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1 of 1 episodes seen
From watching the trailer to Children who Chase Lost Voices I knew going into this movie that it would be a departure from his previous works. It was only after I’d seen the movie that I realised how much of a departure it was. So much so that if I’d seen this movie not knowing Shinkai directed it I wouldn’t have known it was one of his movies at all. Just as I look for the Miyazaki signature in his movies so did I look for Shinkai’s signature here, and it was a struggle to find it. I can’t help but think that this movie was less a natural creative process for him and more a response to the naysayers who think he can’t do anything else. Artists should produce work based on what naturally comes to them, not what comes about as a result of pandering to critics.
This movie feels so desperately like he wanted to show critics that he could do more than romance stories, and this concern with wanting to try something new was unfortunately to the detriment of the movie as a whole. I feel it’s quite sad that Shinkai felt he needed to make such a drastic change to his style when making this movie. As someone who is an avid fan of his works it pains me so much to say this but, this movie has problems and as a result I’m quite critical of it. I’ve always maintained the personal policy that to be fan of something, anything at all is to not be an apologist, to recognise and accept when something you like is waning. To put this movie on par with Shinkai’s first three features would be disservice.
I do wish to say out right that while I did enjoy this movie I would put it last if I were to rank his works to date. Also at the screening of the movie I actually had the honour of meeting Shinkai himself. I had a brief chat through an interpreter, got a signed poster and was glad to meet such a great artist and personable individual. I feel that this should be kept in mind while reading what I thought of it, and that even the excitement of briefly meeting the man whose works I’ve thoroughly enjoyed didn’t do anything to effect my objectivity nor stop me from noticing the flaws within this movie.
I’ve no problem with a director trying something new but it shouldn’t be at the expense of what makes them great at what they do, this should be true of all artists. For example I’m not sure why he felt the need to change his signature character designs and animation style and the musical pieces weren’t as instantly memorable as the others from Voices or 5 Centimetres. Ghibli movies manage to maintain signature character designs and music while trying all kinds of different stories. Shinkai didn’t need to change that aspect of his film making while working on this movie. If it were just cosmetic changes that would ok but its so much more.
What really matters and what it always comes down to is plot and characters. To sum up it plainly, this movie lacks focus. One thing I’ve always liked about Shinkai is his minimalist approach to story telling. You can still tell a different type of story while maintaining a minimalist style. While this style is somewhat present in the first act it disappears soon afterward. The unfortunate result is a movie that doesn’t know whose story it’s supposed to be. And with some minor rewrites there are characters and respective plot points that are simply not needed. The most glaring example of this is the brothers Shin and Shun, there’s no reason at all why these two characters couldn’t have been the one person. It completely breaks the follow of a movie when you have two characters filling what is essentially the one role in separate halves of a movie.
In Shinkai’s pervious works he has managed to convey beautiful stories with small casts, each character had a purpose and it worked. As part of the new direction for this movie he decided expand to a larger cast of characters. The problem is the most of these characters either serve no real purpose in furthering the plot or appear so briefly that you wonder why they were included at all. Like apparently Shun and Shin have a sister named Seri, who was included in a scene for some reason. Another example would be Asuna's mother, instead of being the background parent like is generally case and what works for these types stories, the point was made to focus on the fact that she is a nurse who works lots of hours.
There are also some plot decisions that didn’t really make any sense. About halfway through the movie Asuna gets captured by these shadow creatures. As it turns out they wanted to kill her. Ok, so why the elaborate kidnapping scene, why bring her to another location and wait for her to wake up if killing her was the end goal. Then we have Mimi, a cute little cat who accompanies Asuna on her adventure. Instead of keeping Mimi as a simple companion like Teto in Nausicaa, Shinkai decided to include a plot point involving the cat that was completely unnecessary.
As I mentioned before the movie seems to have a hard time deciding whose story it’s supposed to be. At first you would assume it’s Asuna’s story as the whole first act is setting her up to be so. Then in the second act we get this guy Morisaki who is travelling with Asuna to Agartha to find a way to reunite with his wife, when his story began to dominate the movie I began to wonder why Asuna was even on this adventure first place.
