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Anime / Children Who Chase Lost Voices

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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 Bishōnen 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 aired on Toonami on November 5th, 2016 at daylight saving time hours, making it the first anime movie since 2014 to air on Toonami, the first work by Shinkai to air on Toonami, and the third Sentai Filmworks title to air on the block.


Children Who Chase Lost Voices provides examples of:

  • The '60s: 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.
  • An Aesop: Grief is a universal experience, but we all have to learn to move past it.
  • All Myths Are True: In general, elements in existing myths (such as the Quetzalcoatl of Mesoamerican mythology and the vimanas of Hindu texts) can be found in Agartha.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Asuna has a nightmare of Shun's arm coming off, even though that never actually happened in reality.
  • Anti-Villain: Morisaki uses some morally questionable actions to find Agartha, kills the gatekeeper for the hidden world in front of Asuna and Shin, attempts to kill Amaurot's village guards in defense when they come after him and Asuna which isn't necessary, and may come off as an obvious Manipulative Bastard, but Morisaki's selfish goal is strongly sympathetic because he wants to resurrect his deceased wife Lisa after he returned from a war to find her already dead. He even has the heart to form a strong bond with Asuna well and put her first before his life, though this doesn't stop him from using her as the vessel for his wife's spirit which Shin puts a stop to. That said, after this event, he's regretful of this decision and lets Asuna go home for her happiness and he chooses to remain in Agartha with Shin permanently.
  • Arrow Catch: Well, rock catch technically. When an Agarthan child throws a rock at Asuna, Morisaki catches it before it can hit her.
  • Balancing Death's Books: 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.
  • 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 Izoku. He ends up saving her from the Izoku a second time later.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Combined with Throwing Your Sword Always Works, Shin throws his sword to knock Morisaki's gun out of his hands as the latter is returning fire at the guards attacking him.
  • 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.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Asuna calls Mimi a cat though she doesn't really look the part. Manna's grandfather eventually reveals it's called a yadoriko.
  • Call-Back: Earlier on in the film, Morisaki makes an Eat the Dog joke about Mimi. Later on, after Mimi's death, Manna offers the corpse to a Quetzal Coatl, which eats it.
  • Central Theme: Ultimately, the living are more important than the dead.
  • 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.
  • Class Representative: One of Asuna's classmates refers to her as this.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Asuna. Her journey through Agartha ultimately helps her mature as a person, and appropriately enough, the film ends with her growing older and graduating from her school.
  • The Conspiracy: What Arch Angel actually is beyond their ostensible goal of advancing humanity, we never find out in detail, so we do not know whether they qualify for Ancient or Government. What we do know, though, is that they are secretive, predate World War II at least given how the Agarthans fled their predations, have international membership and reach and can deploy armed men and attack helicopters in Japan, something which should be difficult to hide even in an obscure rural area.
  • Culture Chop Suey: Agartha is an idea of hollow Earth first popularised by a French occultist, but it uses various Latin terms, Amarout comes from Utopia by the Englishman Sir Thomas More, "Quezt Coatl" from Aztec myth, and Shakuna Vimana from Hindu myth.
  • Cute Mute: Mana is a little girl who Shin and Asuna rescue and is incapable of speech.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Throughout the movie, Shin becomes more warm and caring towards Asuna.
  • Determinator: Morisaki is willing to do anything to be reunited with Lisa. Even using Asuna as a vessel.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Morisaki ends up holding on to Lisa as she leaves him again.
  • Dirty Business: Morisaki's expression and the tears he sheds show that, despite how far he's gone, he wishes he didn't have to use Asuna as a host for Lisa.
  • 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."
  • Dramatic Unmask: The Arch Angel member who makes Asuna use a clavis to open the way to Agartha reveals himself to be Morisaki.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Asuna has a daydream/vision of descending into a subterranean body of water during Morisaki's lesson on Izanagi and Izanami before it actually happens.
  • Dumb Struck: When the Amarout guards see Manna, they remark that she became incapable of speech after her mother's death, with the implication that the trauma caused her muteness.
  • Eat the Dog: When Asuna comments that Mimi and Morisaki seem to be getting along better, he comments that they could use Mimi as food and quickly makes a "Just Joking" Justification afterwards.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Bringing somebody back to life requires a currently living body and a vital bodypart.
  • Extra Eyes: When it confronts Morisaki at the end, Shakuna Vimana transforms into a... thing with eyes all over.
  • Eye Scream: Morisaki loses his right eye as the price for bringing Lisa back.
  • False Camera Effects: There is a Jitter Cam effect during certain action sequences, some lens flares, and 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.
  • Ghibli Hills: As the works it draws inspiration from, the film shows gorgeous shots of Japanese rural mountain towns.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Izoku have glowing red eyes. Mimi's eyes glow gold the first time she sees an Izoku, and green the night Asuna stays with Manna and her grandfather.
