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Hoshi o Ou Kodomo - A Film Review
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Laz
Laz


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:09 am    Post subject: Hoshi o Ou Kodomo - A Film Review  Reply with quote

Hi Folks,

I was very fortunate to be able to view the Premier of the new film by Makoto Shinkai at Otakon this past weekend. It was awesome that Shinkai and CoMix Wave Films were able to do this. Throughout Otakon Shinkai was giving autographs and had Q&A sessions (we'll talk about those later .. I promise). Shinkai was very available to the fans of Otakon and I know that the event made a great impression on him (we'll talk about that later as well).

So .. on to the Film and my review. I've been thinking about how best to communicate my thoughts on the film, so this may jump around a little. I will try not to give anything away and instead speak in general terms.

The films main character is Asuna, a young girl living in a rural area of Japan. She lives at home with her mother and her pet cat Mimi. Her mother works a lot so Asuna spends a great deal if time by herself. Mostly, she spends her time out in the woods listening to some mysterious sounds that she can hear through her home-made radio. Asuna is a girl who is always running. You can tell that the small village she lives in is too small for her. She does not settle for the everyday life.

The story progresses when Asuna meets a strange boy (Shun) who rescues her from a mysterious creature. This relationship is the spark that  eventually causes Asuna to make the journey that will change her as well as her fellow travelers (one a man grieving over the loss of someone very dear to him, the other, a boy resembling Shun .. or is he Shun?).

Every journey story needs a location. The location for Asuna is the land of Argatha. If you Google Agartha, it is part of a "hollow earth" theory. Consider Agartha, something like Atlantis ... a place or a culture that is ancient and a place that might have been the genesis for all legend, a place that still holds many secrets and powers. You definitely get the feel of this with the various names and words used as they borrow from Spanish, Latin, etc. cultures. Agartha holds something for each of the travelers ... each of them has a reason for going ... accept Asuna. It is this discovery of "self" and "purpose" in each of the characters and eventually Asuna that leads to conflict and resolution.

This is a complex story with many layers for the viewer. I can't wait to watch it over and over to get more of the meanings.

My initial reaction when the film ended was ... "Whoa ... what the heck was that?" ... it was a lot to process. This wasn't as easy to connect with like 5 CM of Voices ... this was the way I felt after watching A Place Promised.

For all those folks who wondered "When is Shinkai going to do something different?" .. well, here you go. Some of the familiar Shinkai themes are still there ... the cat Mimi, the amazing scenery and sky scenes, the play of light and of course the music (once again masterfully done by Tenmon). But more noticeable are some of the things missing that we've grown to expect. Gone are the character narratives ... where scenes are almost explained by the characters. Instead, you have a true move from the sense of observing a story unfold rather than being led through the story by a narrator. The character design is less vague and definitely more "Ghibli-like". The scenery is more "fantastic" and Shinkai builds the world of Agartha and adds wonderful detail, thanks to his many travels for providing influences from the Middle East to Europe to Central America. The feel of the movie is much different too ... more mature. The music, for example, uses a much fuller orchestra. The sounds of the solo violin in A Place Promised or the piano in Voices, have been replaced with a bigger more fuller sound. There's definitely a montage towards the end, reminiscent of 5 CMs and the signature song that serves as the subtle theme for the rest of the score is still there. I was happy that again, Shinkai end's the main story with a signature tagline (which will be used in a future Shinkai Day, of course Smile).

FYI ... when you watch the film ... make sure you watch through all of the credits. The resolution to the story plays itself out in quick vignettes throughout the credits.

Ok ... after all that being said ... what did I think? I really liked the movie a lot Smile  I'm not saying it's the perfect movie but I think it shows real growth for Shinkai. The characters were likable, though I'm not sure Asuna is as easy to connect to as someone like Kanae or Takaki were. It's more subtle than the previous movies. I guess you will connect to Asuna but not right off the bat ... it's like, you don't know you're connecting.

I don't think there are definite plans in place to release the DVD over here .. it will probably be released in Japan first. Get it and watch it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the film.

I hope I didn't give any spoilers away.

