Makoto Shinkai is an interesting fellow. We even had the a chance to interview him a few months back but was told he would be very secretive about this project. You see, Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is in fact, his first full featured film. The storyline primarily focuses on the main character Asuna Watase, who is what you could consider a bit of a loner, and way more mature for her age then I probably am now (I’m 26). It is a coming of age story involving young love and a mysterious music, coming from a crystal radio left as a memento by an absent father, that leads a young heroine deep into a hidden world. Heralded as a successor to Hayao Miyazaki for his previous works, such as 5 Centimeters Per Second, Shinkai claims that Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below is to study on “how people are connected” and the relationship between individuals. I know what everyone is thinking…is it better then 5 Centimeters per Second? Short answer. No. However, this is still better then the majority of anime on the market today.
But as you can expect visual side of this movie is masterpiece. Landscapes made by Shinkai are something like French impressionistic paintings but they are much more detailed, with better colors and lighting. The world of Argatha is not a magical world filled with towering cities powered by magic, but instead more of a rural country with many towns. This in turn leads to my biggest complaint about the film as it is a pity that Shinkai abandons his talent on talking about modern city life but tries to give a tribute to Miyazaki Hayao by duplicating many elements in Ghibli’s anime movies. In the end it just left me confused and I didn’t know how to process the beautiful atmosphere unravaling before me.
Shinkai has always been capable of creating captivating stories about communication and now he can add the mystique of death to his resume. Yes, this film deals with the loss of someone close to you and if you can relate, prepare to shed a tear or two. Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below is inspired by the Japanese myth of Izanami and Izanagi, an Eastern equivalent of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Izanagi journeys to Yomi, the underworld, to try and bring his lover back from the dead. If that doesn’t ring a bell, think back to Robin Williams’ What Dreams May Come, which had a similar theme as well. I love the message the movie brought to me. However, the story does have flaws. The pace of some parts is too slow while of some parts is too fast. It can be explained by looking at the length of the movie, which is of the longest in Shinkai’s works.
In the end, I’m not sure if it’s in the animation or the storytelling or what it was, but it felt like I was watching Studio Ghibli more than I was a Makoto Shinkai film. But my expectations are always very high, so there is no doubt they were too high. Still this film comes easily recommended and hopefully will see the light of day in the West. Visually arresting without being flashy, Makoto Shinkai has created a film that is a considerable achievement; a beautiful, horrifying and thrilling film that should delight both anime fans and newbies alike.