Anime OVA Review: Voices of a Distant Star

Voices of a Distant Star is an anime Original Video Animation (OVA) directed and produced by Makoto Shinkai on his Macintosh computer. The production was originally released in Japan on February 2, 2002. ADV Films acquired the distribution rights for the United States, and released Voices of a Distant Star in 2003.

Voices of a Distant Star
English Publisher: Section 23
Format: DVD
Release Date: June 10, 2003

The story follows a middle-school girl named Mikako Nagamine, who is drafted into the UN Space Army for the war going on against a group of aliens called the Tarsians. Mikako is a Special Agent, and she pilots a giant bipedal robot; she is part of a fighting squadron attached to the spacecraft carrier Lysithea.

When the Lysithea leaves Earth to search for the Tarsians, Mikako must leave her boyfriend, Noboru Terao, behind. They communicate with one another across interplanetary, and eventually, interstellar space through the e-mail capabilities on their cell phones. As the Lysithea travels deeper into space, the time it takes a message to reach Noboru on Earth takes longer and longer. Mikako’s final message takes eight years to reach Noboru.

Voices of a Distant Star uses the theory of relativity to tell an interesting story; however, the production only runs for 25 minutes, and it feels like the story isn’t finished. As a viewer, I really wanted to know what happens to both Mikako and Noboru, because as it currently is, the ending feels a bit ambiguous. The ambiguous ending also plagues another Makoto Shinkai production, 5 Centimeters per Second.

While I may have had some issue with how the story ended, I still have to give Shinkai credit for the animation that appears in Voices of a Distant Star. While it may not look quite as lush as The Place Promised in Our Early Days or 5 Centimeters per Second, it was still obvious that Shinkai has lot of talent in this arena. I also have to say that I enjoyed the music score for Voices of a Distant Star.

The DVD release of Voices of a Distant Star includes some extras. The first is three versions of “She and Her Cat,” one of the first shorts Makoto Shinkai produced. There is a “Digest Version” that runs for one-and-a-half minutes, a three-minute version, and a five-minute version.

“She and Her Cat” is a black and white short that was originally released in 1999, and won the DoGA CG Animation contest Grand Prix in 2000. This short tells the story about the relationship between a male cat and his female owner, with the story being told from the cat’s perspective. Since the story is being told from the cat’s perspective, it makes sense that the short is in black and white, since it is believed that cats can’t distinguish colors.

When I finished watching the short, I was originally disappointed that some information never came out in it; for example, what was it about the phone call that upset the cat’s owner so much? But as I think about it, I realize that since the story is being told from the cat’s perspective, the cat wouldn’t know what was going on. The cat could explain what he could see, such as the tears and her reactions to the phone call, but he would have no idea what was truly being said during the conversation.

The short is rather well-done for its runtime, and is illustrated with some very interesting animation. The animation is definitely a more rudimentary version of what would later be seen in Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters per Second.

Next, there is an eight minute long interview with Makoto Shinkai. Unfortunately, Shinkai tends to repeat himself during the interview, and spends much of the time rambling. The Director’s Cut of the piece, which includes alternate vocals, is also included. When you select this option, a “splash screen” comes up to explain what the Director’s Cut is, and there is a link to watch this version. The only real difference between this and the final version is in the vocal performance. The actual script seems to have remained the same.

Next, there is the Original Production Animatic. This includes the entire production again, but it’s in black and white and has no subtitles. The animation style is a little different compared to what was used for the final product, and the movement isn’t as fluid. The animatic also combines animation and storyboards.

Next are the Original Japanese trailers for Voices of a Distant Star. This runs for seven-and-a-half minutes, and includes a total of four trailers. The final extra is previews for releases that ADV was promoting at the time this DVD was released.

Unfortunately, Voices of a Distant Star is now out of print. If you enjoy this OVA and haven’t managed to add it to your anime library, you’ll need to look at websites and brick and mortar stores that sell used DVDs. I would recommend looking around and trying to find the best deal you can for this DVD.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Voices of a Distant Star that my husband and I purchased.

Additional reviews of Makoto Shinkai’s work:

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