Posted by psgels on 10 December 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews

Makoto Shinkai got famous for his movies and short films that were just completely unique and unlike anything else in anime. I always found it really hard to judge these movies, but there is one thing that I want to praise all of them for: their sense of distance.Even after watching so many anime, I never encountered any other anime that portrayed that so well and indescribably.

Now even though I’m saying this: Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo is completely different from his previous work. Apart from She and Her Cat they were all simple romances. This is an adventure movie. In fact, Makoto Shinkai watched a lot of Ghibli movies inbetween directing this one and 5cm/Second, and this really can be viewed as his portrayal of a ghibli movie. With that, I’m not saying that it’s a Ghibli-rip off, by the way. This movie definitely takes the

classic Ghibli style into a different direction compared to Miyazaki’s change over the past 10 years. Clocking in at two hours, this is a slow-paced adventure movie about a random schoolgirl and teacher of her. It makes use of its slow pacing by animating the two characters very life-like. The acting is very realistic without any weaknesses or bad lines. The world it takes place in is very creative and full of ideas, and feels very believable for a fantasy world. A lot of work went into making the characters easy to relate to here, and Makoto Shinkai really succeeded in this.

This movie definitely is more accessible than Makoto Shinkai’s previous movies. That does have its downsides, though. The sense of distance that I mentioned above: this movie has it too, but while the previous movies gave unique interpretations to this theme, in this movie it simply turns into “death”, which has a bit less substance and has been done before many times. And unfortunately, better. Overall the biggest flaw of this movie that it seems to lack a bit of substance here and there. Its messages are simple, the characters are simple, and the setting, instead of going in-depth on one of its ideas instead remains on the surface with a bunch of ideas inspired by random ancient cultures, ranging from Middle America to ancient south-west Asia. It’s pretty much a family movie… for a bit of an older audience than usual, perhaps. This does have gore, so if your son or daughter can’t stand blood then you might want to give this movie a pass.

What stands out the most here are the visuals. Oh my god, these are gorgeous. This movie is two hours long and absolutely chock full of all sorts of visual ideas. I mean, like I said: Makoto Shinkai is inspired by Ghibli this time, but it still is undoubtedly a Makoto Shinkai movie. The artistic direction is a brilliant blend of the two styles and while the budget of this movie may not be as big as your average Ghibli movie, the animation is still very life-like, some frames are incredibly fluid, and the background art is just absolutely fantastic. Here, he actually surpassed Ghibli with its sheer versatility.

And really, this isn’t one of those movies that are all style and no substance. It still stands out as a very solid and enjoyable movie, but I do feel that Makoto Shinkai could have gone more in depth to his material.

Storytelling: 8/10 – Believable storytelling, slow but very good pacing and kept my attention through the whole movie.
Characters: 8/10 – Realistic characters, albeit a bit one-sided.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Amazing background art.
Setting: 8/10 – Imaginative, though not very deep.

Suggestions:
Yona Yona Penguin
Gedo Senki
Princess Mononoke

12 Responses

  1. Avatar Firechick says:

    I think this movie is supposed to go in depth about getting over the loss of someone instead of just death in itself. Lots of people cope with loss in different ways. Shin lost Shun and copes by fighting, Asuna lost her father and managed to get along fine, Morisaki lost his wife and wants to bring her back, and Manna, the little girl whom Asuna helps, lost her mother and has stopped speaking (speaking of which, did you know the character designer for Konnichiwa Anne worked on this, and that the little girl is voiced by Anne’s seiyuu? Hidaka-sama!! <3). I loved this movie to death. I don't care if people think it's a Ghibli rip-off.

  2. Avatar VyseLegend says:

    Alot of people crapped all over this movie saying its shallow/Ghibli ripoff, what have you. I agree with your review for the most part, however. Overall I thought this was a pretty good movie but its not exactly revolutionary or anything.

  3. Avatar gan says:

    Have u seen 5 centimeters per second psgels?I was looking for your review on it but couldn’t find it. (Asked because these 2 are from the same directors right?)

  4. psgels psgels says:

    gan: I watched it, but indeed couldn’t write a review about it. It’s an udescribable movie that does one thing really, really well, and yet felt a bit empty.

    And yeah, obviously this is inspired by Ghibli, but I believe that nowadays people are way too quick in labelling something a rip-off. This movie had enough points that made it stand apart from Ghibli.

