Hoshi no Koe (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 10, 2003
What They Say
A stunning work of art, Hoshi no Koe is all the more remarkable for being the fruit of labour of a single, talented and dedicated man. Written, drawn, animated and directed by independent talent Makoto Shinkai, this Original Voice Version also sees him and his wife voice the two main roles of this film. Highly recommended viewing.
The Original Voice version was recored in Dolby Surround, and is a very well presented surround mix. Another voice track exists for this film - a professional voice track made with professional seiyuu artists, in Dolby Digital 5.1, which is not included on this disc. Both voice versions can be found on the stand alone Hoshi no Koe DVD (list price: 5800 Yen)
Originally produced on a home computer, the video is a direct digital transfer, and looks stunning, with amazing detail and colours. Even better, it is progressive. A minor gripe of small overscan bars which were only visible on my desktop, not on my TV (which is properly calibrated) are not enough to detract from the rating.
While the packaging may be preipheral to most anime dvds, in many respects, the packaging for Hoshi no Koe DVDBook _is_ the product. The outside itself is a very nicely presented A5 cardboard case shaped to look and open like a book. The key selling point, an 80-page colour booklet, contains a "making of" section with colour photos, and 64-pages of storyboards. This booklet is integrated into the front cover of the package "book", with the back cover holding the dvd in a clear jewel case. For those interested in the making of this phenomenal anime, it is time to brush up on your kanji skills!
Since first seeing this title earlier this year, I knew I had to get my hands on it. When I saw this dvd artbook edition, I didn't have to think twice.
Firstly, let me make a few introductory notes about the creator of this show, Makoto Shinkai. Makoto Shinkai used to work in a computer game company, where he was a video director. In 2000, his independent short animation, Kanojou to Kaonou no Neko (Her and Her Cat), won him the Japan Annual Animation Contest. For Hoshi no Koe, he quit his job and worked at home for six months on a Mac. He wrote, storyboarded, drew, coloured and animated the entire 25-minute episode himself, and he and his wife played the roles of the two main protagonists. The work drew the attention of a commercial studio, who arranged for a professional voice cast to record a second vocal track. An advance screening was released in February 2002, and the dvd went on sale in April 2002. It sold out within a week, and additional pressings had to be made, making it one of the most successful independent anime efforts in Japan. This work has also drawn the attention of overseas studios, and it has been licensed in the US by ADV.
When one is informed that they will be watching an independent animation, there are usually all sorts of caveats as far as visual quality is concerned. Not so with Hoshi no Koe. The graphics and animation easily rival any animation by well-established studios such as Gonzo or Madhouse, and it is all the more remarkable for being the work of a single man. What strikes one the most is the lushness and richness of the colours. Every scene is like a painting, and every painting a work of art. The visual directing and composition are top-notch, and the 3-D animation is amazingly well-done, with a quasi cel-shaded look that perfectly complements the 2D backgrounds. The 3-D animation appears a little stiff at first, until we realise that the protagonist is a new pilot - the animation gets smoother and smoother as she improves.
At its heart, Hoshi no Koe is a touching love story. Nagamine and Noboru are two high-school students in a small town in Japan in 2047, living ordinary lives and dreaming of being together forever. 8 years ago, humanity was attacked by aliens when they sent an expeditionary mission to Mars, and the Earth is currently gearing up for war with the mysterious aliens, whom they call Tarsians, using technology obtained from combat with the Tarsians. Chief among these technologies are warp-capable spaceships and manned robot suits. When Nagamine is selected to become a member of the UN Space Advance Fleet, a gulf of physical distance is opened up between her and Noboru, who remains at home. As she travels further and further into space, the gap between the two widens as it takes months, or even years, for messages to reach back home. Can the love between the two endure?
Drawing from a wealth of inspiration, yet remaining unique, Hoshi no Koe is a masterfully crafted tale of love between two people separated by the very stars themselves. The tale is beautifully told and the amazing performances by the two main characters (neither of them professional voice actors in this version) invests the story with emotion and believability. I found Hoshi no Koe to be a profoundly moving experience, and I was touched beyond words. As a retired screening director of a large anime club, I have seen literally hundreds of anime, and believe me when I tell you that I feel privileged to have been able to see Hoshi no Koe.
Note: This dvd has no English subtitles. However, I have confirmed that subtitle files can be found for this show. In addition, readers might be interested in the stand alone Japanese DVD, which not only includes the professional Japanese dub in 5.1, but also has Makoto Shinkai's earlier film, Her and Her Cat. The feature on the stand alone disc also has no subtitles, but Her and Her Cat has English subtitles.
Japanese Language,Original Voice Version Dolby Surround Track,80-page Colour Booklet
Primary: Loewe Xemixx DVD player w/SCART output, Grundig Xentia 82cm Widescreen TV, Sony TA-VE215 Surround Setup
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Other
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Voices of a Distant Star