Anime / Voices of a Distant Star
We are far, far, very, very far apart; but it might be that thoughts can overcome time and distance.

Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe) is Makoto Shinkai's first major work. This 2003 short film is considered one of the most poignant anime romances around, though it is particularly well-known for another reason: Shinkai scripted, drew, animated, and produced the entire movie by himself. He even voice-acted Noboru.

Middle-school student Nagamine Mikako and her friend Noboru had looked forward to attending high school together, but when humanity declared war on an alien force known as the Tarsians in 2046, she was drafted by the UN Space Army to serve as a Tracer pilot in a task force assigned to the spaceship Lysithea. Mikako leaves Noboru behind on Earth as the UN Forces pursue the Tarsians deeper into space. During their separation, she communicates with Noboru via email — but as the fleet travels farther from the Earth, the transmission time grows increasingly longer, until eventually Noboru must wait years for any word that Mikako is even still alive.

Voices Of A Distant Star provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Mikako is a very good combat pilot, even in the middle of her emotional worries.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The manga expounds considerably on the film, introducing new subplots and characters into the mix. All while retaining the same focus and plot.
  • Alien Sky: From Agartha's surface, the sky is a green tinge and at least one of its moons are visible.
  • All There in the Manual: Those who missed the newspaper headlines in the movie's finale might misinterpret it as either a Downer Ending or a bittersweet one. However, those headlines report the Lysithea's victory at Agartha. Additional details like Noboru's Navy uniform in the closet suggest his eventual reunion with Mikako. The supplementary Novelization states outright that the Lysithea won the battle, but their FTL drive was damaged beyond repair, so they had no choice but to call for help and wait eight years for the message to reach Earth. Furthermore, the UN is said to be deploying a second fleet on a rescue mission, with Noboru being part of it.
  • Angst: The genuine, increasing anguish of both characters for their separation is central to the story.
  • Asteroid Thicket
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: It is implied the Tarsians attacked humanity to give them the motivation to venture into space and challenge them as a species.
  • Berserker Tears: Mikako weeps like the anguished schoolgirl she is during much of the Final Battle. Until she stops crying, that is. That doesn't stop her from being frighteningly effective.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: What happens when Mikako gets over her Angst with victory in battle as her only option to see Noboru again.
  • BFS: The Tracers possess a powerful beam saber that can be used to slice an alien battleship in half.
  • Cool Starship: The Lysithea and its sister vessels of the UN Navy possess a warp engine and beam weaponry that can curve at right angles to hit enemies.
  • Child Soldiers: Mikako is decidedly of the precocious variety, being the only member of the fleet's crew to appear in the anime.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: An interestingly zigzagged variant, as Mikako is actually badass enough from the beginning. Then, her anguish because of her separataion from Noboru slowly turns her into an emotional wreck that makes her even fail to react to threats, basically revoking her Badass status. And then, she realizes she loves Noboru, and her only option to ever reunite with him is to protect the only remaining ship of the fleet. Cue Mikako regaining her Badass status, personally taking point in the last ditch counterattack and slicing in half the largest Tarsian ship. Would count as a simple Let's Get Dangerous! moment, if not for the notorious change in behaviour (from emotional wreck to Heroic Safe Mode).
  • Darkest Hour: For both characters, it is not the Final Battle, but how dangerously close they are to reach their Despair Event Horizon over their separation.
  • Determinator: Zigzagged to Agartha and back. Mikako (and, to a leeser degree, Noboru) spends most of the OVA averting the trope really hard (see Angst and Heroic B.S.O.D. entries for details). Played very straight in the Final Battle, as she realizes that she truly loves Noboru and wants to return with him someday and acts accordingly. Also, again to a lesser degree, for Noboru once he realizes the same and joins the Navy to be part of the rescue fleet.
  • False Camera Effects: This aspect is particularly impressive and demonstrates Shinkai's attention to detail, giving the anime a greater degree of realism.
  • Fantastic Romance: The degree of separation between Mikako and Noboru is a consequence of FTL Travel.
  • Foreign Language Theme: "Through the Years and Far Away" (performed in English by LOW aka Yuuki Mizusawa) is played during the final battle.
