Sep 10, 2019
AnimeBW (All reviews)
Continuing my odd quest to watch everything Makoto Shinkai’s made, his debut short, Voices of a Distant Star, is… well, it’s not good, but it IS informative. It’s got everything I’ve come to expect from him: underplayed melancholy monologues, sad piano music, landscapes colored in gradients of desaturated light, themes of love fading across an immeasurable divide and the necessary pain of growing up and leaving things behind, the whole works. This is very much the RWBY volume 1 of Shinkai’s work: evidence of considerable talent that will be tapped much more completely later on, but for the moment is let down by amateur construction that’s the clear result of someone just getting used to the medium he’s employing. The themes are haphazardly exposited instead of intimately felt, the animation is all very janky (the character designs in particular are hideous), the leading lady’s voice acting is distractingly amateurish, and nothing’s allowed the space it needs to breathe. It also makes heavy visual reference to Evangelion; so many shot compositions and visual motifs in Distant Star- the design of the robots’ interior, trains as a metaphor for disconnect, the color red denoting a mind-palace confrontation with a self of a different age, that classic close-up shot on the pilot’s head rising as their eyes open in tandem- could easily be classified as ripping off Eva. None of that’s to its favor, though, as they only highlight how much less effective those cinematic tricks are when not being utilized as part of a carefully constructed audiovisual masterwork. But hey, this was clearly a passion project from one guy first dipping his toe into this stuff, so it makes sense for it to be a wobbly first step. Shinkai’s work has only improved from this starting point, so it’s not worth wasting effort disliking it.