Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: A+
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 19.98
- Running time: 30
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Voices of a Distant Star
Voices of a Distant Star
By Chris Beveridge
May 31, 2003
Release Date: June 10, 2003
Voices of a Distant Star
What They Say
© ADV Films
When a mysterious alien force begins their annihilation of the human race, a young pilot feels called to join the resistance. But the danger of an interstellar battle is not Mikako's greatest concern. For she has left behind the one young man she loves. And as Mikako flies further into deep space, her only way to connect with Noboru is by cell-phone text messages. While Mikako risks her life to save mankind, Noboru waits. At first days, then months, then years for each new message that will let him know whether Mikako is still alive. And while she barely grows older in the timelessness of space, Noboru ages.
How can the love of two young people, torn apart by war, survive?
To what distance would you go...for your one, true love? The Review!
Gaining much of its popularity due to being the project of really just one person over the course of seven months, Voices of a Distant Star is really much more than just that.Audio:
Owing to the much more personal nature of the show, we listened to it in its original commercial release language of Japanese and in 5.1 no less. This show is very dialogue driven and there’s some rather nice placement of it throughout the program, though the rear channels were used only in a minor way, mostly for sound effects. Dialogue and music come through perfectly, especially the haunting score. We skimmed the English 5.1 mix and it had relatively the same feel to it. Video:
Originally released in 2001, Voices of a Distant Star is something new to the anime market, harkening back to the early days of doujinshi and garage kits. Produced by a former game designer employee at home on his own computers, it’s an intriguing piece of work. ADV managed to score very big with this release in terms of source materials by getting the actual original hard drive files that were used to create it. Quite simply, you cannot get any better than that. Working with that, the transfer here is simply gorgeous. Colors are amazingly lush and deep, saturated without bleeding. Cross coloration is non-existent and only a few very minor areas of aliasing occur. The only real “flaw” that I could see with this transfer is during some of the panning sequences up and down, there’s a slight stutter that’s simply inherent in the materials. Otherwise, I can’t imagine this looking any better.Packaging:
ADV has also scored highly here with the packaging, providing something for everyone. The front cover has the traditional image that’s been used in various releases around the world, showing the two leads set against the cloudy sky. The back cover provides some good shots from the show and a really nice summary of the premise. The discs features are listed nice and clearly and the technical information is laid out well too. With the short running time, they were definitely smart in listing the full runtime of the extras that are included. The cover here is also reversible, and a really great one at that. The reverse side is done mostly in a black and white style and has a full front cover for She and Her Cat, with the original “Their Standing Points” sub logo. The reverse back side provides all sorts of textual information about the program from Shinkai himself, dated back in 2001. This is a great reverse cover. There’s also an insert with this release, with another of the great sunset clouded sky and provides the English lyrics to the song “Through the Years and Far Away”. The reverse side provides another little note from Shinkai about the production and what it means to him.Menu:
The menus here are nicely done, each of them featuring images from various places in the show, such as the main menu having the school chair at the back of the room with the cell phone on it. Instrumentals from the show play through all the menus, and if you listen to it for a while you will feel the need to own the soundtrack. Access times are nice and fast as there are no transitional animations.Extras:
Talk about loaded as there is about seventy-five minutes worth of stuff. There are loads of good extras here, kicking off with three versions of the award winning She and Her Cat. They provide the digest version, the three-minute version and the big five-minute version. Each looks gorgeous and the story for it is simply hauntingly beautiful. With three versions, it’s really interesting to see what was kept and moved around in building the story and how each of the versions tells an effective story. There’s an eight minute Japanese interview with Shinkai himself as he talks about various aspects of the production, from the time and effort it took to what he felt the most passionate about. The original Japanese trailers, almost eight minutes worth, are also included here.
