Most artistic endeavors are impressive no matter how many people work on them. Some things are awe inspiring when done alone. It just boggles the mind that one person could be so dedicated and talented that they could do such an enormous endeavor solo. One man wrote, animated, and produced Voices of a Distant Star. In the original version the only help he had was his fiancee providing some voice acting and a friend providing the music. Makoto Shinkai made by himself as an amateur what usually takes a team of professional animators to do. He did the work of a writer, director, producer, traditional animator, CG animator, and even a voice actor. Although it looks amateurish at points it is as good as most mass produced professional anime works. It is awe inspiring because one man did brilliantly what a team so often can’t do together.
I heard a lot about this movie when it was originally released and for some unknown reason it just slipped right on past me until this year. And honestly, I feel sort of ashamed now that I have seen it. How could I let something so beautiful and amazing, not only because of the one man team but because of its simple and thoughtful story, go unwatched! Not to mention it’s ability to create something so remarkable in just 30 or so minutes of film. Well, I have now reconciled this grave oversight! Now I share it with all of you just in case you too have missed this little treasure.
In 2047 Earth has gone into the far reaches of space. While excavating some ruins on Mars a race of aliens, dubbed the Tarsians, began to attack humanity. Using the technology found on Mars humans created a fleet of faster than light ships to strike back at the aliens. Mikako Nagamine becomes a space pilot to fight against the threat. This inevitably separates her from boyfriend Noboru Terao. They communicate over their cellphones but the further she gets from home the longer it takes their messages to reach each other. It is a love story over a seemingly insurmountable distance of both time and space.
We are set down a fast track path, only getting snippets and glaces at these characters. Nevertheless, their path becomes entangled with our own. Mikaki exhibits a fascination with space (which also seems to be a theme in Makoto’s works) and also a bit of naivete of what it would be like fighting out there. Both Terao and her start off seeing it like an adventure, that the distance will not stop them. As we continue on with them, the natural doubts of not seeing someone creep in but are pushed away. Even when you think Terao might move on, or even when he thinks he might, memory and hope move to block the path. It is hard to pinpoint what is so engaging about Mikako’s characterization style, but perhaps he just knows us better than we know our selves.