Anime: Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

The most recent movie by Shinkai Makoto that came out in summer 2011. Considering that he created my favourite anime movie of all time, I was quite hyped up when I heard that a new movie was coming. Strangely enough, I didn’t manage to watch it until quite recently.

Where to start with this movie? I don’t want to be harsh, but considering how powerful Shinkai Makoto’s previous movies were (think 5cm per second, voices of a distant star and the place promised in our early days) I would have thought this newest offering would elicit strong emotions and be beautiful to watch. It didn’t and it wasn’t.

It is a departure from his usual work, it’s not futuristic nor is it particularly romantic. Instead it delves into folklore and mythology. It has a powerful theme at its heart, but the plot and characters just aren’t able to convey the message properly. Death and loss are significant events and they can affect people in so many ways (think AnoHana). Coming to terms with it is really what this movie is about, but it doesn’t come across clearly. Why? There are too many elements happening in the story to give enough time for things to sink in. Perhaps too much information, or snippet and hints are dropped about the characters and the world that they live in. The audience is trying to wrap their head around so many things, that the main theme is lost somewhere in between. What makes it so unsatisfactory is the knowledge of what could have been a poignant and meaningful movie.

Instead we’re left scratching out heads until the ending credit song. Add to that the obvious similarity to ghibli films and you have a movie that’s just average. Point to note here is to never make a film that’s in any way similar to ghibli films, because fans will see the similarities and comparisons are bound to be drawn.

Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo lacks a strong lead, I actually found the female main character, Asuna, to be slightly annoying. Granted she’s supposed to be young and confused, but the way she acts pisses me off (for lack of a better phrase). The incredulous things that happen in the beginning don’t seem faze her. It’s not normal, then again neither is travelling with your male teacher. It’s slightly disconcerting actually. That aside, her male teacher, Morisaki, was a good character. Clichéd but had so much more going than the other two. Maybe it’s because he’s the only adult amidst the children and he had stronger direction and beliefs. Let’s just say that he was the only one with conviction and knew where he was going. However the movie chooses to concentrate on Asuna and it’s really her journey of realization, so we don’t get to spend too much time Morisaki which is a shame! The other male lead, Shin, was a bit bland, he didn’t have much of a personality. Or at least none that I can actually recall.

Creating a movie based on popular mythology is always dangerous, if you take liberties with it, people might scream bloody murder. If you stick to it, people know what’s going to happen. Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo tries but doesn’t succeed. There were gaping plot holes left, right and centre. I can understand that Shinkai Makoto has always left things a little ambiguous and let’s the audience fill in gap. However this form of story telling doesn’t work very well in this movie. The holes distracted from actually appreciating what was happening. I was too busy wondering what was going on that wasn’t shown to pay attention to what was being shown.

The animation started off a bit unpolished, but then after your first amazing background that Shinkai capitalizes on, you forgive the bad animation. The music by Tenmon is amazing as usual. I think he’s really becoming one of my favourite composers. The ending song was also very well-chosen to fit the movie.

If you’re a fan of Shinkai Makoto’s work, I’m guessing that you will watch the movie regardless of what I’ve said. I’m just hoping that he will go back to the romance genre and create more masterpieces, it fits his style of storytelling the best.

2 Responses to “Anime: Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo”
  1. TWWK says:

    I actually enjoyed the film, despite some obviously poor points. I thought Shinkai did a great job of exploring death. His questions and answers weren’t so in our faces…it took me time to process the movie and appreciate it. For me, it’s possibly his best film, and certainly the one I’ve enjoyed most since Voices of a Distant Star.

    • everworld says:

      It wasn’t a bad film. I just felt it wasn’t well excuted. Asuna grew in her understanding of death and loss but it wasn’t impactful. True Shinkai is rarely obvious in his movies, he relied a lot on the audience figuring out what is happening and what isn’t happening. But this movie was just a tad bit more complicated than his previous few. I guess my main problem boils down to how there was no real closure? And with a topic like death, closure would be nice.

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