HomeAnimeChildren Who Chase Lost Voices - Anime Film Review

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Anime Film Review

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Title: Children Who Chase Lost Voices
Alternative Titles:
Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below | Journey to Agartha | Hoshi o ou Kodomo
Format: DVD and Blu-ray
Published by:
Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Sentai Filmworks (North America)

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Audio: Hybrid Dub
Subtitles: English
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Special Thanks: Madman Entertainment for kindly providing me with a review sample of this release

When she hears a strange song from a crystal radio, Asuna tunes into more than just a magical stream of music. Soon, she is transported to a mysterious world where mythical beasts roam and brave warriors fight for their lives. Agartha is a land of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable danger – a place where, it is believed, even the dead can be brought back to life. But at what cost?

2 Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below   Review

I first reviewed this film approximately a year and a half ago during its Australian première in November 2011. With Children Who Chase Lost Voices being only able to hold onto the title of “Most Recent Film” by Makoto Shinkai for a few more weeks until the world première right here in Queensland, Australia… I thought it was only fitting to review the English Blu-ray edition of the film, published by Madman Entertainment in the latter half of last month. As I have already reviewed this title in the past, this will be more of an updated review – factoring in details and specifications that have changed since the theatrical release and transfer onto Blu-ray disc. This title is also available on DVD.

With all the specifics out of the way, feel free to sit back and enjoy my review of Children Who Chase Lost Voices!

4 Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below   Review

The storyline primarily focuses on the main character Asuna Watase, who is what you could consider a bit of a loner, however very mature for her age after losing her father and responsible for up-keeping of her household due to her mother being busy at work. She holds a high regard for music, owning a radio powered by a mysterious crystal that she uses to tune into the weird and wonderful songs that play through it when at her mountain hideout. On the way to her hideout one day she is attacked by a “giant freaking bear” and just as she is cornered, a mysterious man named Shun appears. In what could be conceived as the shortest romance in any series, they meet one day, kiss the next and uh…. the guy “kicks the bucket” the next day. This is essentially what the first half an hour or so was about, and it did try to introduce the main character and her living situation with moderate success… but with only the tiniest bit of action to catch your attention it was a rather slow start.

After these events she is evidently traumatized, having developed a bit of a crush on this mysterious stranger who never really explained anything, and that is when the storyline really kicks in. Focusing on elements of mythology, they introduce you to the world of Argatha where it is said to be possible to resurrect the dead, however given the abuse from “topsiders” many many years ago, had become a lost underground civilization – until now. Due to a freak accident she runs into the brother of Shun – Shin and ends up entering Agartha with her teacher Ryuji Morisaki and from there, they both look for a way to resurrect the ones they lost while traversing the plains and villages of Agartha. This is by far the more interesting part of the storyline, as well as the majority of it.

5 Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below   Review

I appreciated the story – which was focused on the elements of “life and death” as well as “Looking to the future” and “Life” itself. Each of these elements are well looked at through the eyes of Asuna whom remains indecisive about just what she wants out of the journey, Mr Morisaki who will do anything to resurrect his wife while trying to remain a “father-figure” to Asuna and Shin who has unwavering decisions about his loyalty to his village and to the group of seemingly harmless topsiders who rescue him more than once. Fortunately they have not made use of any supernatural plot devices that would make their journey’s easier to handle, so no hidden magic to rescue them from peril and no sudden changes of heart from a minor antagonist character to let them remain unhunted.

They developed the world creatively giving the Asuna et al much to both fear and befriend. The world of Argatha is not a magical world filled with towering cities powered by magic, but instead more of a rural country with many towns in ruins with only a few remaining scattered around. Given past events the locals are hesitant about outsiders and attempt to segregate them and leave them as prey to beings who at night would swoop up and drain any topsider of their blood, who are commonly used as minor antagonists. Life and death is also a brilliantly thought of concept in this series as well as how living and dead can be reunited, however as they come in later in the film I will leave you to determine that for yourself.

