Voices of a Distant Star

Having thoroughly enjoyed both The Place Promised in our Early Days (Canada, USA, Europe) and 5 cm per Second (Canada, USA, Europe), I was eager to watch Makoto Shinkai's debut. All the more so because the entire project had been produced on his own on his Mac. Given the means used to create this short film, I was expecting something a bit amateurish. So you can understand the surprise I felt when I discovered that it was visually as good as most Japanese animated features I've seen thus far.

Now, I'm no expert on the matter, but I do know that animated films are a collaborative effort involving a ton of people of various skills. The fact that Shinkai produced Voices of a Distant Star by himself using a vulgar Mac computer leaves me speechless. Fate sometimes works in mysterious ways, and Makoto Shinkai was friends with the talented Tenmon who worked with him on vedeo games on the past, and he provided the soundtrack for this one.

Here's the blurb:

This startling short anime feature was created entirely by one person, Maktoto Shinkai, on his home computer. Beautifully animated, VOICES OF A DISTANT STAR is the story of a young woman named Mikako and an alien race's attack on the human race. Feeling that she must help protect the Earth, Mikako leaves her true love, Noboru, and joins the resistance as a pilot. Sent to the far reaches of space, Mikako can only communicate to Noboru by cell-phone text messages. As time goes on, the messages take longer and longer to get one another, eventually taking a year or more. So, as Mikako lives and fights in the vacuum of space, staying the same age, Noboru waits and gets older, hoping that their love can survive the passage of time and the brutal war.

One of the most interesting aspects of Voices of a Distant Star is that it's kind of a genesis to both The Place Promised in our Early Days and 5 cm per Second. It explores the same themes, both visually and story-wise. Love, how wonderful and bittersweet it can be, remains the strongest theme of the work. Trains, for some reason, appear to be something Shinkai enjoy picturing. And you can see him tinkering with lighting and backgrounds.

Given the fact that this short film was created on one man's home computer, it's visually impeccable. Not as impressive as the two works that would follow in the wake of Voices of a Distant Star, yet incredible when one considers the means used to produce this flick. With a budget of about 0$, the final product is unbelievable.

As always, the Tenmon soundtrack captures the mood perfectly, adding an extra texture to a work that his both emotional and gorgeous.

Makoto Shinkai takes the concept of a long-distance relationship to a whole new level. Too bad Voices of a Distant Star only lasts 30 minutes. . . This one might be hard to find at video stores, but you won't have to look far and wide to find it on the internet.

Not surprisingly, this one won a bunch of awards.

Here's the trailer:

And because I'm a sucker for melancholy piano pieces, here's another beauty from Tenmon:

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

12 commentaires:


This was the first anime I bought after seeing it as a rental. For a very frugal person that's saying a lot. :)

Anonymous said...

It's decent, but not on a par with the others like you say. You can tell that Makoto Shinkai is a master of backgrounds and lighting but the design and animation of his characters are what I feel his art team for the following films took over.
Still, it's a good short film, though I always feel it owes a lot to The Forever War which is an amazing book.
Incidentally, I've always felt that the major theme of his works, more so than love, is separation. :)


Anonymous said...

Oh... another thing... if you do a search on the web you can find the story that he wrote for this. It goes further than the film does but I won't say what happens because of spoilers for others.
It's worth checking out though.


Anonymous said...

Not everybody goes around stealing crap from others. Which is not to say that isn't a long-standing and respectable literary tradition (long as it ain't plagiarism).

The character designs where a little simplistic, but I've noticed Shinkai tends towards scenery and background across all his works. Which is good and bad. I love great character designs, but the non-character visuals are just so darn awesome.

This was the second Shinkai production I watched, after 5cm, and considering how it was made, it's quite impressive. I really wish there had been more to it. Still haven't gotten to the manga, but I plan to.

Ramah, the "separation/mono no aware" theme is definitely one of the stronger themes in his work. I think it's about equal to "love", though. There's nothing saying you can't have two central themes.

Tree Frog said...

You should watch the 6 episode run of FLCL. Six episodes was its entire run. Apparently intended too.

It's fantastic stuff and it's short enough to be easily digested in a couple days. Not a big project this one, and it's pretty dang rewarding too.

Simeon said...

In terms of atmosphere Shinkai is amazing. But when it comes to substance, I find him lacking in a MAJOR way.

Anonymous said...


Could you exapnd on that?

Simeon said...

I'm not sure if I can. It's just that his works are very introvert, very intimate in feeling. And usually this kind of atmosphere is used to actually say something. But his stuff (and I've seen everything he's done but his last movie) seems to only try to be beautiful. I don't get any meaning out of this atmosphere, and it's not enough in itself for me.

Anonymous said...


Fair enough.

I'd be interested in hearing about some works with this atmosphere that do "say something". :) Any suggestions?

Simeon said...

Hmm, not with THIS exact atmosphere, no. At least not off the top of my head. Maybe Ghibli's "Only Yesterday" could compare, but it's not SF, so I'm not sure about the comparison.

Then again, if Shinkai's work wasn't pretty unique, he wouldn't be so famous now, would he? Still, let me get back to you on this one.

Anonymous said...

I, on the other hand, think that the conveyment of an emotional development and, as you say, atmosphere is substance in itself, and I think that Shinkai doesn't succumb to pure beauty for its own sake, at least I see many subtle "subversive" elements as well, just think of the ending of 5cm per second, which is even bleak in (beautiful) way.

Anonymous said...

Or put differently, it's when I see intelligence, grace and wisdom in every element, without necessarily having a definite interpretation, that discussions about "substance" become meaningless. There simply are such styles, and I can accept it.