Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In short: Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (2011)

A little girl who has lost her father early in life enters Agharta, a semi-mythical world lying under the surface of the Earth. She falls in with her teacher cum agent of a secret society in his attempt to bring his dead wife back from the dead by opening the gate between the world of the living and the dead situated down there. The people living in Agharta are not amused. Various action sequences and obvious melodrama happen.

This anime by Makoto Shinkai sure is pretty in a "let's try to imitate Studio Ghibli's visual style as closely as possible (hopefully without getting sued)" kind of way, especially when it comes to the character design that more than once oversteps the line between loving homage and outright rip-off.

Unfortunately for the film at hand, this visual closeness to the works of Hayao Miyazaki also invites the comparison with the other aspects of that man's work, and it's here where Children starts to look and sound rather tired. Shinkai replaces what I assume to be his big model's actual insight into humanity and the world with a sweeping soundtrack and trite morals like "you have to let your dead loved ones go". It's Miyazaki without soul and the understanding of the actual complexities of life, love and humanity.

As an adventure movie, Children is trying to hide its basic emptiness and its lack of a sense of wonder behind visual lavishness, but never manages to make the actual adventuring exciting enough to let its audience (at least in my case) overlook the general lack of charm and urgency of the endeavour.

For the tastes of someone like me, who prefers the rough and interesting to the slick and mindless, watching Shinkai's movie was particularly annoying: all that talent and all that money wasted on something without any emotional, intellectual or artistic ambitions beyond being a good imitation.


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