Voices of a Distant Star
Type: Short Film
Genre: Love drama/Sci-fi
Version: Region 1 DVD
Reviewed: 1/18/06


Makoto Shinkai’s Voices of a Distant Star isn’t the longest anime feature out there, but this is acceptable when considering the amount of thought it provokes is still on par with most full-length movies.

In the 30 minutes Voices occupies the screen, it tells a story of an unusually long-distance relationship. Not one like people are used to hearing about–the distance in this relationship is where the film gets its title, as it involves one party being in space and the other on earth. Mikako and Noboru are high school sweethearts training to go into the military together. In this futuristic setting, Earth is at war with aggressive aliens that decided to attack human colonies on Mars; humans are taking action to prevent the creatures from reaching our planet. Things don’t go as well as planned when Mikako does far better in her training than Noboru does in his. Noboru is left out of the military, while Mikako is called into combat to help save our galaxy.

Communication between the two happens via cellphone-based text messaging. (Apparently, in the future, we can fly to foreign galaxies at lightspeed and do combat in giant robots, but still can’t get more than one bar of signal.) As Mikako gets farther and farther away from Earth, the messages take longer and longer to reach Noboru. Knowing the excruciating waiting time between these messages, then hearing their content gives viewers a rare kind of empathy for the couple. It’s a real bummer.

Screen Shot
Classic Shinkai

Shinkai works his creative magic when directing VoaDS. The story is told largely by one of the two main characters talking over a current scene or background shot. The animation could have used some work, but when considering this was made by a single person on a single computer, one can’t be too greedy. Viewers will just have to ignore or learn to love the hard edges around characters and “sketch marks” here and there. What’s there is at least functional, even if this flick doesn’t pack the amazing visual quality if the later released The Place Promised in Our Early Days.

The ADV Films release of Voices of a Distant Star comes bundled with a special soundtrack CD, and that’s a real treat. The music is enjoyable and well used in the film, and the enclosed CD is a nice way to revist its peaceful sounds.

Screen Shot
Every kind of technology has advanced except that of cellphones.

One area where VoaDS suffers is the subtitles. Even in the ADV Films Region 1 DVD, the subtitles are fuzzy and somewhat of a pain to read, almost forcing one to choose English voice acting. Both voice casts do fine, but this reviewer finds the Japanese cast slightly preferrable, making the subtitle woes stand out all the more.

Voices is a cult project for sure. Most everything about it is anti-mainstream, from the lack of ninjas, to the unorthodox story, to the directional style and odd-looking animation. This is not a bad thing, just be warned that VoaDS is not a typical anime.

A normal episode of a TV series contains about 21 minutes of footage, while a movie is usually at least an hour long, if not two. Voices of a Distant Star isn’t the most exciting piece of anime, but what it does in 30 minutes is fairly impressive. It’s nothing to run out and buy immediately, but it is pretty enjoyable when in the mood for something thought-provoking and mildly depressing.

-Heath Hindman