Welcome to June or Shinkai month, here on the blog. today we’re gonna start with his first project, an OVA called Voices of a Distant Star.
Let’s get started.
Voices of a Distant Star is an OVA directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Inc.
The story revolves around two school friends Mikako Nagamine (Cynthia Martinez) and Noboru Terao (Adam Colon). While the two seem to be living normal lives their world is filled with danger.
Earth is at war with an alien race known as the Tarsians who attacked humanity after they made contact on Mars. Mikako, only 15 at the time joins the military and starts traveling through space in a mech to fight the aliens.
While she and Noboru are apart she writes him messages on her phone. Due to the distance between the fleet and earth, the messages don’t take minutes but months if not years.
The story flips from Mikako during her battles to Noboru as he gets the messages years later. While he wants to move on every time a new message arrives he’s driven to tears due to his memories of his lost friend.
Distant Star’s isn’t the strongest anime when it comes to production values. The OVA was the first major work of Shinkai and it shows. The film features some bad 2D and 3D animation, however, it’s hard to hold it against the title. While this was a major release the project had a small budget and the team tries to make the best with what little they had.
The story only features two characters and their designs are stylized to fit with the lower production values. The rest of the money seemingly went into the 3D animated aliens, mechs, ships and battle scenes.
These designs are very sparse and make the title feel dated. Little detail is given to either the aliens or the ships and it makes the title look worse for it. While you might think that the 3D animation is only bad by our current standards, even for the time the visuals weren’t as strong as other popular titles.
The film marks the first collaboration between Shinkai and his composer Tenmon. With a shorter running time of 25 minutes the title doesn’t feature a lot of strong music. However, the film does feature the classic piano lines that you’ll come to expect from all of Shinkai’s projects.
The insert song “Through the Years and Far Away” was composed by Tenmon with lyrics written by K. Juno and sung by Low. The track doesn’t really stand out in the title due in no small part to where it’s placed.
The song is barely heard as it’s placed underneath the OVA’s final scene with both characters pledging to meet up again in the future. While the scene has some power to it, the mixing of the music, the FX and the dialogue make everything difficult to understand.
Speaking of audio the OVA features some solid voice work. While there were a few lines from both actors that didn’t come across well the majority of their work is good, with each putting in a lot of emotion.
Overall, it’s hard to talk about Distant Star because it’s less a OVA and more a student film.
While Shinkai had released a short film before this, the majority of his career was spent working as a graphic designer for video games. This was his first real crack at creating an anime. While it’s was a solid step in the right direction, it’s clear that he had a road ahead of him.
Overall, the film’s premise is deep and features solid direction. While the project didn’t have a large enough budget to make the whole project reflect the quality of the story he was telling, the OVA is still solid.
At times we see glimpses of what was to come from him and his team, as many of the trappings of his later works can be seen here.
While he would improve with his next project, this OVA is still watchable.
Voices of a Distant Star was produced by CoMix Wave Inc. The titles is currently licensed by Madman Entertainment (Australasia) and Anime Limited (United Kingdom). The title was licensed by ADV Films in North America but wasn’t picked up when Funimation took over.