I've got a lot to catch up on with the other events at Otakon ... so I'll be busy getting that on here this week. As I mentioned in my Tweets, the weekend culminated with my wife and I going to dinner with Shinkai and the other CoMix Wave Film folks. I got some wonderful swag (sound track and tapestry) and of course time to share a lot of conversation and laughs with Shinkai.

More to come ...

Laz

P.S. I reserve the right to make updates as more comes to mind.
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Laz
Laz


Joined: 09 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 1:33 am    Post subject: Reflections on my first meeting with Shinkai-san Reply with quote

It's been about a year and a half since I was lucky enough to drop by the CoMix Wave Film offices and chat with Shinkai-san and meet some of the other CoMix Wave Films staff.

Back then I was shocked when asking Shinkai-san about the new film ... he pulled out the sketch book and storyboards and let me look through them.  I can tell you that what I saw was entirely different from what I was used to seeing from 5 CM and A Place Promised. The scenery was definitely more of a "fantasy" setting, the character designs were most definitely Ghibli influenced. I saw these pictures of strange creatures and desolate scenery and I honestly didn't know how Shinkai-san was going to pull it off.

As I've said from my review, I feel that he pulled it off.

During the Q&A sessions Shinkai-san was asked about the influences in the film ... he identified several ...

1. His time in the MIddle East. Wayyyy back at the beginning of this Forum, a member from Jordan (I believe) posted about how he met Shinkai at an event in Jordan. Shinkai-san said that his time in the Middle East and the ruins and architecture definitely played a role in shaping the world of Agartha. Even more than the specific shapes of things, you get the sense that he was impressed that as he said ... there were 4000 yr old ruins with kids playing Soccer around them. Coming from a society like Japan where cities are new things are new ... that sense of ruin and history was something that struck a chord.

2. His time in London. Shinkai-san stated that he spent a lot of time at the Museums in London and he noted a specific exhibit of Quetzl Cuatl and the representation of that being in Central American legend.

3. Ghibli films. You can't help but feel the Miyazaki influence in this film. My wife made the comment that some of the creatures in the movie were something you'd see in Mononoke or Nausicaa. I even asked SHinkai-san about a certain character in his movie that looked very similar to Myazaki. SHinkai-san said that that similarity was not on purpose ... but I wouldn't be surprised if it had been an homage to Miyazaki. I don't feel that Shinkai-san was ripping of Ghibli/Miyazaki as much as maybe a recognition that it is the archetype for this kind of scope of storytelling. Shinkai-san, like Icarus dares to fly close to that Miyazaki/Ghibli sun and I think he makes it back with his wings intact.

In one of the Q&A Sessions Shinkai-san and his producer mentioned that some of the reviews of his film have been great and some have even called it his worst film. I think this is the film where Shinkai-san goes from indie anime creator to major storyteller .. or at least takes a big step in that direction.

It was wonderful to see how all those crazy images and character designs and creatures made their way from the page to the screen and came together to tell a wonderful yet complex story.

More to come,
Laz
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You're a woman, I'm a calf ... you're a window, I'm a knife ... we come together making chance into starlight ... - Jeff Buckley

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zitch
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd say that this films sounds more and more like a major turning point in Shinkai's career, but in reality, every one of his films was a major turning point.  He does so few films, yet they are all high-quality films.  And he does something different with each one; different enough to lose some fans of his earlier works who would complain that he lost something with each new film, I.E.:

1) The loss of the poetic feel from She and Her Cat to Voices of a Distant Star
2) The loss of conciseness of his storytelling from Voices to The Place Promised in Our Early Days
3) The loss of the ending tagline Wink and the complexity of the backstory and setting from Place Promised to 5 Centimeters Per Second

Yet, with each new film, Shinkai is gaining new fans.  As for me, yes, The Place Promised is my most loved of his work, but I was still blown away watching 5 Centimeters Per Second. By the sounds of your review, Laz, it sounds like Shinkai brought back the layered storytelling of Place Promised, which makes me very want to see it even more.  Well, I know I'll be importing the Bluray when it comes out, crappy financial situation or not.

