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Children Who Chase Lost Voices(2011)
When she hears a strange song from a crystal radio, Asuna tunes into more than just a magical stream of music. Soon, she is transported to a mysterious world where mythical beasts roam and brave warriors fight for their lives. Agartha is a land of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable danger-a place where, it is believed, even the dead can be brought back to life. But at what cost? Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a spellbinding new work from Japanese visionary Makoto Shinkai, who amazed audiences the world over with Voices of A Distant Star and 5 Centimeters per Second. Now, with Children, Shinkai affirms his place as one of animation's most original voices.
For more about Children Who Chase Lost Voices and the Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray release, see Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 30, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hisako Kanemoto, Miyu Irino, Kazuhiko Inoue, Junko Takeuchi, Fumiko Orikasa, Sumi Shimamoto
Director: Makoto Shinkai
» See full cast & crew
Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 30, 2012
Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki may not have a monopoly on gorgeously animated quasi-folktales that often have a serenely meditative spirit, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who can better do what Ghibli has been doing for years. Makato Shinkai is a thirty-something Japanese animator who obviously grew up loving the works of Miyazaki and is now creating some lustrous pieces of his own. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (which has been released globally under a number of different titles) is Shinkai's latest, and it is a piece that easily could have come from the ranks of Studio Ghibli. Luckily Shinkai is not a mere mimic and invests this film with its own very unique spirit. This lovely film echoes the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in a way, and in fact one early scene has a Japanese teacher relating an ancient Japanese myth that sounds pretty much exactly like the Orpheus story, with a distraught man journeying to the underworld to reclaim his dead wife, only to lose her through his own stupidity in not heeding the warning not to look at her before they both manage to get back to the above ground level. As in many (frankly probably even most, if not all) of the Studio Ghibli classics, our hero is a young child, in this case sweet if sad Asuna, a girl who is a top student despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that her father has died and she is forced not just to deal with not having him any longer, but also with the fact that her mother is very busy with her nursing job and can't attend to Asuna as much as would be preferable. Also like many Ghibli films, Children Who Chase Lost Voices exults in a sort of languorous, almost meditative, quality that exploits ambient environmental sounds and the calming environment of the Japanese countryside. All of that is left by the wayside, however, once Asuna finds herself traveling through the Japanese version of Tartarus, an underground lair where spirits commingle with weird creatures and a race of people who don't take kindly to their lair being visited by a "top sider".
Again like many Ghibli films we're entranced by the slow, almost hypnotic world of our heroine as the film opens. The sun shines brightly, school is going well (aside from a scary story of a bear loose in the outlying neighborhoods) and Asuna, despite her emotional difficulties, seems like a relatively well adjusted, and obviously very self sufficient, little girl. Like many kids, she has her own secret hideaway place, a high ledge overlooking the sylvan beauty of her village, and a place where she brings a special receiver she's built that is able to pick up some strange apparently celestial music that Asuna loves to listen to. One day as she's crossing the railroad bridge to get to this "secret garden", she encounters a beast that is most definitely not a bear and which seems intent on killing her. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a young man appears who protects Asuna and managesŚjust barelyŚto vanquish the huge creature.
Asuna and the young man, who has been wounded in the battle, develop a quick friendship, though the young man remains mysterious and aloof, and ultimately apparently commits suicide by jumping off of the ledge where Asuna has often gone for refuge. In the meantime Asuna's new teacher has begun talking about the legendary underworld region known as Agartha, and when Asuna presses him one afternoon, reveals that he's positive Asuna's savior was a denizen of that region. Without spoiling too many of the convoluted (but easy to understand) plot points, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Asuna manages to journey to Agartha, as does her teacher, both of them searching for dead loved ones with whom they can hopefully reunite.
There was a famous book that came out in the nineteenth century by Sir James G. Frazer entitled The Golden Bough which sought to show correspondences between various cultures' mythologies, in a sort of pre-Joseph Campbell (or even Jungian) attempt to prove that there was almost something inherently and almost genetically structural in the way people created folktales of yore. There's that same pan-cultural approach in many of the elements utilized in Children Who Chase Lost Voices. Aside from the references to Greek myths like Orpheus and Eurydice (as mentioned earlier in this review), and the outright use of the word Agartha for the underworld, several other cultures' tales and/or creatures creep into the story, including the use of the term Quetzelcoatl to name the giant beasts like the one Asuna encounters on the train trestle.
An undeniably melancholic flavor inhabits much of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, something that makes its ravishing visual beauty both ironic and somehow more powerful. Asuna's teacher, Morisaki, is an obviously distraught man who is unable to cope with the death of his wife, while Asuna appears on the surface at least to have dealt with the death of her father. But once these two are exploring Agartha, it becomes obvious that this land is just as roiled with dissent and conflict as any place on the Earth's surface, and both of the characters find themselves at odds with various elements. The film has a tendency to bog down in this section, with perhaps one or two too many "perils" that Asuna gets waylaid by, only to be saved by the little brother of the mysterious young man who saved her from the beast on the bridge.
Still this is an often affecting and effective animated feature that casts a very unique spell and manages to sustain a mood of appropriately mythic grandiosity even as it tells a fairly simple story. For those who may have been a little bit disappointed by The Secret World of Arrietty (certainly an enjoyable Ghibli outing, but one which perhaps didn't have quite the magic of earlier entries), Children Who Chase Lost Voices should renew their faith that there are awesome anime talents working in Japan who have only begun to offer us their rather formidable wares.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray, Video Quality
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. As wonderful as so many of the CGI outings by Disney ľ Pixar or DreamWorks or any number of other entities may be, there's still something so inherently charming about well done hand drawn animation that when something as patently gorgeous as this film comes on the screen, it's like suddenly waking up in a new and magical world. Line detail is phenomenally strong throughout this enterprise, and colors are bold and striking. Backgrounds are often just this side of Impressionistic, but still retain vivid detail and an often lustrous palette. Character designs are very distinctive (especially once we get underground in Agartha). This is simply beautiful animation delivered beautifully by this high definition presentation. Any Ghibli fan is going to be very well pleased by the look of this film.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both Children Who Chase Lost Voices' original Japanese language track as well as a very good English dub are presented via lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes. The dynamic range on both of these mixes is exceedingly wide. We get everything from the soothing buzz of cicadas (a sound that flits around the surrounds with lifelike vigor) to the roar of the Quetzlcoatl beasts. Immersion is very well handled, both in some subtle ambient environmental sounds (which are virtually nonstop throughout the film) as well as more obviously directional discrete foley effects. Dialogue is very cleanly and clearly presented and the film's charming underscore also sounds fantastic.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Children Who Chase Lost Voices Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's been kind of a rough fall for this reviewer, what with one lackluster anime offering after another. But maybe there's hope after all: just in the past week I've had the pleasure of watching both C Control The Money and Soul of Possibilty: Complete Series and now Children Who Chase Lost Voices, two radically different pieces that have nonetheless restored my faith that there are actually anime creators out there dedicated to providing quality product. It's kind of interesting that both of these pieces, as different as they are, are somewhat derivative in either content or style, but that doesn't diminish the impact either had, and in fact seeing Children Who Chase Lost Voices in a sort of meta-Ghibli context only helps to appreciate it more. This is a wonderfully told story with absolutely gorgeous animation. Highly recommended.
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