When I began watching Voices of a Distant Star, I was expecting another heart-tugging tale of distance and lost love like Shinkai presented in 5 Centimeters Per Second. VoaDS did not exceed my expectations, but it did not fail to meet them either.
Whoever broke Shinkai's heart and made him write all of these sad tales of lost love owes him an apology. VoaDS essentially bears the same premise as most of his other works; two people fall in love, have their moments, and then are suddenly split by the hands of fate. This is a story type Shinkai does well; rather than focusing on settings and backstories, he focuses on the emotions of the characters and how they feel about being separated from one another.
That being said, the lack of focus on backstories and exposition the weak point of VoaDS. I wanted to know more about why Mikako had to leave so far out into space, who the Tarsians were, what was up with Mikako's doppelganger on the Tarsian planet, and where did the characters go afterwards? What was their afterstory? Though I felt the emotions of Noboru and Mikako as they remembered each other, it cuts off at such an awkward place, leaving far too wide of an open-end for me.
Shinkai is a magnificent artist. His characterrs are drawn simplistically to keep the audience focused on what they say and feel comparedto how they look, his background visuals are stunning, and the CGI is pretty impressive as well.
The only problem I have is these three elements seem to be out of touch with one another. The characters are drawn as if from a notebook sketch pad, the backgrounds are like paintings, and the CGI is, well, CGI. It feels as if the three types of animation are separate from one another, and it gives the impression the anime was not completed.
Shinkai's choice of voice actors is excellent. Girls in anime tend to be high-pitched, nonsensical airheads, but Mikako has a somewhat punk/normal voice for a girl. Nobaru is pretty much a normal guy with a mundane voice; however, it serves his character well.
The music is decent, but forgettable. Is is more employed as background filler rather than anything else.
Mikaku and Noboru are relatable, but underdone. They have little backstory besides their relationship, and not afterstory at all. I liked them as characters, and I did feel their emotions as they dealt with the pain of distance, but at the end of the day they are forgettable.
Voices of a Distant Star is a heartfelt and solid piece of work by akoto Shinkai, focusing on the emotions of distant lovers. Though his story is missing a few things and the ending is too broad for my tastes, if you're looking for a believable romance without all of the silliness, this is the anime for you. If you like this, you'll like 5 Centimeters Per Second for sure.