a lead on her whereabouts that reignited the engines of love.
Rothbart’s motives felt all over the place. He wants a kingdom without stress and the only way to get it, would be to marry into the family? But then he goes back on this plan several times, most of all by letting Odette die. He really could have taken advantage of her kidnapping by appearing to defeat the dragon, “rescue” Odette, maybe turned her ugly and pretended to love her, have her fall in love with him and that would have been enough of a thorn in Derek’s side.
I guess Rothbart’s final plan was pretty substantial, I mean if his assistant was ok being fake Odette for the rest of her life then the plan would have worked, up until he revealed she was the imposter.
Why did Odette die? Derek did make his vow to her! Even if an imposter took her place the imposter wasn’t called Odette and was it necessary for Odette to be there for the vow? It only required he declared his love in front of others. I don’t understand! Nothing makes sense! What they had didn’t count as everlasting love. Why was 3D water randomly used at the end?
It’s animation alright but it isn’t anything distinct. While the animation isn’t stiff, it still feels very calculated and staged. Nothing, about the character’s performances feels natural.
The animation for puffin and Swan Odette flying is a lot more nicer. The Swan Princess reminds me why storytelling with inspiration from real people in mind is important to creating a believable world and cast even if the story is a bit daft. When your reference of work are other animated works you get something stale and uninspired, ripping off bits here and there. There is very little about The Swan Princess that would ever make me think it was inspired by the swan lake- except the names of characters.
But what would be a good point, if I squint really hard? I have to say the transformation sequence is truly gorgeous even today it sends shivers down my back, and the score suits it frighteningly well but that’s as far as it goes and whoever thought that this film was better than The Lion King… For shame.
Character design, and background art aren’t anything exciting. Character designs feel quite formulaic what you’d normally come across in animated tv shows. No real sense of identity or personality. They aren’t inspired by real people, and are as generic as generic can get. Backgrounds are also dull and lifeless.
I feel bad being so harsh but it was really quite disappointing that there really wasn’t a high regard to attention to detail. Nothing really stood out or was memorable.
I noticed that the lyrics to almost every song were quite tacky haha. The first number was simple but my is the montage a drawn out piece of work. My favourite song was ” Far longer than forever”. The melody is beautiful but the lyrics are average at best or don’t make much sense. My goodness Odette! What do you want?! This girl left Derek’s palace sad and couldn’t accept him because she didn’t feel like he really loved her but then she sings that she knows he is on her way to her and they were meant to be? What happened since she got kidnapped? This song is happening because it needed a number that is the 90’s duet ballad of every animated film of the age. The voice acting is full of character but it is just a shame that the animation and character design didn’t match.
While there is much and I mean MUCH wrong with The Swan Princess, it was very entertaining to watch. It is something you can switch your brain off for and passively consume. Most of the enjoyment came from the nostalgia of it than it actually being a film of substance.
It is ashame to review this again and see the flaws so painstakingly well, it is almost like adouble edged sword I got them joy of the nostalgia but felt the pain of a critic.