Anyways, thanks for the updates, Laz. Really wished I could have gone there and met ya'll, but that's how it goes. Hopefully next time Shinkai comes to the U.S., I'll be in a better position to be able to go.
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Laz
Laz


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Zitch,

I don't know that he's going to lose the existing fan base. I know a few folks asked him about that ... that this film didn't make them want to cry the whole time. This is a movie with an uplifting intent ... though there are some dark themes.

I think the biggest casualty of those you mentioned would be the poetic feel or pace to the film. But I think what you get in trade for that is a fair trade.

The film definitely is complex .. and I know I missed some of the context of the film because I was not able to read all the subtitles.

The more I think of the themes and the story an the complex characters, the more I want to say it again.

One of the real intersting things Shinkai said in a Q&A session was when he was asked about one of partner's on the journey. Shinkai described him as ... what if Takaki and Akari had gotten together and then Takaki lost her ... this character is how Shinkai thought Takaki would be and react. That was really deep.

Anyway ... more to still post about.

Laz
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You're a woman, I'm a calf ... you're a window, I'm a knife ... we come together making chance into starlight ... - Jeff Buckley

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Laz
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 12:17 am    Post subject: More of a critical review Reply with quote

So,

I read a review over at Ogiue Maniax and he had some good points about the film and I thought back to my feelings while watching. So here are some of the things I thought that might need to be improved.

1. Slow Start - I think this is where Shinkai will learn to tighten up this kind of film. The previous films, I feel, set the hook on the viewer much quicker. This movie took a little longer for the real plot to take off. I think if the movie could be shortened anywhere it would be here.

2. A lot of layers - I think the film would have been just as good without some of the layers and back stories involved. At one point there are some flashbacks and I think the back story could've either ben cut out or told in a smoother way.

3. Empathy for the main character. I think goes hand in hand with the slow start. It took a while before I made a connection with the main character. She didnt immediately present something that I could connect with. I think  if this connection with the character and the viewer were done earlier it would be better.

That being said, these items I overlooked once the film got going. There were a few times I thought ... what the heck just happened? but not many.

Anyway, I love Shinkai's works and I know I'm a little biased ... this film is good but it's not perfect. I'm excited to see it on BluRay and to hear more from Shinkai.

Laz
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*...Haruka Yume...*
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I...I just saw it, at least i think i did...
Dunno what i was expecting. Being a shinkai movie, it was bound to be way beyond my expectations, but i just don't know. from ur previous post Laz "My initial reaction when the film ended was ... "Whoa ... what the heck was that?" ... it was a lot to process. This wasn't as easy to connect with like 5 CM of Voices ... this was the way I felt after watching A Place Promised. " EXACTLY... i'm sure alot of things will be placed right and i'll be able to talk about it better once everything settles down, but right now my mind is going through a lot.

*Spoiler Alert*

of course again i'm blown away by the miniature details that are put in every scene and Asuna's house, the art of Agartha is absolutely unbelievable, heck i come from the middle east but this is far more artistic, far more complex, the way plants swerve and the bushes in the water, the starless sky... every scene of Agartha is a piece of art!

I could make out the themes vaguely only by keeping up with the plot, and i know after some time more i'll be able to possess a bigger picture and see it more clearly, but I can relate to Morisaki (sensei)'s obsession, the denial one feels after the death of a loved one, and the unrelenting desire to spend more time with them, one can feel that it is no longer love that guides him but an obsession too much for him stop. Really, the whole concept of 'death of a loved one' is everywhere in the movie, Asuna's dad, Shun, even Mimi, i think that was the main message, the whole moving on thing, but yeah, like you said also, it was ambiguous and swept away in the middle of the other themes, maybe it should have been so, i don't know, but that's the main thing that remains of the movie at this point.

