Multiple award winner makoto Shinkai has been called the "new Miyazaki," and these two animated films make a strong case! Shinkai produced Voices of a Distant Star entirely on his own using a Macintosh, yet it went on to ... more »win prizes at several international film festivals. His follow up wasa the feature length film The Place Promised in our Early Days, which went on to win even more awards and enjoyed a successful art house run throughout North America this fall.« less
"Makoto Shinkai has been hailed many in his native Japan as the next Miyazaki. Debuting in the late 1990's with a short film called "She and her cat" Makoto then blew everyone away with his self made 30 minute short "Voices of a distant Star".
"Voice if a distant star" or "Hoshi no Koe" as it is titled in Japan is a beautiful and gorgeous piece of 30 minute anime. The story tells the tale of two young lovers and the heartache they feel as space and time separates them. The film is absolutely stunning with its vivid colours. Melancholy lovers look up at blue skies while sunshine burst through. There are mecha battles and an amazing soundtrack to accompany the film.
Makoto returned last year with his first full length motion picure "The place promised in our early years". This ambitious film told the story of an alternate Japan, divided into a American controlled south and a communist north. A giant tower on the northern side fascinates two friends and it is a special girl in their life and a promise to discover what the tower is that pushed the two friends in their adulthood.
Both films are visually spectacular although I find the 30 minute "voices..." to be a more satisfying work.
This collection presents both works in a nice keepsake box and includes the soundtrack to "Voices of a distant star" by composer Tenmon. If you love beautiful, thought-provoking and somewhat introspective anime, this is a must buy.
The Future of Anime Starts Here
Suzanne | Oklahoma City, OK United States | 07/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
While I think these films deserve 4 stars, this package deserves 6. This is one of the best packages I've ever seen in anime. At the current price I feel this is a real bargain for all the content that is here. It may be expensive on a per-hour basis (the films are about 2 hours total), but the extras are worth every penny. Beyond the value, these films are definitely worth owning. What you get with this set is:
*Both Films *Soundtrack for Voices of a Distant Star *Two incredible booklets for each film, Commenting on every detail of the films (from story to production to music) *A ton of extras including director's cuts, interviews, and Shinkai's first animated project in She and Her Cat
VOICES OF A DISTANT STAR / HOSHI NO KOE: 8 / 10
This is a short film: 24 minutes in length. But what it lacks in length it makes up for in quality. Produced entirely on Shinkai's home computer with himself and his wife doing the voices (though there is another cast in the "official" version, the original version is here as well), it is one of the most marvelous achievements you'll ever see. Shinkai blends a superb science fiction story with an even better moving love story. This film centers around a young couple, Mikako and Noboru who fall in love. Mikako is sent to fight in an interstellar war that leads her light years away from Noboru. Their only method of communication from this distance is cell phone e-mails. As she gets further away from Earth, messages take days, weeks, months, and finally years to reach Noboru on Earth.
Ultiminately, this is a film about love transcending time and space, which is told through some of the most amazing animation and visuals you've ever seen. Shinkai blends traditional 2D handrawn art with real life environments and 3D CG to create a truly stunning vision. This is animation at its most visually captivating and finest. Thankfully, this is not a case of "superb animation, terrible story", as the story is one of the most touching ever in anime. Beyond the animation, the music - composed by Tenmon - is equally beautiful, and I'm extremely grateful the soundtrack is included.
My complaints are few, mostly centering around its short running time. With it, Shinkai is able to keep the narrative extremely sharp and focused. It doesn't feel as if anything is wasted, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, as it makes re-watching this terrific film multiple times easier. A curse, as I feel an even better story could've been rendered in an extended format. My only other complaint is a personal one and that's Shinkai's extreme romanticism. In crafting a beautiful story, one must also realize how very unrealistic it is - even from a thematic perspective. However, film and animation are a vehicle for imagination and idealism. Keeping that in mind, it's not so bothersome.
This is one of those animes that must be seen. I've never seen a debut work show as much potential as Shinkai showed here.
THE PLACE PROMISED IN OUR EARLY DAYS / KUMO NO MUKO, YAKUSOTO NO BASHO 7 / 10
This is Shinkai's first forray into feature length. Promised is at the same time a success and a failure. This paradox is due to the number of levels this film succeeds and fails on. The story is about a future where Japan is divided into two opposing sides. In the center sits a huge, mysterious tower, which is also the central point of the conflict. Takuya and Hiroko are two boys who dream of building a plane to fly to the tower. They also have an interest in a girl named Sayuri. These three spend an unforgettable summer together, and make a promise to all fly to the tower when the plane is completed. It's not long before life and war tears them apart. Within this new and dangerous world, only the lasting promise still binds them.