Unfortunately, there were a few flaws with the storyline which need mentioning. While the storyline in my opinion was great, they sometimes sped through elements and other times they just dragged on, so I think with better plot progression we may have had a more complete look at both characters and plot elements. To be more specific on one element, they could have given Shun more screen-time as while most of the plot relating to him is elaborated through Asuna’s journey, I find it hard to believe a romance could be caused by two meetings between the two. I look forward to seeing how Makoto Shinkai’s improves upon the viewing experience in his upcoming film.

7 Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below   Review

The one thing that Makoto Shinkai’s works are pretty much most well known for is the design, and this film does not disappoint. I have to say I am glad I saw this in the cinema as it allowed every centimetre of the scenery and character designs to be shown for just how good they were. I won’t deny when I first saw the official artwork pictured at the top of this review I was skeptical about the character designs as I felt they might have tried straying a bit too far in the attempt of being unique – however my fears were quenched after the first two minutes of the movie once I saw the brilliant level of detail on each of the characters. Some people have said both character designs and environment designs are very similar to Ghibli films, but I would only say this was the case in the most minute sense.

While the character designs are great, the environment designs were even better to the point I would not call them eye candy, but perhaps environment porn or something along those lines. In terms of any anime I have seen, this would have the most memorable environment designs with everything holding that picturesque and detailed appearance to it. The series does make you aware of it, with the camera regularly panning out to make the screen 95% environment and 5% characters. Fortunately on Blu-ray the designs look (from memory) just as vibrant as when I first saw the film in cinemas, and is one of the better looking titles I have had the opportunity to review.

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The music was well composed, featuring a number of softer tunes to suit the more serious and calmer environment while also having a few more intense songs for the few serious moments in the film. The music was composed by Tenmon, who have worked with them on other projects such as 5 Centimeters per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. The films main theme is Hello Goodbye & Hello by Anri Kumaki and once you get into it, it is a rather enjoyable song. The song has not been touched in the English release.

When it comes to the English voice acting, while there were not that many roles to actually fill I thought the casting was a bit off for some characters. As much as I have enjoyed Hilary Haag in a number of roles, I thought her voice didn’t lend as much to the experience as Asuna than her Japanese counterpart (Hisako Kanemoto). The same can be said for David Matranga as Ryuji Morisaki. Other than that, I actually quite liked Corey Hartzog and Leraldo Anzaldua as Shun and Shin respectively. I have included an excerpt of my original review in terms of Japanese voice acting below:

In terms of voice cast, there were only a few main voice roles needed, but they were provided by some strong talent with Hisako Kanemoto (Ika Musume – Squid Girl) voicing Asuna, Kazuhiko Inoue (Too many roles to pick out one) voicing Ryuji Morisaki and Miyu Irino (Seigen Hayami – UN-GO) voicing Shin and Shun, and all did a great job respective of what the characters personalities and roles were.

screenshot_5_17748

Before I get started on covering the extra content of this release, I would like to mention something that I found a tad annoying. While on the cover artwork, Madman Entertainment retained the English title “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, on the Blu-ray disc which seems to be based on the UK release, it prominently states “Journey to Agartha“. Why rename a title which has already been shortened once before? Given I had watched this a year and a half ago under the official English title “Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below” – in such a period for the title to go through two name changes is a little frustrating.

Fortunately, this release comes with a second (Properly titled) extras disc which comes with a nice set of extra content. While it may not be up to the wealth of extras that come with their Blu-ray Ghibli releases, the second disc comes with the following extra goodies:

  • Interviews with Staff and Cast – Japanese cast, Approximately 56 Minutes in length.
  • The Making of Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Approximately 45 Minutes in length
  • Japanese Promotional Video – Almost five minutes in length
  • Japanese Teasers
  • The Works of Makoto Shinkai
  • Trailers for Upcoming Madman Titles – Persona 4 the Animation, Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror, Coicent / Five Numbers, Cardcaptor Sakura (Uncut) Collection, 5 Centimetres Per Second

Overall, while I am undecided on what my favourite Makoto Shinkai film is, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a rewarding anime film to watch, and once I could happily recommend! Heres hoping for there not to be such a long wait until the next physical release of one of his films!

Final Score
Storyline / Character Development: B+
Design: A+
Music/Voice Acting: B+
Extras: B+
Personal Preference: A-
Overall Score: A-

Sam
Sam
Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.
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