It was a journey to say goodbye.
Released in May 2011, Makoto Shinkai
's Children Who Chase Lost Voices
focuses on Asuna Watase, a cheerful girl who embarks on a journey to say farewell. Contrasting his previous films, it is far more spirited and lively, telling of the implications behind life and death, as well as happiness and despair, and the folly of blind determination. With a running time of nearly two hours, it is the longest of all of his works. The film's original Japanese name is Hoshi o Ou Kodomo
(in English, Children Who Chase Stars
) and was previously known as Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
Asuna is a middle school student. Her father passed away while she was still young, and her mother works long shifts as a nurse. Despite being an excellent student and proficient at household tasks, she is able to find time to visit her secret hiding spot at the top of a hill, and uses a unique crystal her father left behind to listen to radio stations. She encounters a strange melody which remains with her, close to her heart.
Her life changes when she encounters a bear-like
creature and is promptly saved by a bishounen
named Shun, who wields the same kind of crystal Asuna uses. Shun reveals that neither he, nor the "bear", were from Earth; instead, they are residents of Agartha, the underworld where lush fields bloom and where majestic monsters roam. They spend a short period together before Shun passes on, leading Asuna to feelings of longing. It isn't long before Ryuuji Morisaki, a substitute teacher, discusses the legend of Izanagi and Izanami
in class, piquing Asuna's interest. She visits him later that day and comes to learn of his intentions, eventually agreeing to accompany him on his journey to Agartha.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices provides examples of:
- All Deaths Final: Asuna and Morisaki travel to Agartha in order to revive someone they lost. To find out they can't, unless they're willing to sacrifice someone else's life.
- All Myths Are True: In general, elements in existing myths (such as mythical beasts) can be found in Agartha.
- Altum Videtur: Latin names are fairly common, whether it be locations like Finis Terra note or items like the clavis note .
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Morisaki is warned numerous times about the hazards in bringing his wife back from the dead, but pays the price for seeing it through, when he loses an eye in the process.
- Big Damn Heroes: Shin saves Asuna and Manna after the latter two are captured in the dead of night by the Izuko.
- But Now I Must Go: Mimi dies once her role as a guardian is fulfilled.
- Butterfly of Death and Rebirth: A blue butterfly flutters around following Shun's death.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The mysterious crystals Asuna and Shun possess are referred to as a clavis, which were created as keys to Agartha. In addition to granting the users immense powers, they power the ability to grant wishes, including the power to bring the dead back into the world of the living.
- The melody Asuna hears at the beginning is revealed to be Shun's final song. It touches her heart and is explained to be a vessel of a being's memories.
- Cute Mute: Mana is a little girl who Shin and Asuna rescue and is incapable of speech.
- Disappeared Dad: Asuna's father died when she was little and is implied to have been Agarthan, because he left behind a Clavis for his daughter and the Izoku consider Asuna to be "defiled."
- False Camera Effects: There is a Jitter Cam effect during certain action sequences, as well as a ridiculous amount of attention paid to shifts in lighting within scenes.
- Fantastic Racism: Agarthans are highly prejudiced against "topsiders", regarding them as an ill omen owing to their encounters with them in the past. As such, Asuna and Morisaki are initially treated with hostility.
- Have You Seen My God?: Shakuna Vimana is a massive ark that God himself wields to oversee Agartha.
- Hereditary Curse: The Izoku are a cursed tribe, doomed to wander Agartha aimlessly.
- The "Defiled," children of mixed topsider and Agarthan heritage, have a related curse - the Izoku hunt them in order to maintain balance.
- Humans Are Flawed: Driven by a lust for power, historical figures delved into Agartha and confiscated much of its treasures. Having been troubled by centuries of warfare with the surface world, Agartha sealed itself off to prevent any further contact.
- I Choose to Stay: The credits sequence implies that Morisaki stays behind in Agartha.
- Ill Girl: Morisaki's wife was suffering from an unspecified illness and succumbs to it.
- A Kind of One: The Quetzal Coatl is a collective term that refers to Agartha's guardians.
- Mundane Utility: Aside from its powers, the clavis is used as a semi-conductor in Asuna's radio.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: This is shared by Asuna and Morisaki; in both cases, they were unable to properly say farewell before someone close to them died.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Mimi, Asuna's "cat."
- Parting Words Regret: Morisaki regrets being unable to take care of his wife in light of the war he was fighting.
- Posthumous Character: Morisaki's wife is deceased at the story's start, although Morisaki is able to resurrect her for a short period upon reaching journey's end.
- The Power of Love: Love for a lost one drives the actions of the characters, but this is deconstructed when Morisaki uses Asuna as a sacrifice for reviving his wife, Lisa.
- Scenery Porn: Whether it be Agartha or Earth, the scenery is spectacular and gives some of the best sights in the world a run for its money. Of note is Finis Terra◊, the location of the Portal of Life and Death.
- The Sixties: The helicopter used by Arch Angel is an AH-1 Cobra with a modified gun; the Cobra was deployed in the 1960s, and it is revealed that Morisaki fought on the European theatres in World War II. The presence of typewriters and the design of vehicles reinforce this setting.
- Shout-Out: As a Makoto Shinkai work, several elements from his previous films make an appearance:
- Asuna's cat is named Mimi, in keeping with the name of the cats in Makoto Shinkai's earlier works.
- Agartha was the name of a planet in Voices of a Distant Star.
- Snow Means Death: Asuna's father died during the winter.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Shin, Shun's twin brother, arrives after Shun's death. Their similarities are such that Asuna initially mistakes him for Shun.
- Time Skip: The epilogue seen during the credits is set several years after Asuna leaves Agartha.
- The Underworld: Agartha is located inside the Earth and can only be accessed by subterranean passages.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: While they still factor into a later subplot (see Humans Are Flawed), the Arch Angels are never seen or mentioned again after their introduction.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Asuna remains optimistic and hopeful even during the darkest points in the film; this element prevents the film from being an outright Tearjerker.