The “director’s cut” is also included, which is about two minutes shorter than the final version. The differences in here are very interesting, with the two main points being that the voices are done by Shinkai and his fiancée at the time, so as to provide him with a feel for pacing and what he needed to do smooth out the show. It’s interesting to compare the performances, no so much for the nuances themselves, but for how it all plays out with someone completely different, much like comparing the Japanese and English dubs.
The original animatic’s are also included, which is something of a real learning piece for aspiring digital animators. This shifts between storyboards and fully animated uncolored sequences and has an audio track with it as well but no active subtitles for it. Even though I’m hardly an aspiring animator of any sort, this was a fascinating piece to watch and see how it all came together.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the course of reviewing this title, I’ve ended up seeing it approximately five times now. That’s something of an advantage when the main program is only twenty-five minutes long and there’s several variations of it provided as extras.
Voices of a Distant Star tells a tale that’s very appealing to me, one that I’ve read in countless variations and lengths over the years in science fiction novels, as well as seeing aspects of in other anime shows. Taking place in 2046, we’re introduced to two middle school students who are close to entering high school. Mikako and Noboru have been friends for many years and have grown up quite closely. As both are close to moving onto the next phase of their lives, there’s that growing sense, that possibility that they may be moving from friends onto something more intimate.
Unfortunately for them, a few years earlier there was an invasion into the solar system from a race called the Tarsians. They ended up attacking the colonies on Mars and killed quite a number of people. But, ever resourceful, humanity managed to acquire aspects of the Tarsian technology and have built massive starcraft to traverse the stars to their world and to stop the war one way or another. The UN Space Army has been building up its forces and plans since 2039. But now, in 2046, they’re ready to start moving away from Earth and into the stars.
At a time when the two should be choosing their high school paths, Noboru learns that Mikako has instead become part of the UN Space Army and is headed to Mars for training before she leaves on the mission to the Tarsian space. The two will still be able to keep in touch though across the vast expanses of space through messages on their cellular phones. There will be delays of course, as she gets farther and farther away. Messages start from nearly instant to eventually taking well over eight years to reach Noboru. As she ages by the day, he ages by years, widening the gap between the two, yet with the simple link of a phone holding it all together.
The story ranges between the tentative emotions of the young girl and her potential boyfriend, his own feelings about the situation and the events of the UN mission across the galaxy. It plays out very well considering the time restraints, providing a number of very well done quiet sequences of introspection. The action sequences also excel greatly, providing a style that’s really come across well over the past few years with the CG animation. That had been my only hesitancy with this title prior to actually seeing it, was to be concerned about how good the CG craft would look. But after seeing how well it mixed with the style here, it really works well.
Stories like this have appealed to me for some time, as it’s something that’s been explored a lot more over the past twenty years of science fiction, as we as a culture seem to get further and further apart from each other as more and more technology that’s intended to bring us closer together becomes available. Many aspects of this show were reminiscent of one of my favorite anime shows that utilize aspects of this time/space issue, that being Gunbuster. Other pieces reminded me of Stephen Baxter’s phenomenal novel Ring. The touching romance that’s at the tips of their fingers, the intonation of the voices as they think about the choices they’ve made, is all very well done and tugs just right at the heartstrings.
The only real downside to this is that you wish there was more. You wish that this served as a launching point to sell someone into financing an entire regular season for it, to tell the tale in more depth and detail, to bring more to the romance and to the background. But if not, there is something very real and strong done up in this little package, and I think that is going to be its real testament. Voices of a Distant Star is going to be one of the shows that will be pointed back to in years to come as the starting place for something new in the anime world. It’s rare for those starting points to actually be good beyond the technical aspect, so this is going to set the bar higher for future releases of the same type. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next animator in his little apartment will come up with to try and top this.
In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll look at my cell phone quite the same way.
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Three versions of Shinkai's award-winning animated short "She and Her Cat",Interview with Makoto Shinkai,"Voices of a Distant Star" Director's Cut with alternate vocals,Original production animatics,Four original Japanese trailers,Reversible cover
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers