Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo is the latest work in 4 years by Makoto Shinkai, who has been keeping a low profile until this popped up. As a fan of his after watching Byousoku 5cm, I was really hoping for a lot from this work. Unfortunately, I do seem to have misjudged things a little.
I’ll have to make a confession at first, I have never really watched any Ghibli movie except for Spirited Away, therefore unfortunately I will not be making snarky comparisons of the show with Princess Mononoke/Totoro/Porco Rosso/whatever else etc etc. from Ghibli. But I will have to say, this show has a really strong fantasy feel that evokes a feeling similar to what fans of the Ghibli series feel when they watch those for their first time. I really should look in to doing that one of these days myself.
Ok, back to the movie. Firstly, it’s very pretty. Comparing it to Byousoku’s BD release, I can say that having the production done entirely for HD really does bring out all the awesomeness of Shinkai’s obsession with backgrounds. Every frame is literally pretty, background wise, and not in a way that makes you think “oh this must be traced from photos” too. Rather, there is a very genuine feeling that this is straight from Shinkai’s ideal inner world. One where he literally weaves out his stories’ settings, as if he’s been living there his whole life and he’s tracing them from memory.
However, the other aspects of the movie don’t really fall up to standards with his settings. Character-wise, I did not really get attached to anyone in the movie and there was generally a sense that they are just there to give a half-hearted purpose to the movie. It’s just that they are there to play a very generically structured role. I was expecting a bit more from Morisaki-sensei, but in the end, even he didn’t pan out. At least the action scenes, when they happened, was properly animated.
Thematically, the series was supposed to talk about farewells and how hard it can be to accept them when the time comes, but in the end, I really did not feel it played much of a role in the story as well. Unlike in Byousoku 5cm, where the simple story brought out the theme of “distance” so effectively, the story this time did not manage to do so, as cluttered as it was. Didn’t help there was many incongruous elements thrown in, like the sudden references to Nazi invasions and Hitler (lol), which just served to explain a little about the world setting, but ended up actually raising more questions about it instead. It’s a shame really.
Overall, I’d say that this was a decently made movie, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness afterwards. This is a very well-produced movie, but unfortunately, where it counts, the creativity was spent more on the technical aspects instead of the places where it counts, like the story, themes and characters. Just like a Hollywood summer blockbuster, actually.
tl;dr: everything is pretty but story didn’t impress.
Rewatch: Possibly, when bored.