Makoto Shinkai’s first mainstream success, “Voices Of A Distant Star”, is a 25-minute anime short released in 2002. Set in the year 2041, it tells the story of two high-school sweethearts, Mikako and Noboru, who are separated when Mikako joins the UN Space Navy to fight in a war against a mysterious alien race known as the Tarsians. As the war takes her further and further away from earth, Mikako’s messages to Noboru – and his replies – take longer and longer to reach their destination: days, weeks, months, and ultimately years. Separated not only by the vast distances of space, but also by the mind-bending effects of time dilation, Mikako remains a teenager while Noboru grows into young adulthood. Yet despite these obstacles, they struggle to communicate and hold onto their love for one another.
“Voices Of A Distant Star” lacks the artistic polish and sophistication of Shinkai’s later productions, yet still manages to skilfully deploy all the images – lonely bus and train stops, level crossings, vast sky- and landscapes, the changing cycle of the seasons – that have become his trademark metaphors for human emotion. Likewise, the story, while condensed and less satisfying than the short episodes that comprise his subsequent masterpiece, “5 Centimetres Per Second”, is nonetheless an affecting meditation on love, separation, loneliness, loyalty, and the emotional distance that comes with changing circumstances. For those unfamiliar with Shinkai’s work, “Voices” is a compelling and accessible “taster” of the rich narrative and artistic landscape for which he has become justly famous.
© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2019. All rights reserved.