Story - 10/10
Longing emanates from this short like heat from a bon fire, covering your body like a warm blanket on a winters chill. It’s a sense of longing some of us have been lucky enough to have felt. A longing that swells in your chest. A feeling of lightness so unbearable at times that you want only for gravity to pull you back to earth. A mixture of sadness and joy. Joy of having found such caring for another person, and the sadness of having to be away from this person. This bittersweet feeling is accomplished so well, it’s almost as if Makoto Shinkai, the films creator, is a cruel puppeteer, tugging at my hearts strings, and I a marionette, helpless in his endeavor.
The story follow two young people, Mikako and Noboru, over a course of many years, as they cope with separation by text messaging. Their separation is great, Mikako is fighting in a war she cares nothing about in outer space, Noboru is left in a state of constant wonder on earth, and the text messages begin to take longer and longer as Mikako travels farther into deep space. We find that Mikako is often left in the black that is space to ponder paradise she has lost. She wants to hear the rain prattle on the material of an umbrella, visit a convenience store, and enjoy the companionship of Noboru. All simple things, simple things are what we often take advantage of, and it’s what we need the most at the moments of loss.
I won’t go to much farther into the story. I have a fear of spoiling it for anyone else reading this review. I can only tell you that it’s the most impressive aspect of this anime, maybe one of the best of any anime, and that you must watch it for this reason.
I want to touch on something else before moving on. Makoto Shinkai directed, wrote, produced, and started in this fantastic short film. Him and his wife voiced the rolls, and his friend provided the soundtrack. This is an astonishing feat considering how many awful animes are developed by large teams.
Animation - 8.5/10
The animation in voices looks great. The lighting is what often caught my eye. In fact it was the lighting that first caught my eye. We see a fully realized univers that pulls us into it, complete with lightning, rain, clouds, a city, planets, stars, and more. We see Mikako floating in her cockpit, with tears glittering against the pallid background of space. We see visions of Noboru crunching through a crisp winter day, with vapor puffing from his face. It’s scenes like this that often left me in a state of awe in the duration of the short.
Even though the animation is usually brilliant in the short, I do have some complaints. I felt undreamed with the computer generated robots. They seemed to take away from the rest of the film. Like a paint blot on an otherwise beautiful painting. My other minor complaint is that the characters themselves seemed a little roughly drawn compared to the rest of the environment. I say it’s minor because this roughness is really not noticeable unless your going out of your way to review the film.
Sound - 7.5/10
The sound is very suitable for the film, and doesn’t detract from the dialogue. It’s nothing phenomenal, but it works for what’s intended for the film. The music works as an emotion enhancer for many of the dialogue points, especially the ending. The music is mostly piano, and it punctuates many scenes in a competent way. Some of the sound effects themselves could be considered cheesy, but this I only noticed on my second viewing. There were some synth music during the robo/alien battle scenes that were just kind of there.
Overall the sound is nothing great, but there is nothing really bad about it either. Like I said before, it’s suitable for the film, and competent in it’s own right.
Characters - 7.5/10
We don’t learn a lot about the characters we meet, but through proper emotional manipulation it doesn’t really matter. What do I mean by emotional manipulation? It’s very simple really. Through the dialogue, and visuals I didn’t really need to know to much about the characters. A lot of people won’t need to know about their experiences, because they’ve experienced this type of longing, and the film expresses the feeling of longing so well.
Is this kind of emotional manipulation a bad thing? Sometimes it can be a bad thing. It can be bad if the viewer has not experienced the type of loss or longing expressed in the dialogue and visuals in the film. I personally connected on a deep level from personal experienced in my life, as I’m sure a lot of people well. I guess my point is that the film doesn’t have a lot to show anyone in terms of character, but it does know how to rip out the hearts of those it can connect to.
Those who connect with this film will be rewarded great, and those who don’t I can guess will feel a little lost as the film progresses.
Overall - 8.5/10
A part of me wants to run out into the street and scream, “Voices of the Distant Star is a perfect film! Ten out of ten! It’s for everyone!” The reviewer side of me knows better. Alas, some will not understand the pull of Voices. They will be lost when it comes to the feelings of deep loss. For those that the film is lost on, save it for another time, wait 5 years, and watch it again.
For myself I know that it’s a film I will go back on many times. It’s not perfect, yet it’s now a personal favorite. I plan on watching the rest of the directors films now. Maybe even reviewing them in the future. There is definitely something to say about Makoto’s ability to convey such strong emotion. I’d like to know what compelled him to write this kind of story. Know what his drives were. Maybe they’re best left unknown. I’m sure they’re personal.