Tenmon's music is out of this world as usual, brilliant in every way, and the ending song hello goodbye and hello, when i downloaded it before the movie i couldn't really relate to it very well, so the whole repetition of 'hello goodbye and hello' got to my nerves a bit, but now i think it's perfect for the movie, all the lyrics go by the movie really well, '...i met you so now i'll say goodbye' , '...hello to the world without you'...i really love it now

I guess the movie is as good as a shinkai movie can me, hence it's brilliant, i still feel 5 cm to be his masterpiece, and in fact i must say this, i thought the seiyuu wasn't really the best it can be, the connection with the characters i think could have been better established had there been better heartfelt voice acting, especially near the end, i kinda felt they didn't understand what they're saying, so they just said it, this as coming from the man who gave us She and Her Cat that can summon everything inside me that's ever beautiful by the calm soothing voice of Makoto himself narrating the movie, is the only weakness i can readily distinguish.
Also the entire abandoning of the voice of narration that was found in the 4 other movies (even Place Promised had narration), is probably why this one felt least like a Shinkai film.

i must also add just one more thing, the scene of Asuna's dream where Shun's hand gets cut off..that was...i received the greatest shock and jolt i could have received in a Shinkai movie, they must have been in a really bad mood when they decided to add something like that, the element of blood is fine, but this..this was too much


okay, so i'm really not over the mesmerising effect of this movie yet, and i don't know when i'll be, but right now the overall feeling is contentment mixed with these weird come and go doubts about it. i like it, i love it, i really do, i just have to figure it out better, that's all.  ^^
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Laz
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haruka ... so you had the same reaction as me.

SPOILER ALERT

I've been dying to ask someone who's seen the movie this .... as I didn't really make this connection until I thought about the film. But the crystal that Asuna uses to hear the voices with her "radio" ... that turns out to be a "clavis" meaning that Asuna's father was someone who had come from Agartha to the surface.

Did you make that connection when watching the film? I think that was a huge thread that I didn't really get until I thought about it more.

Where and how did you get to see the film?

Yaaaa .. someone to talk about the film with Smile

Laz
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maagik
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

I have waited for this movie for 2 years so my expectations  were huge. I loved Makoto Shinkai's movies after seeing Byousoku 5cm, all the connections we can observe within film, subject matter, music... His movies  are meaning of "awesome".

Frankly speaking I didn't expect that Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below may be better than Byousoku, but even that I couldn't wait till movie released.  Finally I've seen it today at night. I found it at some website at 1 a.m. and couldn't wait to the morning.

I think we all haven't found all the connections in this film. I said so, because I've watched Byousoku for 10~ times and every time I noticed a new connection. I'm sure Children~ is full of them too.

My opinion about this film is undeniably positive. It wasn't better than Byousoku as I expected but it was really great and it tells story about really important matters. Important matters described with unreal (?) monsters and worlds - it shows genius of Makoto Shinkai.

Laz, I didn't make that connections as well Razz What is more, I'm wondering about some others motives and words.

I'm wondering what 'journey' is. Also I can't understand Elder's words at all. He said:

"Everyone set out on their journey as a heartfelt cry for help. If only somebody had been able to stop them."

Ending says that 'journey' starts when "I meet you", but earlier I thought that journey is a path which started after reaching Agartha, so I'm really confused now :<

Moreover I am curious why Mr Morisaki stayed in Agartha...

P.S. Ending was really nice, but not as great as one more time ^^
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Laz
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm so excited that more people are seeing the film.

I can finally talk about it with people who've seen it.

Laz
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*...Haruka Yume...*
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

of course, and that explains why those Iza-something(Izaku?) creatures kidnapped Asuna and Manna because they both had as said 'defiled' blood, but Manna having a Topsider father rather than a Topsider mother like Asuna. it's so obvious, why didn't i think of it before?

the thing that i really can't quite figure out is regarding Shun and Shin, why did Shun leave Agartha for the surface, and what did he mean when he said that Asuna was the person he came up for...also in the credits how did Shin have Asuna's scarf in the end around his arm, is that supposed to confuse us more between Shin and Shun...

there's lots of stuff that should have been explained or at least appear like they're supposed to be secrets to be revealed, like what makes Asuna so special, is it because her father was from Agartha? if yes, then why not let her make that self discovery in the end or in the movie? why leave us to figure it out? she obviously misses her father, did she realise who he was in the end? and why not tell us?...it's just that the movie's end is a bit jumbled, it seems as if she didn't really gain much from her trip down to Agartha except maybe the friendship of Shin, even the concept of farewell isn't fully explored. the ending could have been expanded a lot more


and yeah, i watched it on animecrazy, it's been on since saturday, Kamina777 was kind enough to upload with subs


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