Voices of a Distant Star
In the near future, an interstellar war separates two teens in love in Voices of a Distant Star. This short anime, while competently created (apparently by one guy on his home computer) appeals not because of the visuals — the character designs are familiar and uninspired, and the cross-cutting choppy — but because of the mood.
I describe the two as “in love” because it’s the closest I can get to describing them (and “lovers” sounds silly, because it’s not about physicality), but their relationship is less emotional than that phrase suggests. The film does a good job of demonstrating their feelings through a few simple, quiet, everyday moments together, moments that almost become mythic to the two because of following circumstances.
The gimmick that underlies the film is cellphone text messaging. The movie opens with Mikako explaining her changed circumstances by describing herself as “out of area”; she’s a fighter pilot driving one of those oversized robots that so frequently populate Japanese cartoons. She’d previously defined her world by where she could call; now, the only way the two teens can connect is by texting, and the ever-increasing distance between them means a growing lag between their communications.
This is a fascinating premise, a modern take on Einsteinian paradox resulting from faster-than-light travel. However, I expected more to be done with it than was. Perhaps the sub-half-hour running time is a factor, but the situation is raised only to be subsumed in quasi-mystical elements that I found confusing and disconcerting in a supposedly science fiction piece. I also found the war footage, with the giant robot swinging a laser beam that resembles a sword, jarring and uninteresting to me.
I’d have found it more believable for the girl to go to war only to be some functionary on a space base or starship instead of a pilot. It seems, during war movies, everyone’s a pilot, because it’s the most glamorous (and also, for the sake of drama, a role where you have lots of individual decision-making and risk). I was also distracted by some of the other genre conventions, like why a soldier is still wearing her pleated-skirt schoolgirl outfit, and the unlikely mechanics of cellphones still working the same way, only with more lag, or whether a pilot would even be allowed a personal cell.
It left me with thought-provoking questions — for example, she had a goal in life, and he didn’t. Would this difference in temperament and approach to life have eventually separated them anyway, even without the war? — but I suspect that one’s reaction to the film will depend on what one brings to it.
More information is available from IMDB. Tokyopop will be publishing the one-volume manga adaptation this summer.