Went to Metrograph for what should have been a showcase of animator Makoto Shinkai’s early shorts (including She and Her Cat, which I’ve been trying to track down for quite some time, and Voices of a Distant Star, the greatest masterpiece in a body of work absolutely filled with them). Unfortunately, at the request of the director himself, the program was canceled and replaced with a screening of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, his third feature. C’est la vie…
While most of Shinkai’s efforts tell relatively grounded stories with slight supernatural/sci-fi twists, this one stands out as pure fantasy; indeed, because it revolves around a young female protagonist journeying to a magical world (replete with rolling green hills and bizarre creatures), accompanied by a villain that is more misguided than outright evil, it’s closer in style and content to something Studio Ghibli would produce, to the extent that it often borders on homage. But in place of Miyazaki’s childlike sense of wonder, Shinkai infuses the narrative with his trademark bittersweet, melancholy atmosphere, creating a different beast entirely. As always, his characters pursue goals that remain just beyond their grasp, in this case literally chasing the ghosts of departed loved ones, grappling with insurmountable obstacles in the hopes of escaping their loneliness and despair.
Although it’s not nearly as memorable as 5 Centimeters per Second or Your Name, the simplicity of its premise makes Children Who Chase Lost Voices Shinkai’s most thematically-clear movie: a heartbreaking yet cathartic metaphor for learning to say goodbye, no matter how much it hurts to let go of those we’ve lost. It leaves the viewer an emotional wreck in the best way possible; I’ll endeavor to revisit it more often in the future.
[Originally written August 12, 2018.]