Anime Film Review: Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (which is known as Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Below in Japan) is an anime film directed by Makoto Shinkai, and it was released to Japanese theaters on May 7, 2011. Sentai Filmworks holds the North American distribution rights to the film, and the company released it on home video in November 2012.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Written by: Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Hisako Kanemoto, Kazuhiko Inoue, and Miyu Irino
Run Time: 116 minutes
Rated: TV-14

The protagonist of Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a girl named Asuna, who has been forced to grow up quickly due to her father’s death and her mother working long shifts in a hospital as a nurse. After school, she spends time by herself listening to music that comes through a receiver her father gave her.

One day, as Asuna is heading to the place where she spends her time listening to her receiver, she is attacked by a rather otherworldly-looking creature. Before the creature can do anything to Asuna, she is rescued by a young man named Shun. Asuna treats Shun’s injuries, and they listen to Asuna’s receiver together. Shun tells her that he comes from a place called Agartha and that he came to this place to find something. He gives Asuna a blessing by kissing her forehead. She is flabbergasted, and then leaves hurriedly, saying she’ll be back tomorrow. Later, after Shun is alone, looks up at the stars and falls to his death.

The next day, Asuna’s mother tells her that a boy was found dead in the river; however, Asuna doesn’t want to believe that it’s Shun. At school, a substitute teacher named Mr. Morisaki gives a lecture about a book, and it grabs her Asuna’s attention when he mentions Agartha as the land of the dead.

When Asuna goes back to her place where she spends her time, she sees a boy who looks a lot like Shun standing on the ledge; she learns his name is Shin. Suddenly, a group of armed men called the Arch Angels appear and attack them. Asuna is captured by the leader of the Arch Angels, and uses a crystal called a clavis to open the gateway to Agartha. The leader, Asuna, and Shin enter the gateway, and it’s revealed the leader is Mr. Morisaki is in disguise.

The remainder of the film focuses on the adventures that Asuna has while she’s in Agartha, and the revelations that she gains during her time there. Asuna, along with the audience, also learns why Mr. Morisaki has an interest in Agartha.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices, which clocks in at 116 minutes, is Shinkai’s longest work to date. Not only that, this is the first Shinkai production I have seen that has a strong narrative structure; this means that there’s actually a beginning, a middle, and a very definite conclusion. This film has the strongest ending of all of his works that I have seen up to this point. The ending doesn’t feel abrupt, it doesn’t feel ambiguous, and it doesn’t feel unfinished. I have to believe that the longer runtime, in part, helped with this.

I also enjoyed the story that was told in this film. In addition to Asuna’s journey, there’s also a strong subplot that concerns Mr. Morisaki. As a viewer, you become interested in both of their stories and you want to keep watching the film to see how their stories will progress.

The animation in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is gorgeous and is quite enjoyable to look at; it also complements the story that’s being told in the film. The animation is always a strong point in Shinkai’s work, and this film is no different.

When it comes to the DVD release for Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Sentai released it as a two-disc set. The first disc has the film, commentary featuring Makoto Shinkai, and trailers for other releases that Sentai Filmworks was promoting at the time this film was released.

The second disc includes six bonus features. The first is a 55-minute feature that includes interviews with Makoto Shinkai and the Japanese voice actors for the main characters; this is presented with Japanese audio and English subtitles. They share their thoughts on the various characters in the film, as well as stories from the recording studio. Unfortunately, the way this feature was produced, it’s obvious that cuts were made in the middle of people talking; you can easily see jump cuts as people are talking, and these jump cuts draw a lot of attention to themselves. I found these jump cuts to be rather distracting.

Next is “The Making of Children Who Chase Lost Voices.” This is a 45-minute documentary with Japanese audio and English subtitles. It starts with talking about how Shinkai began in the anime industry, and then it goes into what went into the making of the film. Over the course of this feature, the audience is shown location scouting, the steps of putting the film together, the music in the film and the recording of the voices, recording the sound effects, recording the background music, as the final phase of the production. Near the end, there’s footage from Otakon and Comic World in Hong Kong. This is a pretty decent feature for a “behind the scenes” documentary.

There is a Japanese promotional video, which is essentially a music video for “Hello Goodbye & Hello,” the ending theme song for the film. This music video is made up exclusively of footage from Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

“Japanese Teasers” includes three promotional pieces for the film, which range anywhere from 17 seconds to one-and-a-half minutes. “A Brief Interview With Makoto Shinkai” is eight pages of text of an interview done with Shinkai. “The Works of Shinkai” is a piece with text about each of Shinkai’s works, as well as footage from each piece.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an enjoyable film, and is also one of the strongest works that Makoto Shinkai has released to date. If you’re a fan of Shinkai’s work, then you really need to have this film in your anime collection. And if you’re an anime fan who enjoys well-told stories accompanied by gorgeous animation, then you should check out Children Who Chase Lost Voices if you haven’t already.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Children Who Chase Lost Voices that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Additional reviews of Makoto Shinkai’s work:

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