Depending on the kind of anime fan you are, there is potential to question the appropriateness these two characters travelling alone together given their age. It probably wouldn’t be so obvious if it weren’t for a slightly creepy scene at the conclusion of Morisaki’s quest. Given the kind of stories that can be found in anime I’m willing to bet that there are people that either didn’t question this or didn’t even notice it. But the very existence of the Morisaki character brings us back to my original point of Shinkai’s telling good stories with small casts. This movie really should have simply been Asuna travelling with Mimi and Shin across Agartha, and that would have worked. No brother Shun and no Morisaki and his wife storyline. The movie would have worked so much better and would have complimented Shinkai’s style had the script been written to not include either of these characters. It would have attained the focus the movie so desperately needed.
Unfortunately Children who Chase Lost Voices was just too ambitious in scope for the kind of storyteller Shinkai is and ultimately it doesn’t hang together. As I said before it pains me to be so critical of this movie because I’m such a fan of his previous works. And even though it’s the wrong approach to take when trying to be impartial about a movie, I went into the screening of this movie really wanting to like it. Part of being fan is to recognise when your favourite works are missing mark and to not be afraid to admit it when it does. Be it anime, movies, TV, music or video games. Sometimes they’ll create great works and sometimes they won’t, and sometimes they’ll never return to when they were at their best. It’s just the way things go.
To end on a positive note I do think Children who Chase Lost Voices is worth your time and I will definitely buy it at some point, and maybe my opinion of the movie will improve after a second viewing. Here’s hoping Shinkai’s next work will be a return to form for this amazing director. read more
3 of 3 episodes seen
I should point out that my first viewing was sub and the second was dub. Generally when I watch anime I have no problem watching either dub or sub, I really don’t mind either way. But there are certain cases that call for one over the other. Whatever your preference or opinion is on the issue if you choose to watch this movie sub you are missing out on half of what makes a Shinkai work a feast for the senses. 5 Centimetres Per Second looks too good and sounds too beautiful to be distracted by subtitles. There were two dubs made, the original ADV dub and the newer Bang Zoom dub, which is the one I have. They did a pretty good job with it, all the dubs on Shinkai’s movies have been great which is fortunate for such visual movies. In short the dub gave me a better appreciation for the movie and it is how I choose to watch Shinkai’s works.
The DVD contains a 30 min long interview with Shinkai where he detailed the stages he went through during the script process. The movie contains three interconnecting acts but originally there were going to be about ten. I don’t understand why he felt the movie needed to be shorter, 5 Centimetres Per Second could have easily matched the 90 minute length of Place Promised if not longer and it still would have been an amazing movie.
The film is split into three acts, the transition from act one to act two feels natural, it goes from one stage of Takaki’s life to another. However there’s a fairly large unexplored time gap in his life between the end of act two and the start of act three. As well as that act three is comparatively shorter too. I felt that if this period of his life was explored more it would have fleshed out the story a bit more. It would also have given Shinkai the opportunity to clarify a bit more why the two of them stopped corresponding and drifted apart. When you look at the whole movie in hindsight it’s clear that Takaki is deeply in love with Akari, but not so in love as to prevent a drift between them? That never really made sense to me and it would have been nice if that part of the story had been explored a bit more. I guess what I’m really saying is that I wanted more 5 Centimetres Per Second. It does make me wish that Shinkai had gone with the longer story he wrote in the early days of hammering out the script. One other addition to the story that would have been great is if we had gotten Akari’s perspective. If the movie had to only be in three parts it would have been better that instead of two tales from Takaki’s perspective and one from a third party, to have one for Takaki, one for Akari and one from a third party. I feel that the bond between the two wouldn’t have felt so one sided if we’d gotten one of the tales from Akari’s perspective. The story would have come off a little bit happier and a tad less depressing if we weren’t left speculating on the extend of Akari’s feelings for Takaki.
A point of contention most people will share with this movie is its ending. Now one of the things that most anime fans will have to learn the hard way is that if you don’t want to be driven insane by the conclusion of a lot of anime stories you need to develop a fairly thick skin for ambiguous endings. I’ll say one small thing about that ending (the same thing happens at the start so its not really a spoiler) and that is when train barriers come down, they are down for a good few minutes before a train speeds by obscuring your view of the people on the other side. This fact is changed for dramatic effect in both instances. It makes me wonder how that end scene would have gone if train barriers acted the way they’re supposed to in this story.
