With only two Monday’s left in June, we’re reaching the end of Shinkai month here on the blog. That being said, we’ve seem the progression of a filmmaker. While he started off making smaller films with limited budgets and running times, today’s film is first time that Shinkai and his team have had the time and funding to create something larger.
But is it any good? Let’s find out.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices, or Journey to Agartha, is a anime film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai.
The story follows Asuna (Hisako Kanemoto/Hilary Haag), a girl in a small village who’s forced to grow up quickly after the death of her father. Her mother is a nurse who spends much of her time working at her hospital and as a result she spends much of her time alone, doing choirs and homework.
One day after school Asuna comes face to face with an odd animal. The creature looks like nothing she’s seen before and it quickly tries to attack her. Before she can react, she’s saved by Shun (Miyu Irino/Corey Hartzog).
While the two start a friendship, it doesn’t last long as he disappears after a few days later. Later, she learns Shun and the creature came from a different world where anything, even reviving the dead, is possible.
Asuna’s new teacher Ryuji Morisaka (Kazuhiko Inoue/David Matranga) teaches her of the Quetzalcoatis, creatures who guard the land of the dead, and she’s soon brought into a conflict between the two worlds.
Soon a new stranger, Shin (Miyu Irino/Leraldo Anzaldua), appears in the town looking for something that Shun left behind, a crystal similar to the one that Asuna uses to connect to strange radio signals. Asuna is then brought to Shin’s home world, Agartha, where she and her teacher look for the power to bring the dead back to life.
But even if you have that power, is it worth the price? Or are the strings attached too much?
On the production side, Lost Voices is an improvement from the past Shinkai works. The environments of the film, both in our world and Agartha are impressive and feature some interesting designs. Backgrounds are detailed, whether they’re the lush fields of Asuna’s home town or the ruins of Agartha.
Much of this film’s designs are based upon the various religious and mythological texts. The meshing of cultures end up creating an interesting and believable world, much like some of Hayao Miyazaki’s earlier works, most notably Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke.
Additionally the designs of the Quetzalcoatis, the few we see, feature a lot of fine details and share similarities to real world creatures such as bears or deer. All around the production and designs are strong.
Seeing how this is a Shinkai film, the score was composed by Tenmon. While some of his piano work is heard during the opening moments of the film, for the most part the film relies on an orchestral score, something his other films haven’t featured. These pieces play well against the action of the film and back up the visuals in their level of quality.
That being said the films ending song, Hello Goodbye and Hello sung by Anri Kumaki is a bit on the generic side.
While the technical side of the film is strong, Lost Voices has a number of issues with it’s plot. To be more precise, it’s biggest problem comes mostly from it’s pacing.
While other Shinkai films featured interesting Sci Fi concepts that are set-up over the course of a shorter running time, Lost Voices seems to have too much time to set things up. Now grated this time the film needs more explanation, but the first hour of the film is slow and could have been speed up for the interest of the story.
During the first hour not only did they have to set up the world of Agartha, but why certain character’s would want to either go there or why they they’d want to leave. While this doesn’t seem like a lot to put across in an hour, the film get’s bogged down in it’s own story. During said hour, elements of the plot are put forward only to be dropped and never brought up ever again. The addition of a government organization that hopes to gain power from the city being the best example.
While the film starts to pick up when the characters start exploring Agartha, the final moments of the film seem to fly by way to quickly as the majority of the stories climax happens in a few minutes.
While the pacing wasn’t that strong, the point of the film was put across quite well.
The theme of Lost Voices was one of acceptance and letting go. While these types of stories are a dime a dozen, especially in the world of fantasy, the film get’s the important parts down.
Ultimately the characters all have some kind of emotional baggage that they need to let go of. Over the course of the story, as you’d expect, we learn that something’s are the way the are for a reason, this is made clear during the film’s bitter sweet resolution.
Overall, Lost Voices is a solid film. It features some great animation, interesting world, creature designs and has a satisfying ending. But it’s held back by the pacing and story development.
The film shows just how far the CoMix team has come and just how impressive and creative they are. While it isn’t as strong as 5 Centimetres Per Second, it’s a solid watch.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices/Journey to Agartha was produced by CoMix Wave Films and Media Factory. The film is licensed by Sentai Filmworks.