This movie had a great setting and potential but it bit off too much. It was a slight disappointment compared Shinkais earlier stuff. It tries to be a Ghibli movie but it just can't get there, even tho its visuals make Ghibli pale in comparison. The combination of visuals and sound in this movie are stunning, and alone, make this movie worth watching.
There was little to no character development; only one character changes its mind during the whole film. All of the characters are given one simple purpose and role, and they play it from start to finish with no questions asked. This made the story hard to approach and adding in the unnecessary narrative explanation, it didn't feel personal. I just couldnt get attached to any of the characters. The story as a whole, including characters, was put in a really interesting setting, a great deal of work was obviously put into it. Lots of mythical, historical and philosophical elements played a part. However, the characters downplayed it so much that it didn't feel close to as grand as it was. It was just presented the wrong way.
In the end, this movie didn't make me feel like I wasted my time on it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it was more for the visuals and the soundtrack than the actual story. Many great and awesome ideas came together for this piece, and even having a lackluster plot, it kind of sets my imagination flying because of the setting and the historical references. Its definitely a good movie and worth a watch.
Warning this Review May Contain Spoilers-
So starting this review, I personally found this movie quite boring after a while and pretty confusing overall. I didn't find it all that interesting and I found it rather long, I don't feel like the story progressed as much as I would of hoped it would. I guess if you like all the slow-paced movies which do develop slowly over a long period of time, you probably would enjoy this. It was just too long for not enough story for me, I also know people will disagree but I prefer fantasy which aren't slow paced. The other thing is by about halfway in, I got lost...I was really confused and I didn't know which way the story was heading. The animation, it is very similar to the style in movies such as 5cm per second , following this I like the animation but I don't love it....that might confuse you a bit. But to me it isn't a personal favourite in animation.
The sound was average, maybe just over. I watched this show in dub so my thoughts may be different to some but it wasn't the worst dub but it wasn't the best. It was alright. Some parts in the movie had soundtracks but they weren't as good as some I have listened to previously. Maybe this affected how I viewed the movie once I finished it. The characters, we one minute there was one group then they move on just like anything but I just felt with the story it was just long, the character development I mean.
Overal this movie was average, I personally didn't like it much and if you compare my thoughts to other who have watched it, there might be quite a bit difference in opinion. This ends this review, thank you for reading.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (or CWCLVfDB) Is a film about a director who couldn't think of a title that could easily fit on a marquee. (But really that plot would be much better than the movie's actual plot)
Story - 5/10
While the overall theme of the story is very simple, two people looking to an old tale to help bring back those they've lost, it became very disjointed as the story went along.
At first the movie comes across as a slice of life meets loves story, as we're basically following Asuna on her daily routine, including meeting a young boy who saves her life, one that we assume she's attracted to as she feels connected to him and rushes around in hopes of seeing him again. After that plot point runs it's course the movie becomes about a cliche evil corporation looking for a way to find an entrance into the underground world of Agartha. Like the previous part of the movie this ends quickly, almost never to mentioned again. Pretty much the first third of the film is an excuse for getting these characters into Agartha, which is funny as the next two thirds is an excuse to create the creatures that inhabit Agartha.
Once in Agartha the story takes a clear path, as Asuna and her substitute teacher Mr. Morisaki search for the Gate of Life and Death. The problem is getting from point A to point B on that path. In an attempt to fill the drama void left by the cliche evil corporation being left on the surface, they decide to insert the equally cliche idea of evil violent humans destroying anything they can get their hands on and the peaceful inhabitants trying to keep them away (ironically by killing them).
Their time in Agartha ends with a nice conclusion of how one should be content with one's life instead of always looking backwards, but that lasts for about three seconds and then we're back to uselessness, with very little explained.
The film as a whole is the problem with having a single idea and having no way to explain it (like many of my reviews) Makoto Shinkai had a flash of inspiration and decided to create this film, when he only had enough ideas for a short.
Animation - 8/10
You can't even begin to talk about the animation in CWCLVfDB without starting with the background plates. They are some of the most beautifully created images in all of anime, heck all of animation. They look like master works of a great painter, with a stunning palate and a boarder-less flow.
Now on the other end of the spectrum are the characters themselves. They really just felt a bit to Disney, which is to say they are well constructed, but just very uninspired. I felt like i'd seen all the character's many times over. As with the characters the monsters that roam the landscape of the underworld are also very close to being Studio Ghibli-esc creatures. Their look and movement feel as if they were plucked from Spirited Away or Nausicaa, heck the cat Mimi is Teto from Nausicaa, eye color changes and all.
Sound - 4/10
The music for the series was northing special. It was nice orchestral fare, but nothing that would blow you out of the water. In truth I thought the closing song, Hello, Goodbye and Hello, might be one of the worst pieces of music in Anime, it's almost as if a computer was given the task of writing a song, so it just copied bits and pieces of hit songs and put them together, leaving out the idea that music is about feeling and soul…..also it's about not being extremely screechy and annoying.