Honestly though, I really have only one major gripe against the movie and that’s the song/montage at the very end, for two reasons. First, the song of choice is tedious and completely clashes with the tone the movie sets. It’s no “Your Voice”, a much better song for the end of Place Promised and its no “Through The Years And Far Away” from Voices of a Distant Star. I remember when I was that the anime film festival, when that sequence came up I heard subdued titters from a few people in the audience at that part. I think the general feeling in the air was “Really!?”. It’s not just that the tone of the song is wrong, after rewatching Shinkai’s previous works I realized that a male singing voice simply does not work in his movies much less that type of song. Secondly and more importantly, the montage that plays during the song contains sequences that ideally should have been properly fleshed out and integrated into the plot. It kind of frustrated me because it felt like he had nowhere to put these bits so a montage at the end was as good a place as any. The song at the end seems to be a staple of his movies thus far but in this one it didn’t work for those reasons.
Closing Comments. 5 Centimetres Per Second is another victory for Makoto Shinkai despite a few shortcomings. And really those criticisms are from someone who really liked this movie and recognised its potential to be better and longer than it was. I really hope Shinkai continues to release such heartfelt works. read more
14 of 14 episodes seen
First problem. Somewhere along the line in the making of this show the writers somehow got the idea into their heads that this story needed comedy for balance. Sometimes that is needed for certain stories but for a tragic love story like this the comedic element had no right being in there. Take a look at Voices of a Distant Star do you think that story needed humor, of course not. The problem is that not only is the comedy not funny its not even balanced at all, it just randomly pops up jolting you out of the mood of the story. The comedy comes in the form of two young girls that work in the family restaurant with Takayuki. All I can say about them is that there are so many words I can use to describe this element of the story; stupid, pointless, annoying, jarring, unnecessary, not funny you get the idea. The two characters just ended up being this sort of out of place scratch on perfectly good story. Takayuki doesn’t even seem to be the same person when he’s around these two characters, like he doesn’t even have all this drama going on in his life. Fortunately these comedy scenes don’t appear too often, and when they do the fast forward button is your friend. They contribute approximately zero to the plot and the point of the story.
Second problem. Takayuki and Haruka’s initial ‘courtship’ I suppose you could call it, is way too short. It starts a bit abruptly in the first episode and only goes on to the end of episode 2 which is when “tragedy strikes” as stated in the synopsis. In the story it’s implied that the relationship went on for weeks but as a viewer all we really got were two episodes of it. Although I thought it was an interesting move to shift time to when the characters are in their 20s, those scenes of Haruka and Takayuki together in the second episode are the best scenes in the whole series and it really would have been nice if they’d gone on longer.
Now if it was just these two two things I could’ve lived with it and gave the show top marks but this final issue is a doozy, a major point of contention among people that liked this anime. The ending. Obviously I’m not going to say what it is, but never in all the time I’ve been watching anime have I disliked and disagreed with how they ended a series, and I’ve seen evangelion. I’m not saying that the ending made no sense or that they didn’t wrap everything up properly, I just really really disagree with how they dealt with it. The thing with romance stories is that it’s all about the ending, if you don’t like that then what came in-between doesn’t really matter. The closer it got to the end more I got the feeling I wasn’t going to like where each of the main characters was going to end up when the music stopped. I mean this seriously bugged me afterward and I can’t help but feel that it was the intention of the writers. If you’ve provoked a strong emotional response with the viewer then I think you’ve succeeded at something. Whether or not it matters if it’s a negative or positive response is debatable.
I could quite easily do a fairly objective bullet-point tirade on how much I disagree with the wrap up of Rumbling Hearts but that would require major spoilers across the board. But despite all my ramblings on the ending there is light at the end of the tunnel, something that saves this anime for me. It comes in the form of the four episode OVA called Kimi ga Nozomu Eien ~Next Season~, it was released a few years after the initial anime. The existence of this OVA only goes to reinforce my belief that there were many people that weren’t happy with the original ending. This OVA essentially rewrites the ending to the way it should have gone, as well as putting in new flashback dialogue to make the ending work with what came before in the original story.
So if you are new to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien then I recommend your viewing to go like this: watch the anime up to the second last episode (13) and forget about the last episode (14). Then watch the OVA. This will deliver a much more satisfying and better ending. It will also be how I plan to watch this when I decided to see it for a second time. read more