Promised's biggest flaw comes with its pacing and focus. While Shinkai was able to keep extremely sharp focus in the 24 minute Voices, he drifts too much with Promised. The first 30 minutes is a most beautiful and poetic beginning which establishes the bond between the three main characters. After that, the narrative begins to fall apart. As we move 3 years into the future, the focus shifts from these characters to the conflict and mystery behind the tower and an advent war. This splits up the main characters, and where Shinkai fails is keeping a rhythmic pace between these diverging storylines.
Along the way, many mysteries are introduced and never properly explained: such as Sayori's sudden coma-like state and her connection with the tower. The idea of alternate dimensions is introduced, but we don't get a cogent explanation behind them. The nature of the war is also not elaborated on. It's hard to feel a sense of conflict when you don't know what it's about. I'm not sure whether Shinkai needed more time to flesh this story out, or less time in order to keep him focused on what was there. Shinkai also fails at making smooth transitions and edits. This makes the narrative flow all the more jagged and uncomfortable. The ending is also unsatisfying with little resolution. Ultimately, it's not the length or ending which dooms this film, but merely it's pace, rhythm, and timing.
Much like Voices, where Promised succeeds is with its breathtaking animation and visuals. If one were to mute it and ignore the dialogue, the visuals would perhaps tell an even better story. Shinkai has developed a near mastery of this animation style that's thoroughly spellbinding. The music, again by Tenmon, is only slightly less accomplished as in Voices. However, the main theme is superb and the variatons on it help maintain a link throughout the film. Much like in Voices, Shinkai maintains a nostolgic and mesmeric tone throughout, which creates a superb sense of unfulfilled longing. A kind of elegaic reminiscence of past days that's both uplifting and somber. Shinkai presents very romantic fantasies and tranfixes optimism within the context of realism. This combination is truly beautiful and one I hope he continues.
Shinkai has been hailed as the next Miyazaki. As where Miyazaki succeeds as a supreme storyteller of modern fantasies through animation, Shinkai is more about tone and atmosphere. He captivates you with the most astonishing animation and settings. He seems to love to tell very romantic stories set in sci-fi worlds. This is a superb combination that I can only hope he learns to master with time, as these two films show an infinite amount of promise and likely represent the future of anime."
Two from one of Anime's Bright New Stars
Bryan Swann | 11/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Makoto Shinkai came upon the anime scene with a little anime short called "She and Her Cat" a few years ago and showed promise as a future director with vision. He has delivered with these two films. Voices of a Distant Star, as many know was done on his Mac on a shoestring budget but it doesn't keep you from becoming complete enthralled with its story of love and longing among the tragedies of war. Watching this movie was the first time I have ever had a tear come to eye while watching an anime feature. In 2005, The Place Promised in Our Early Days came out and it did not disappoint. The visuals are striking and its story of friendship and keeping of promises is not be missed, even if you are not an anime fan. I will continue to look for even better things from this director in the coming years."
Excellent, and to answer a question...
Eric Henwood-Greer | Victoria, BC CANADA | 03/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All three versions of She and Her Cat are included on the Voices DVD along with the soundtrack."
Not great movies, but definetly worth owning.
Jonathan Lane | Crestview Florida U.S.A | 12/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These are two seperate reviews for the two different movies found in this box set.
Voices of a Distant Star. 4/5. Up to Miyazaki's Standerd? No. Good on its Own? Definetly.
Okay, first I would like to put to rest the lie that this movie is of the same standard as Miyazaki's films. It is not. It's a start for an upcoming director, but still not up to Miyazaki's greatness. This is not Miyazaki, so don't expect a Miyazaki type film.
The film itself is great. A young female joins the UN army to help fight off an alien race that has attacked a colony on mars, leaving behind her childhood friend and love. As her fleet moves farther and farther away from earth the time it takes for her messages to get to him take longer and lounger. First its six months, then a year, and then eight. Can their friendship and love survive as he gets older but she remains 15? Will she survive? Will they see each other again?
This isn't so much of a movie than one long dialoged with both characters reminiscing on how they miss each other. They are they only two characters in this whole movie, and for the most part is just them thinking to themselves. This isn't much of a problem however because the movie is so short and doesn't need secondary characters to help the flow of the story.
THE GOOD: first of all the artwork is really, REALLY good. For a guy that made this movie on his Mac, by himself, in his basement, this looks amazing. Whatever you have to say about this anime, good or bad, you have to admit that the animation is top notch. Another great part of the story is the fact that the characters are so well done. Even my none anime sister felt very sorry for the main characters in this film. They might not be as good as some characters in other amines I've seen, but I blame that on the fact that this movie is only 23 minutes long. Also the music is great. I love the music for Miyazaki's movies and I have to say that this music is almost as good.