The English voiceover cast was also severely lacking. From watching the making of Documentary you can see how much time was put into making sure the emotion of the characters came across in their voices, but in the english version that was missing. Most of the voices were tonally good, but they felt more read than acted.
Characters - 4/10
The characters leave much to be desired, as they have little to no background and equally little growth. For a movie that's nearly two hours long they got no where with these characters. We know Asuna is from a single parent home due to the death of her father and we know Mr. Morisaki has lost his wife, but instead of using the rest of that time to try and develop characters even slightly, they spent it with them just wandering around aimlessly, literally forty minutes of people walking around.
Despite Shun and Shin playing a big part in the story, we're left to pretty much create our own background for them.
For the most part the entire movie could have played out exactly the same way if the characters consisted of Mr. Morisaki and a bag of potatoes.
Overall - 5/10
I wanted to enjoy this film. I started by watching the making of documentary and that got me excited for a beautiful and interesting movie, or so I thought. While the beauty was there, everything else needed in a film just wasn't. It's obvious the writer had a big idea, but his ability to execute it, and the drawn out way he completed it, wasn't up to snuff. This seems like one of those cases where the overwhelming praise and perfect ratings were unfortunatly based off of a career and not this individual movie.
Already had issues BEFORE watching this.
Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo or Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is a movie directed by the one and only Makoto Shinkai. If you are familiar with his other works, you know that the pace is quite slow, and this movie is no different, though it picks up pace within about 20 or so minutes.
The story revolves around a young girl named Asuna and her temporary teacher, Ryuuji Morisaki. Asuna is an excellent student, who in her spare time, likes to listen to her "radio" with a strange cat-like creature she calls Mimi. One day, she meets an older boy by the name of Shun, who claims to be from a country called Agartha. According to Mr. Morisaki, several worlds exist underneath their own, and one of those happens to be Agartha, the world of life and death. These worlds are apparently mythical, but he is part of a team that investigates strange creatures said to be from these other worlds. Shun's brother, Shin, helps Asuna and Mr. Morisaki find their way to Agartha. Ryuuji believes that the God of the world will ressurect his dead wife; therefore, him and Asuna set out on their journey.
A lot of back story was not included involving Agartha, though effort was given. Time constraint may have been an issue, given that it IS a movie, and not a 12 to 24 episode series. While it was lacking, it definitely was not bad at all.
There was also a Ghibli-like vibe from this movie, but I don't think they executed it as well as they probably would have liked to. I saw major resemblances of Ghibli characters in the characters of this movie, which also was not necessarily a bad thing, but some people think they were trying to exactly copy Studio Ghibli.
The art style and animation have to best some of, if not the best I have ever seen in any film, even others Shinkai has done. There was never a moment in the film where I wasn't thinking "This is beautiful and buttery smooth". There are scenes that are so glossy looking to the point where they almost look doused in oil, which is why buttery smooth seemed like the perfect phrase. The transitions are solid--never stuttering for a moment, and the colors are bright and beautiful; I see no flaws whatsoever.
The sound in the beginning is not very notable. It is not until the middle of the film where the music begins to stand out. Though it takes a while, the music is nothing but amazing. The sound effects are fantastic as well. The only problem I really had was with Asuna's voice-- in both the sub and the dub. I found it too whiny and high pitched. I realized that she is a very young girl, but I just did not like her voice.
The one point where this movie was really lacking was with its characters. First of all, the designs were incredibly boring and unappealing. The only characters, no matter how minor they were, that stuck out were those from Agartha. The faces definitely resembled those in a Studio Ghibli movie, though there isn't anything wrong with that.
There was not much character development in this film. I thought that Ryuuji would have grown and would have changed his ideals by the climax, but he remained the same. Ryuuji seemed like the only person with a goal, but at the very end, he didn't REALLY accomplish it. Asuna served little to no purpose in the movie, or story, even though she is the main character. Shin was always helping her out, so I would have to say that him and Mimi were my favorite characters. (And Manna, even if she wasn't there for very long; she was just too cute to not like).
Overall, this definitely was not a waste of time, by any means. The story, as mentioned, was good. It may be a little confusing at times, but I think they did a pretty great job at conveying what they wanted. It isn't as slow as other Shinkai movies such as 5 Centimeters Per Second, or Garden of Words, so even if you did or didn't enjoy those, the change of pace is appreciated. The art and animation are enough to watch this film (over and over). Seriously. It is absolutely breath-taking, and I may find myself returning to this film at some point just to experience the beauty that Shinkai created. While the characters and the world didn't feel as fleshed out as they could have (or should have) been, the movie is still a great watch.