Wednesday, 20 April 2011

ほしのこえ/ Hoshi no Koe / Star’s Voice / Voices of a Distant Star

Hoshi no Koe was a nicely bleak and different short, produced almost entirely by one man, about a young girl sent to a distant galaxy still keeping in touch with her lover by text message. Poignant and original, but a bit ostentatious and melodramatic.’ That was my assessment on October 13, 2003, and my opinion really hasn’t changed since, after two repeat viewings and the director's first full-length film, Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place.

This is not to play down the accomplishment of a single man slaving away in his bedroom to produce an impressively high-quality animation. What it lacks in fluidity of movement it makes up for in inventiveness and art quality. And it is admirable that Shinkai Makoto chose to do everything besides the music – even the voice acting in the initial release, along with his partner. But even back in 2003, the half-hour OVA was rather over-hyped, and Shinkai has even been called ‘The Next Miyazaki’. Honestly, though, if this were released by a conventional anime studio rather than having the hook of being essentially a solo project, it would have had the same fate as a thousand other standalone anime OVAs – ignored by all but a very small minority. The concept was nice, but the execution just was not strong enough in story terms to match the lush visuals, and if the storytelling falls short, nothing else can quite redeem that fault, even the fascinating production story.

Far be it from me to take a New Critical approach – but even knowing the interesting story of how one man with an iMac, a grant and seven months made something beautiful and stately, I cannot call Hoshi no Koe a strong piece of animation.

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