AceCaseOR writes, I promised to review this in the comments thread for my Gunbuster Review, and I always try to fulfill my promises in one form or another, so here goes:
Cast, Crew And Other Info:
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer: Makoto Shinkai
Animation by: The Director on his Mac.
Makoto Shinkai as Noboru Terao (voice – original version)
Chihiro Suzuki as Noboru Terao (voice – “seiyuu” version)
Mika Shinohara as Mikako Nagamine (voice – original version)
Sumi Mutoh as Mikako Nagamine (voice – “seiyuu” version)
Note: There are 2 Japanese dubs. One is the original dub, done by the director and his wife for the original release, and the second done by professional voice actors and actresses (“Seiyuu” is the term for Japanese voice actresses) for the wider release. They’re about equal in my opinion.
In the far future, a young girl joins up with the Earth Space Navy to fight alien monsters, leaving behind her boyfriend on Earth. In the course of her travels she sends cell-phone messages to her boyfriend. However, those messages only travel at the speed of light, so the boyfriend receives the messages many years after they happen.
1) Rather than doing Gunbuster all over again, the director changed up the concept. Instead of the protagonist coming back from, basically, the front and finding the world changed, instead the story is told through the correspondence between the soldier on the front lines, and the love interest left behind.
2) The music is used very well, especially for a show that was, essentially, made by the director and his wife on the director’s Mac. Which, by the way, leads me to…
3) For a OVA made by, essentially, two people on the Director’s Mac, this is a really, really, really good OVA, especially considering that this was the director’s first “full length” OVA (his debut “She and Her Cat” clocks in at 5 min. and is included on the DVD release). It’s short (one 30 min. episode), but it really doesn’t need to be longer. It does precisely everything it needs to do in that 30 min. I’d say that what “El Mariachi” was for the action flick, “Voices of a Distant Star” was for the mecha anime.
1) It kind of shows that the show as made by some guy on his Mac, not by the quality of the animation, but by the sets. When we’re not seeing mecha fights in space, the show gets very, very, very static. We don’t see many other characters, there are only 2 real characters with speaking parts, and once the female protagonist gets in the mech, she never leaves the mech for the rest of the series, and the interior of the mech is, essentially, a featureless sphere with exterior displays on all sides.
Originality: This series treads over some of the same ground as Gunbuster, but taking a different path. 4 out of 6.
Artwork: For a film that was made by the director on his Mac, it looks really good… but it still kind of looks like it was done by the director on his mac. 4 out of 6.
Acting: For both dubs, the acting is good, especially for the original dub, where anywhere the quality of the director and his wife’s acting was lacking was made up for by their natural chemistry, which, I think, really came through. 5 out of 6.
Story: The story is very well told. The medium of using the main character’s text messages and her romantic interests responses to them worked very well. I don’t necessarily know of any other movie that really took the tack of telling the story in this way. (If somebody does, please let me know). 6 out of 6.
Production: This is a very, very good 2-person project, and part of it’s charm comes from the fact it was made by 2 people, especially considering the relationship between the two main characters, and the two people who play them (in the original dub). To raise the production values and budget much more than that could take away that charm. It could go up a little more, but not much more. 5 out of 6.
Emotional Response: This was the first anime that made me weepy. Only 2 other anime series have gotten that response after this – Azumanga Daioh (which, because it isn’t genre, I won’t be reviewing here unless an editor asks me to do otherwise), and Gunbuster (which I have already reviewed). 6 out of 6.
Overall: This is a superb anime. It’s a good introduction to anime, and this is the best first film any director could hope for. The director has since gone on to direct The Place Promised In Our Early Days which I hope to review in the future. Get This Anime (even if you hate Anime). 6 out of 6.
Total Score: 36 out of 42.