Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo) 2011
I think Children Who Case Lost Voices stands out in Makoto Shinkai’s filmography as the one with the biggest scope. To date, it’s also his last ‘adventure’ story perhaps, since the movies that followed put relationships in the foreground.
Children Who Case Lost Voices is far more ‘sweeping’ with multiple storylines and various players engaged in big conflicts – though the narrative does mostly zoom down to focus on schoolgirl Asuna as she tries to uncover the mysteries of Agartha – the land of the dead. I’ve simplified the plot there but despite the fantastical elements, it’s still a story of very personal stakes for the lead characters.
And wow, the imagination on display here is so fantastic – I remember being so excited at the time, in part because the film was another ‘original concept’ work and I’d love to see more of them, as opposed to mostly watching adaptations. If you’ve never come across Children who Chase Lost Voices then my mini rave about the imagination of the film – things like the creepy Izoku, the Quetzalcoatl or the Ark of Life – won’t appear as more than a list of empty nouns, but so much about the story strikes a great balance between familiar and unusual, especially in regard to the setting of Agartha itself.
The flipside to all the immersive world-building is that the audience doesn’t always know what means what, when certain events happen or why characters act a specific way, and at times, rather than create a pleasant sense of anticipatory curiosity, that can set you adrift. You don’t necessarily always want to be spoon-fed as a viewer, but nor do we always want the opposite either. That happened for me at times but the visuals and the pacing kept me going and usually, within a few scenes the film gave me the context I needed.
Possibly my favourite Makoto Shinkai feature film but I haven’t had a chance to see Weathering with You yet so I guess I’d better reserve judgement for just a little longer!
Random sidenote: Not sure if I’m way off now, and I’m having to rely on my memory of the time – but I think the film comes right after emo culture peaked in many places, and to some extent the angst and deep discontent of that sub-culture seems to have fed into characters within Children Who Case Lost Voices. Again, maybe I’m reaching with that claim but I’m thinking of Shun here at least.
I think it’s also easy to see where a certain amount of anime aesthetic fed into the emo scene and vice-a-versa too, though no single culture lives in a vacuum of course. I wonder if I should do some real research and try to see if there’s anything there… perhaps one day.