Type: Short Film
Genre: Sci-Fi / Drama
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 29 Jul 2010
Voices of a Distant Star accomplishes in twenty-five minutes what some feature-length films fail to do in ninety.
It’s the middle of the 21st century. Mikako and Noboru have been very close since middle school, but as they begin high school, Mikako has decided that she will be going into space to join the effort to defend the Earth from hostile aliens, and will have to leave Noboru behind. Though separated, they continue to communicate via text message, but as Mikako travels farther and farther from Earth across interstellar space, the time it takes for her text messages to reach Noboru goes from minutes to months, and finally years. Can Mikako and Noboru’s relationship survive across the distance of time and space?
Voices of a Distant Star is largely the work of one man: Makoto Shinkai. He created, edited, and animated this short film single-handedly on his home computer using commercially available software. Despite the limitations of such an independent endeavor, he has managed to create a story which tells everything that it needs to in the span of a mere twenty-five minutes.
This is more of a thematic work than a story-driven one. The emphasis of Voices of a Distant Star is the effect of time and distance on the relationship of the main (and only) characters. How each finds a way to reconcile their separation with their devotion to each other is the focus of the story. The plot of Mikako’s interstellar travel is just a means to an end.
Unsurprisingly, Voices of a Distant Star takes a “less is more” approach, and given that the film had an animation staff of one, this works to its benefit. The artwork and computer graphics may not be up to the same level as its contemporary studio-animated counterparts, but when you recall that the film was made with materials that even you and I had access to in the early 2000s, it speaks to Shinkai’s ability.
The goal of Voices of a Distant Star is to introduce a theme, set a mood, and carry it out to its limit. Any shortcomings in the presentation are more than made up for in the story. What happens in the film is less important than what it means for Mikako and Noboru. Voices of a Distant Star is a stunning accomplishment, and despite its small scale, stands well on its own as a fine piece of cinema.