REEL ANIME Review - Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Reel Anime is a nation-wide anime specific film festival which is organised by  Australia's foremost anime distributor, Madman.

In previous years crowds have been floored by films such as Summer Wars, Redline and Evangelion 2.0 and while these are certainly some impressive titles, Reel Anime 2012 is set to blow the roof off. This years line up includes Berserk: The Egg of the King, Wolf Children, Studio Ghibli's latest From Up on Poppy Hill and the newest offering from Makoto Shinkai Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

Reel Anime is running in all capital cities (except NT) between the 13th and the 26th of September 2012 so there's plenty of time to catch each session, especially the wonderful Children Who Chase Lost Voices. Be forewarned, although this film looks like a great family film, it contains a fair amount of violence and deals with some rather emotional themes.

The writer and director of Children Who Chase Lost voices, Makoto Shinkai, has proven time and time again that he has a firm grasp on the human condition. His films, 5 Centimetres Per Second, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and his breakout hit Voices of a Distant Star all delve into the souls of the protagonists while using the fantastical as a backdrop. This motif continues in Children Who Chase Lost Voices which tells the story of a young Asuna and the lonely life lead after her fathers death. While living in somewhat of a dream world she finds herself drawn towards a person and a place that quickly turns into an adventure beyond her wildest dreams and most dangerous nightmares.

Within its 2 hour run time, Shinkai manages to create a rich cast of characters, all of whom have well fleshed out back stories and a reason for being a protagonist. Each character has their place in the story and no one is introduced unnecessarily. In fact, the entire film showcases about 10 characters and each get their time in the sun. Some characters, such a Shun's village elder, could benefit from expansion of their stories but in the end, it becomes inconsequential and the main 3 characters (Asuna, Shun and Morisaki) take the reigns and run. We are also introduced to a wondrous and sometimes grotesque cast of creatures called Quetz Coatlz who act as minders of the dead and gatekeepers of Agartha. 

Visually, this film is gorgeous and could very well give Studio Ghibli a run for their money. For lack of a better comparison, both in terms of art style and storyline, this film often feels like a cross between Laputa and Princess Mononoke which can't possibly be a bad thing. Shinkai has injected his trademark attention to environment in creating a gorgeous and recognisable real world setting as well as a fantastically strange and at times frightening land of wonder, Agartha. Shinkai enlists longtime collaborator Tenmon (Atsushi Shirakawa) as composer and, as usual, delivers a score of epic proportions. Teetering on the edge of being heavy handed, Tenmon's score is dramatic, aloof and grounded all at once while perfectly supporting the story and visuals. There is one thing in particular that long time collaborators such as Shinkai and Tenmon bring to the table - synchronicity.

The only glaring issue with this predominantly wonderful film are the handful of loose ends and unanswered questions that are, realistically, only as frustrating as you allow them to be. There feels to be resolution only for a secondary character while the main two are no better or worse off than when they started their journey. Apart from this minor frustration, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an absolute delight on every level.

For any noticeable fault, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is the kind of film that can be enjoyed on so many levels. Visually, it is stunning and the audio majestic while the story is like Asuna's adventure itself, as deep and as dangerous as you wish it to be. Makoto Shinkai is an extremely exciting film maker who consistently creates projects that are visually beautiful and full of emotion, the kind of film maker that makes you excited for the future of anime feature films.

To find out when and where Children Who Chase Lost Voices is screening in your state, head over to www.ReelAnime.com

2 comments :

Hmmm well you thought a lot better of it than I did. I watched it on Blu-ray upon its initial release and although visually beautiful, the actual content was a complete mess. It's a melting pot of loosely connected ideas/myths/cultures which I felt barely held together. Add to that the protagonist who never really had a role in the film. She had no motivations for anything she did, which although realistic in some sense, makes for a very boring film. A film where the protagonists only real motivation to continue walking is to see what Morisaki does. It feels like a Shinkai short film (like most of his previous ones) except to make it feature length he just kept throwing more ideas on top of a short-story plot which for me made a very unwieldy feature film. It would of made an excellent short film though, so I do think Shinkai should stick to what he does best.

11 September 2012 at 13:27 comment-delete

I agree with the shortcomings that you mention although I didn't feel as though they were a deal clencher. Asuna's journey, I felt, was progressing fine although didn't end up tying up the potential stories that were initiated. That to me was the only real issue. I don't necessarily think it should have been shorter, just a little more fleshed out.

Thanks for your comment and your insight Geoff. One of the reasons I like writing reviews is because no two people see the same thing. We all see them through different eyes and find different issues. Good to hear from you.

11 September 2012 at 18:13 comment-delete

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