  5. Avatar gandalf8 says:

    For me, this movie could be surmised in one sentence :- astounding animation and artwork with a well-worn but still interesting setting let down by its weakly characterized cast, an inefficiently developed storyline, and an unsatisfying conclusion to a few of the plot threads.

  6. Avatar andrea says:

    Come on, there is a scene taken straight from Princess Mononoke when the boy cuts his hair and goes off with the horse while saying goodbye to his girl. It’s the EXACT same scene. This is worse than Gedo Senki

    • psgels psgels says:

      If we’re going to label individual scenes: how many Ghibli movies visibly cut off the hand of one of their underaged characters? How many Ghibli movies are about a giant hole in the ground? How many Ghibli movies are about a teacher who works as a hitman and wants to bring back his dead wife? In the same way you can criticize 5cm/Second for having teenaged romance in it.

      • Avatar andrea says:

        It doesn’t make any sense to pick small things from the movie that are not in the Ghibli ones. Who cares if there are not giant holes and hitmen\teachers in Ghibli products. But anyway

        The giant hole is just a variation on the forbidden land where you gain a long forgotten dangerous power like the castle in the sky from Laputa

        In Princess Mononoke the main character cuts either an arm or a head (I don’t remember which one right now) off an enemy, and he himself is at risk of losing his hand during the whole movie

        And really, asking me for a resemblance as specific as a hitman\teacher is just silly and forced. But there are plenty of characters in Ghibli that seem to be evil at first and show later on their good side.

        These things don’t really matter; the point is, a good chunk of this movie was (badly) ripped off from Ghibli movies, and whatever Makoto Shinkai ended up adding was bad, resulting for an overall mediocre film.

        • Avatar Wyrdwad says:

          The hair being cut off is not actually unique to Princess Mononoke. It’s an aspect of traditional Japanese literature that’s been seen in more anime, games and novels than you can count. Final Fantasy IX, for example, has Princess Garnet cutting her hair in exactly the same fashion. It’s symbolic of giving up one’s innocent, spoiled life and setting out to blaze a new trail toward the future. Calling out Shinkai for “copying” this from Princess Mononoke is no different than calling out Miyazaki for “copying” it from any number of classic Japanese poems.

  7. Avatar jzar says:

    Shinkai took inspiration and exact parts from Miyazaki’s work and yet where he tried to be creative with his story telling he failed. The art is wonderful but the story telling was so poor that it hurt the film. The main characters where fine but none of the actions felt real to me.

    I’ve encountered this kind of thing before, one of my old art directors brought in an ‘original’ story, that was almost exactly the star wars story. It was hard to get him to change it. He thought it was great. Thankfully the producer didn’t give him a green light and we avoided making that script.

    I don’t mind derivative art and story but it needs to make a bit more sense. It’s really quite a shame that it failed to tell the tale in an engaging way. I could see where a good editor could really helped here.

    Miyazaki is a rock solid story teller. His work brings you into his world where all the actions make sense and are important. This just didn’t happen here. It was hard to be reminded of Miyazaki and not have a better story teller in charge.

    I was very disappointed with this especially since the art and world were so engaging.

  8. Avatar Suumire says:

    Just an opinion here, but I agree with Jzar. The art and atmosphere are phenomenal, so it’s sort of a shame that the story didn’t pull through. I didn’t like a lot of the camera angles or pacing in the beginning of the movie, and while usually I have absolutely no problem with a movie deriving from miyazaki (who cares, I actually enjoy a tip of the hat) there were whole scenes and lots of character’s designs that were mirrored concepts, which I think is the difference.

    I don’t think it would’ve been as noticeable if the story really nailed it, but overall there was a hard time with pacing and focus in my opinion, which is sad since they had a really great message going on.

    I really wish it had been better thought out and pushed its boundries. I would’ve killed to see a little more of that sci-fi feel that was around the amazing life/death pit and reminded me of those gorgeous Shinkai paintings. maybe I just really did miss the sort of melancholy, emotional mood that comes with his movies.

  9. Avatar theowne says:

    I never thought of Shinkai as being a great storyteller – he’s more of a painter. He can capture moods and emotions as snapshots on a visual medium. “5cm per second” is a great example – capturing the emotion of loneliness and regret using relatively hollow, uninteresting characters.

    But he has done a very poor job sustaining a full length adventure story which attempts to rest on character development and storytelling. I found this film very dull.

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