Anime / Voices of a Distant Star

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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 on his own. In its original release, Shinkai himself voiced Noboru, as well.

Middle-school student Mikako Nagamine and her friend Noboru Terao 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 capable combat pilot despite her emotional burdens.
  • 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.
  • Alternate Self: Possibly. In a Mind Screw sequence late in the film, Mikako sees another version of herself, one who is older and has a wedding band. Whether this is a self-induced hallucination out of her anguish, a psychic attack from the tarsians or something else is left unanswered.
  • Angst: The genuine, increasing anguish of both characters resulting from 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.
  • 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. The manga does lampshade her lack of experience.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Despite her young age and appearance being out of place in a military setting, Mikako proves to be a highly effective pilot, engaging and defeating numerous Tarsians during the film's final battles.
  • 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: After coming to terms with her feelings for Noboru during the Final Battle, Mikako realises that she desires nothing more than to return to his side and subsequently displays a hitherto unseen combat prowess, shooting down multiple Tarsians in the process.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Grave Clouds: When Noboru is waiting futilely for Mikako's messages the first winter of her being out at space, the weather is overcast and snowing.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It is raining heavily when Noboru tries to gather the resolve to let go of Mikako. And then the message she had sent 1 year ago arrives; by the time he finishes reading it, so does the rain.
  • Heartbroken Badass: When the fleet is makes a series of long-distance jumps, it increases the communications delay between her and Noboru. Their increasing distance leads Mikako to wonder if Noboru will wait for her, and this culminates in her putting her feelings into the final battle, where she tallies a large number of kills against the Tarsians.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Thinking about the distance between herself and Noboru causes Mikako to bawl her eyes out in her cockpit mid-battle, but she manages to pull herself together.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: Mikako's longing to reunite with Noboru drives her into fighting the Tarsians with a much greater resolve and ferocity.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Tarsians bleed in dramatic delayed-reaction jets when they are critically injured.
  • How We Got Here: The anime starts with Mikako already a spaceborne Tracer pilot, then flashbacks to before her enlistment.
  • Humongous Mecha: The suits deployed by the UN Navy are called Tracers.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: When a large Tarsian force approaches near Pluto, the Lysithea task force bugs out via FTL jump rather than take their chances trying to fight the enemy head-on.
  • 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 by making it explicit that Noboru is in the rescue force coming for them.
  • 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.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The manga doesn't depict the Final Battle. The penultimate chapter ends with Mikako flying up from Agartha's surface towards the fight, and the final one jumps right to the aftermath.
  • Product Placement: At one point, a can of Qoo is shown.
  • 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.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Several times, the Lysithea's computer declares that Tarsian forces are at something thousand without stating any units. From context, distance of some sort is implied, but never outright stated.
  • Short Anime Movie: The running time of the film is 25 minutes.
  • Shout-Out: A couple of times, trains bearing containers marked "United Nations Spacy" are seen.
  • 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 to piggyback on the network to send out messages to Noboru at increasingly long intervals, first interplanetary and then interstellar distances.
  • 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 Lyrical Nanoha), and thus her pronunciation and intonation are flawless, although the word ordering is unusual in some places.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: Many of the songs in the soundtrack share motifs with either "Through the Years and Far Away" or "Ame no Boss Tei/Rainy Bus Stop".
  • 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: Once she realizes that defeating the Tarsians is the only way to see Noboru again, Mikako stems her tears and proceeds to decimate opposing Tarsian forces with surprising efficacy.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Mikako and Noboru in their flashbacks.

...I am here.

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