Tag Archives: Makoto Shinkai

Voices of a Distant Star (2003)

Twenty minutes is a short time for anything, especially for a movie. But Makoto Shinkai’s Voices of a Distant Star shows how much you can do within those few minutes. The movie opens with a lonely Mikako struggling to come to terms with life’s consequences. The year is 2047, and she has just finished middle school. Earth has begun a war against an alien race called Tarsians, and the UN Space Army has drafted this fifteen-year-old girl for their forces. And so Mikako leaves everything behind—high school, ordinary life, her friend Noboru. Even after the UN spacecraft heads off to outer space, the two continue communicating through email; but as Mikako drifts farther away from Earth, their messages take longer to reach each other, eventually spanning years and possibly a lifetime.

This movie reminds me so much of Shinkai’s other film, 5 Centimeters per Second. Similarities encompass theme and technique: both films tackle the topic of distance in relationships, and both rely heavily on atmosphere to set the mood. More specific overlaps also occur, like the many train scenes in the middle and the synchronized soliloquys at the end. I liked 5 Centimeters per Second a lot more though, perhaps because I watched it first, and also because it’s much longer. Plus I noticed an abuse of weather-correlatives in Voices of a Distant Star (not sure about 5 Centimeters per Second, but at least I didn’t notice it then). On Earth as in distant planets, always, one of these is falling: rain, cherry blossoms, snow, shafts of sunlight. Despite this, I still felt teary-eyed by the end. Maybe I’m just a sucker for these kinds of films, but there it is. I found the movie’s outer space aspect a fitting representation of the various kinds of distance that plague relationships. When things stretch beyond our control, all we can do is hope. “We are far, far, very, very far apart, but it might be that thoughts can overcome time and distance.” This, this is infinitely sad.

The time between Mikako and I drifts further and further apart. That is why I have made a goal, to make my heart harder, colder and stronger.

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5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

This is a beautiful, beautiful film. Thank you, Kris, for suggesting it to me. I am generally unfamiliar with full-length Japanese animated films, aside from Studio Ghibli productions—all of which I’ve watched up until Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (2008); I have yet to find a copy of The Borrower Arrietty (2010). But each time I delve into them I find that they are worth going back to again and again. (Incidentally the most recent non-Studio Ghibli movie I’ve watched is Mamoru Hosoda’s 2006 film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, also a good movie, also suggested by Kris.)

Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters per Second follows a young man’s search for romantic fulfillment. The movie is told in three segments and runs for roughly an hour. It portrays the interrelated lives of Takaki Tōno, Akari Shinohara, and Kanae Sumida—three adolescents struggling with the unmistakable hold of first love. It is about the innocence and sadness of everyday life, in which we all long for something far beyond us and hope to find it somewhere in the distance.

This movie has been praised for the beauty of its screen effects. The setting is lovingly drawn out and utilized from start to finish (despite a few Engrish moments here and there like “Starberks Coffee,” “Windows Vasta”), and images are rendered all the more beautiful by their reflection of the characters’ interior landscapes. Throughout it we see charming pictures of our characters’ ordinary lives, and this I think is the ultimate charm of the movie: its success in bringing out the poignant in the mundane. Cherry blossoms, snow, train stations, letters: this is what life is all about; this is the stuff that makes up love. And in the end these are the things that will sustain us, through time, through distance; and without them love—and life—is not even possible.

From before and after that kiss, it seemed as though everything in the world had changed.

It was as if I understood everything that had happened in my life these last thirteen years, and the time which was to come. I became unbearably sad.

It was scary, and each day was filled with anguish. But feeling happy every time I met him was something about myself that I couldn’t do anything about.

By just living one’s life, sadness accumulates here and there.

Then here are the English lyrics to the ending theme song, copied in full because it’s the photo montage in this part that actually got me teary-eyed.

One More Time, One More Chance
Masayoshi Yamazaki

I’m always searching, for your figure to appear somewhere
On the opposite platform, in the windows along the lane
Even though I know you couldn’t be at such a place
If my wish were to come true, I would be at your side right away
There would be nothing I couldn’t do
I would put everything on the line and hold you tight

If I just wanted to avoid loneliness, anybody would have been enough
Because the night looks like the stars will fall, I cannot lie to myself
One more time, oh seasons, fade not
One more time, when we were messing around

I’m always searching, for your figure to appear somewhere
At a street crossing, in the midst of dreams
Even though I know you couldn’t be at such a place
If a miracle were to happen here, I would show you right away
The new morning, who I’ll be from now on
And the words I never said: “I love you”

The memories of summer are revolving
The throbbing which suddenly disappeared

I’m always searching, for your figure to appear somewhere
At dawn on the streets, at Sakuragi-cho
Even though I know you couldn’t be at such a place
If my wish were to come true, I would be at your side right away
There would be nothing I couldn’t do
I would put everything on the line and hold you tight

I’m always searching, for fragments of you to appear somewhere
At a traveler’s store, in the corner of newspaper,
Even though I know you couldn’t be at such a place
If a miracle were to happen here, I would show you right away
The new morning, who I’ll be from now on
And the words I never said: “I love you”

I always end up looking for your smile, to appear somewhere
At the railroad crossing, waiting for the express to pass
Even though I know you couldn’t be at such a place
If our lives could be repeated, I would be at your side every time
I would want nothing else
Besides you, nothing else matters