Voices of a Distant Star
Every once in a great while, you walk out to the sea, and there's a perfect pearl just sitting there waiting for you. That, in essence, is Voices of a Distant Star.
Although I may be overstating the case, the recently released Voices of a Distant Star is as close to flawless as I can imagine a product in today's anime marketplace. What's even more amazing is that it's the product of a single man and a Power Mac. Shinkai Makoto, the film's director/animator/creator, literally did every last thing on the show save for the voices, the music, and the sound effects. Not since Robot Carnival's "Presence" segment has a short anime film been as deeply moving, as beautifully illustrated, and as utterly thought provoking.
Not quite 50 years in the future, Mikako and Noburu are best friends who have fallen in love. Their romance is sweet and gentle; even though they are just in high school, there's a true affection there. However, the rest of the universe isn't in nearly such good shape. A strange alien race known as the Tarsians have attacked outposts nearing Earth. In somewhat of a role reversal, Mikako joins the advance forces to repel the invaders while Noburu stays behind. They communicate as often as possible by messaging each other on their cell phones. As the distance between them increases, the time between messages grows...and as Mikako is forced to participate in a light-speed jump to avoid destruction by the Tarsians, she doesn't age while Noburu grows older. The bittersweet flavor of being apart is amplified until they realize a few simple truths.
Although there's not a lot of actual movement in the animation, that's about the only nitpick anybody could make with this extraordinary OVA. In the span of 24 minutes, Voices takes us through a huge realm of emotions while also serving up stunningly gorgeous backgrounds, some impressive battle sequences, and characters so realistic that you could know them personally. Although some might dislike that there's some 3D animation in the piece, this is the most faultless union of traditional and computer techniques I've seen, blowing the blends in similar pieces like Titan A.E. and Blue Submarine No. 6 out of the water. In terms of the science fiction end of things, it combines and pays homage to the best parts of the original Macross, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Gundam while creating something wholly original.
What makes Voices an A+ pick for me is the way that it stays with you. It's like a desperately haunting dream that you want to revisit often for fear of forgetting it. Perhaps it's because I lived for a year overseas at one point, an immense length away from my family and my fiancé (who's now my wife). I've felt the emotions this show invokes personally. But that isn't to say that anyone couldn't relate. The root of the show is unshakeable love, expressed in the deep melancholy that only the deepest feelings can provide. This show is the stroll in the park with the soul mate you had in high school that you haven't seen in ten years but still think about every day...the kiss that almost happened but couldn't...the lonely walk through the blowing snow when you realize your life will never be quite the same.
In his first major outing, Shinkai Makoto has raised the bar to an almost impossible level. If he can ever outdo this piece, I'll be utterly stunned. The major studios need to take heed, because this is why I love anime. The DVD of Voices of a Distant Star should be out soon from ADV Films. Pick it up, watch it, contemplate it, and let it burn into your core.
Man, is this a good show.
Voices of a Distant Star -- mild violence -- A+