Hoshi wo ou Kodomo is a film written and directed by Shinkai Makoto, the same gent behind 5 centimetres per second. Like that film, it was produced by CoMix Wave Films. Is this film as strong as that one was? It has the same writer/director and the same production company so that’s probably a good sign. And I only use the qualifier ‘probably’ because I’ve been disappointed in the works of people who I had previously known for making quality works before. Let’s just hope this isn’t one of those times.
Our narrative opens with our heroine, Asuna, going to her secret base after school to listen to her makeshift radio. She hears a mysterious melody unlike any she’s heard before. Not long afterwards, she encounters a strange creature when she’s crossing the train tracks to reach her base. Fortunately for her, a mysterious young man comes to her rescue. He calls himself Shun and claims to come from the land of Agartha, which you my recognise from esoteric ideas related to the Earth being hollow. To be fair, those ideas can make for interesting fiction in spite of having no basis in reality. After her meeting with Shun, he dies of plot necessity and Asuna is just beginning to cope with the loss when she hears her teacher mention Agartha and how it supposedly holds the key to resurrect the dead. After returning to her base, she encounters a young man who strongly resembles Shun and, after a hectic series of events, finds herself in Agartha. What secrets will she find there and what trials will she face?
The biggest flaw with the film is the ending. It’s pretty formulaic and it gets rushed through. The film spends a lot of time on the setup and the journey itself and then tries to wrap everything up within a few minutes. There are also some plot points that aren’t really resolved very well. I also have a petty complaint about the way they use “quetzacoatl”as a term to describe a variety of monsters. If you know your mythology then you know that the term comes from the Nahuatl name for the feathered serpent God and it just seems like a strange thing to use as a general term for a variety of creatures when the original term is so specific. It’s admittedly a petty complaint, but it did bug me a bit.
That aside, the film does do a lot of things well. The setup is really stellar. The world building is also really compelling and has a lot of good ideas going into it. The theme of loss throughout the story is handled really well. The climax, in spite of being rushed, does have some really strong setup and ideas behind it. I also do like that the film effectively illustrates the ways that Asuna is capable without stretching it to the point of being unbelievable.
The film does a really good job of establishing characters who are believable and largely sympathetic and of developing them throughout with the three major characters all having their own story arcs that are connected thematically and that intersect, but that do ultimately remain pretty unique. Even the secondary characters are pretty fleshed out and do have verisimilitude. I will give Shinkai credit. The gent does know how to craft a compelling group of characters.
The visuals in this film are gorgeous. The creature designs are really interesting. The action sequences are well done. The backgrounds are stunning. Honestly, the art reminds me a bit of a Studio Ghibli production in its high level of quality and in its general style.
The vocal cast is pretty strong. Kanemoto Hisako, Irino Miyu, and Inoue Kazuhiko all give good performances as the leads. The side characters have strong performances behind them as well. The music, both incidental and lyrical, is really good as well. Kumaki Anri’s song is actually very good at supplementing the major theme of loss.
There really isn’t any to be found in this film.
Hoshi wo ou Kodomo is a really good movie. It’s not perfect, the story has some noticeable issues but it also has a lot of aspects it does well. The music, acting and artwork are all very high quality and the characters are complex and endearing. All in all, it is well worth a watch. My final rating is going to be an 8/10. Tomorrow we’ll continue our week of film reviews with Appleseed.