Children Who Chase Lost Voices is another movie by Makoto Shinkai and thus I went into it expecting good things, and I’m glad to say the movie doesn’t disappointed, but then that also depends a lot on the viewer.
The story is set around a young girl who goes by the name of Asuna, who has recently suffered the loss of her father and has grown up quickly because of it. When not at school or doing a few chores around the house Asuna can be found at her clubhouse on the nearby mountain with her odd cat like creature, Mimi. One day Asuna comes across an odd boy called Shun who explains he’s from a different country which goes by the name of Agartha, unknown to Asuna at the time, she would be seeing a lot of Agartha in the coming future. As the story goes on we see the death of Shun which leads Asuna to get talking to a substitute teacher at her school who seems to know a lot about Agartha. He explains that Agartha is a world far under the ground; the world of life and death and that he, Ryuji, has his own reasons for going to this world. As the story continues Asuna meets Shun’s brother, Shin, and along with Ryuji, and Mimi the cat she ends up in Agartha heading towards the door of life and death so Ryuji can bring his dead wife back to life. As the story goes on the group suffers losses, fun and sad times, but overall it’s a colourful and pretty adventure, if not hinting towards a darker undertone that not everyone will pick up on.
You could argue that in terms of animation the movie is a joy to watch, but that isn’t completely true. Children Who Chase Lost Voices only seems to come into its own once Asuna reaches Agartha, which is such a pretty and vibrant world to look at. It’s the kind of place our younger selves dream of and wish to live in. While Children Who Chase Lost Voices is lovely throughout for its animation, it really does jump to new heights once we reach Agartha. That said, the movie doesn’t actually have much of an art style of its own, and anyone who has ever watched a few Studio Ghibli movies in the past will quickly realize that Children Who Chase Lost Voices doesn’t look all that different, even in its character designs. That said, while I would have liked to have seen it do its own thing, I don’t mind all that much that it went for a Studio Ghibli style because it pulls it off almost perfectly.
As far as the movie’s soundtrack goes, I can’t honestly fault it. Every piece of music seems to fit the scene, but that said, the more cheerful tracks to the movie sit better than the dramatics. But then, that seems to be the movie full stop; the more light hearted stuff is more powerful than the dramatics.
In terms of the characters themselves some are very much likeable and show real growth as the story goes on, and some just don’t. Sadly, Asuna falls into the latter comment. While Ryuji seems to grow throughout this trip (and quickly becomes somewhat of a father figure to Asuna), Asuna seems nothing more than just someone for us to view the whole adventure through. There really doesn’t seem to be much emotion to her and she seems to just get on with things, even when Shun dies, it’s a long time before we see any real emotion over the event. The rest of the characters, however, are strong enough to more than make up for Asuna.
The movie really does seem to rely on the theme of life and death running through it more than it does anything else. The viewer must decide if the actions of Ryuji are correct, and if you’d act the same put in his shoes. Personally though, I feel like the movie also teaches an important lesson for anyone who has every lost a loved one, in that you can’t get consumed by the fact you’ll never see them again. You have to move on and find happiness in other ways, always remember them, but always keep on living too. Even if you could obtain the power to bring someone back from the dead, it isn’t to say that is the correct path.
When it comes down to it, how much you care for Children Who Chase Lost Voices will depend on how much you yourself have been through in life. Those who have never lost anyone they care about likely won’t read much into the plot, but those that have will find a much deeper meaning under the surface. It’s an enjoyable enough movie either way, but some will pass it off as not being deep enough because it can seem like a very light-hearted story if you don’t read too much into it.