THE BAD: well let's start with the obvious. It's too short. 23 minutes is not nearly enough time to make a great movie. If only it were lounger this could have been a truly great film, as is it's just a really good short. That's really the only complaint I have, everything else is top notch.
One bit of advice though. Watch this movie in English and then watch the original Japanese version with subtitles. The reason for this is that the subtitles go so fast that it's hard to read them and watch the screen at the same time. If you watch it in English than you will know what the story is and then read the differences in the Japanese version. I think its better in Japanese, the dialog is more real and the text messages make the two characters seem more like long time friends, but I had a devil of a time keeping up and kept missing parts.
Overall this is a very good film that deserves to be watched but not up to Miyazaki's greatness.
Re-watch value; Very high.
Place Promised in our Early Days. 4/5. Beautiful, Poetic, and Moving visuals, but Bad Pacing Keeps this from Being Great.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days plays a lot like what Voices of a Distant Star could have been had it been a full length film as opposed to a 23 minute short. Set in an alternate world where Japan has been split in two after the Second World War, the US controls the southern end, while a mysterious government known as the Union controls the north. Located in the north is the mystical Union Tower, an enormous structure jutting into the sky like a beam of light, a symbol of love and hate for those who gaze upon its magnificent height. This is the coming of age story of three middle school children Hiroki, Takuya, and Sayuri, who grew up their whole lives dreaming of visiting the tower and spent their time building an airplane in order to do just that.
The first thirty minutes of this film are very stunning, both visually and emotionally. It plays out almost exactly like Voices of a Distant Star does, with stunning animation, peaceful and touching music and the characters relationships with each other being the focus of the film. although the story itself doesn't stand up to scrawny and seems as if it were hacked together without much thought put into it, the combination of the visuals and the musical score are very moving. Few animes have actually wowed me with their animation, Spirited Away was one such movie; this took the cake. This movie has the most stunning animation I have ever seen in an animated film, bar none. its hard to explain with words just what I mean, the sun setting behind the glow of the Union Tower, far off streaks of light shining off an airplane, a small white dove flying in a cool breeze as trees sway around it, its all done with such dedication and detail that it left me speechless. Combined with one of the best soundtracks ever composed for a feature film and this movie have the power to bring people to tears on its sheer beauty alone. Could this be the new Miyazaki? I said no in my Voices of a Distant Star review, but if this is what this new director is capable of then he may be.
Unfortunately, this movies story is very hacked up, as if during many points of this film the director intended to end it and just decided to add more later. This movie has more endings then The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Widescreen Edition). While I love the ending this movie had, the rest of the film didn't flow the way a feature length film should, it didn't transfer smoothly from one scene to the next; instead it simply ended a scene with a black screen, and started up somewhere else completely without setting up the next shot. This caused the story to feel clumsy, as if the director didn't know where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do once he got there. The middle part of this movie just sort of plods along without any real sense of direction. It's like he wanted to make a short film, like Voices of a Distant Star, but decided to stretch it out as far as he could. The movie really could have been half and hour, or more, shorter then it was. Not to say that most of it is filler, but if he managed to fit a story the size and scope of Voices into 23 minutes, then I'm sure he could have fit this movie into 40. Also, a lot of the movie is never really explained. What is the Union Tower exactly? What is the Union? Why is there such a desire for the two nations to go to war? All these questions are left unanswered at the end of the film. It is only when this film focuses mainly on the story instead of on creating beautiful images and developing its characters that it gets dull. there really isn't much story to hold this movie together during its slower and less grand moments, which becomes a problem 3/4ths of the way though when the story takes front stage in all its hacked up glory. Fortunately, the director seems to know this and keeps the story in the background as much as possibly, only bringing it into focus when he needs to get the characters from point A to point B.
What saves this movie from being nothing more then a good looking and sounding mess (Akira (Special Edition))was the relationships between the characters involved. Much like in Voices, this story is a romance of sorts but doesn't fall into the "chick flick" category. It's about the love three friends have for each other, and the length they were willing to go for each other in order to fulfill a promise they made while still little kids. It's very interesting to watch how each slowly fell into depression and felt like their lives were losing meaning when they weren't with each other. When one of themes disappears, they lose their dreams, ambitions, and slowly drift apart. Like any good piece of fiction, the characters are what make this movie so touching.
If you enjoyed Voices of a Distant Star, then you will enjoy The Place Promised in Our Early Days. Its visuals, characters, and soundtrack make this movies a must see for sure, but its hacked up story prevents it from being a truly great film. If this director can learn how to write a story that can match up with his amazing animation, then watch out world, anime might very well have a new director to take the place of the great Miyazaki when he finally retires. I look forward to seeing more movies by this upcoming guineas.