  • Foreshadowing: Messages take increasingly long times to be sent, but time passes in both sides. Yet, Noboru doesn't get any new messages before the one sent eight lightyears away arrives, meaning that Mikako and the fleet are not coming back, which foreshadowes the fleet's defeat.
  • FTL Travel: The UN vessels, like the Lysithea, are capable of FTL travel using warp engines, although they lack the FTL communications capabilities to complement it.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Mikako, when the fleet is forced to make a series of long-distance jumps (first one year, then eight years). That makes her wonder if Noboru will wait for her or (understandably) won't. He does, but she has no way of knowing. She literally breaks down crying betwen fights.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Mikako falls into one at the higgest of her Angst, briefly turning into a weeping emotional wreck inside her mecha.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Of the "I have to focus on survival right now. I'll deal with these feelings later" variety, for Mikako in the Final Battle end. She starts it almost in Heroic B.S.O.D. over her separation from Noboru, snaps out of it, wins the battle, and returns to thinking about Noboru as soon as the battle ends.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Tarsians bleed in dramatic delayed-reaction jets when they are critically injured.
  • Humongous Mecha: The suits deployed by the UN Navy are called Tracers.
  • I Will Wait for You: Noboru struggles a great deal with whether or not to keep waiting for Mikako, and tries to give up on her a few times. Ultimately, the trope is subverted when he chooses to follow her into space.
  • Laser Blade: Energy swords are part of the Tracer's combat loadout.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Mikako still wears her school uniform while fighting Tarsians, contrasting the expectation that pilots would be supplied with plugsuits.
  • Long Distance Relationship: Noboru and Mikako attempt to do the best they can to maintain contact during the latter's deployment. Even when this involves light-years of separation between them.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Tracers wield missile pods as part of their loadout.
  • Magic Skirt: The skirt of Mikako's school uniform stays down even in zero-g.
  • No Ending: The anime is open-ended and only subtly implies that Mikako and Noboru are eventually reunited. Conversely, the manga adaptation adds some resolution.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Fashions don't seem to have changed much over the course of the story. Noboru's UN Navy tunic even resembles something a Cold War-era officer would wear rather than someone about to go into space.
  • Rain Aura
  • Roboteching: Ships in the Lysithea task force use their particle cannons to great effect against the smaller Tarsian mecha: the cannons are mounted in groups and fire beams that can curve at right angles.
  • Scenery Porn: The landscapes and attention to detail are staggering; terrestrial locations within the film were designed from actual locations in Japan.
  • Short Anime Movie: The running time of the film is 25 minutes.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Tarsians have an anatomy similar to those of starfish
  • Subspace Ansible: Inverted; while UN spacecraft are capable of FTL travel, they lack FTL communications. Ironically, a newspaper near the end of the film reports that the generation of starships built after Mikako departed will have the FTL communication capability that the ships of her fleet lack.
  • Super Cell Reception: Accommodated by the Lysithea's communications array, Mikako's phone is able piggyback on the network to send out messages to Noboru at increasingly long intervals.
  • Surprisingly Good English: The Computer Voice of the Lysithea is voiced by a native English speaker (the same actress who provided the voice of Raising Heart in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha), and thus her pronunciation and intonation are flawless, although the word ordering is unusual in some places.
  • Time Dilation: While the fleet has FTL travel, its vessels lack FTL communications and so, it takes an increasingly long amount of time for Mikako's messages to reach Noboru as she travels farther from Earth; she compares it to twentieth-century air mail.
  • Time Travel Romance: Time travel is not explicitly involved, but the lack of FTL communications means that past Mikako is essentially sending messages to future Noboru.
  • Tranquil Fury: Mikako in the last half of the Final Battle, once she realizes that victory is the only option to see Noboru again.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Mikako and Noboru in their flashbacks.
  • Wangst: Invoked in all but name by Noboru at the start of in his final part, which resumes as "I've been complaining and doing nothing for too long - now I am doing something".

...I am here.