  • Go Through Me: Shin puts himself in the way of the Amarout guards trying to kill Asuna and Morisaki.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Latin names are fairly common, whether it be locations like Finis Terra note  or items like the clavis note .
  • 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.
  • Hospital Hottie: Asuna's mother is a nurse and is a beauty.
  • 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.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Near the end of the film, Shin and Asuna break down in mourning for Shun.
  • Intangibility: The Izoku can phase in and out of matter at will.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Asuna says it's cold as Lisa takes her as a host.
  • Informed Species: The "Pakicetus" that guards the entrance to Agartha doesn't really look like one, to say the least. The real Pakicetus was a furry, semiaquatic, pig-sized animal, nothing like the giant hairless crocodile-like creature in the movie.
  • Jerkass: The Amarout guards are racist, Ungrateful Bastards who try to kill Asuna and Morisaki out of paranoia.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Shin is hostile, cynical, and self-centered mostly towards Asuna unlike his older brother Shun. He eventually starts to bond with her over their course of journey to the Ark of Life.
  • A Kind of One: The Quetzal Coatl is a collective term that refers to Agartha's guardians.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: After Shin gets disarmed by the lead Amarout guard, he tries to keep fighting with his fists. The guard obliges him by sheathing his sword and going unarmed too.
  • The Lost Lenore: Morisaki's wife Lisa has been dead for years by the time the film begins, but the thought of her continues to drive him, to the point that he seeks Agartha to bring her back and moans her name during nightmares.
  • Make Sure He's Dead: After shooting the gatekeeper until it stops moving, Arch Angel shoot it a few more times.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Arch Angel members who try to corner Shin at his first meeting with Asuna wear face-concealing goggles and masks.
  • Meaningful Name: The city "Canaan" is named for the promised land of the Jews, while Amaurot is the capital of the titular Utopia. Fitting for locations in what was once a flourishing, powerful world.
  • The Men in Black: The Arch Angels.
  • Muggles Do It Better: A hulking gatekeeper is shot to death by a pair of Arch Angel mooks using small arms.
  • Mundane Utility: Aside from its powers, the clavis is used as a semi-conductor in Asuna's radio.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Various Agarthans demonstrate a vaguely-defined ability to know where a clavis is.
  • Neck Lift: An Izoku does this while strangling Asuna.
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: The names of Asuna's parents and Mana's grandfather.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Mimi, Asuna's "cat."
  • Parental Substitute: Asuna eventually comes to see Morisaki as something of a father figure.
  • Plucky Girl: Asuna. Either when it comes to house chores or surviving a different world.
  • 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.
  • Prophet Eyes: The old woman ruling the Canaan has all-white eyes.
  • 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.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Mana is raised by her maternal grandfather.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Elder of Amarout, thanks Asuna and co. for bringing back his grandaughter Mana and calls the guards out for being ungrateful bastards. He lets the group stay in his house for the night and takes care of Shin. While he disagrees with Morisaki's quest to resurrect his wife, he still gives them a boat and directions to Finis Terra.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Izoku — malevolent beings that try to eat Asuna — have red eyes that glow in the dark.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Shun is blue, being calm and contemplative, and Shin is red, being hotheaded and reactive. They never actually share screentime together, but their dichotomy of personality reinforces that fact that for all their physical similarities, they're very different people.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Discussed with the story of Izanagi and Izanami in Asuna's class; Morisaki also mentions that there are similar stories around the world. He later tries to pull one off with his wife, Lisa.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Quetzalcoatl is near-universally depicted as a feathered serpent in Mesoamerican myth, but the name is given to various Eldritch Abominations throughout Agartha.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Morisaki's glasses briefly glow when he tells Asuna that he seeks Agartha not because he believes in Arch Angel's goals, but rather to bring Lisa back.
  • 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.
  • Seeks Another's Resurrection: Morisaki's motivation for descending to Agartha is to resurrect his dead wife. Foreshadowed by the Orphean rescues he discusses in class.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: A Pakicetus, of all things, appears early on as Asuna and Shin approach Agartha.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: It falls somewhere between this and a Shoot the Shaggy Dog for Morisaki. Despite his efforts, not only does he only get Lisa back very briefly, he loses an eye in the process.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Perhaps naturally, as Makoto Shinkai is a known fan of Hayao Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky, there are a lot of references to the film, including plot, visuals and character designs. Specific examples are Morisaki, a Colonel Muska Expy, and the Clavis, which directly evokes Sheeta's crystal. The Ark of Life also has a similar design to a large airship seen in the prologue to Castle In The Sky.
    • The movie also references another work by Miyazaki, this time Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, with the blind old woman who rules the Canaan, who is clearly meant to resemble Obaba from said film.
    • Shin cutting his hair and saying goodbye to his sister before leaving his village (probably for good) directly references the opening of Princess Mononoke. Some creature designs also borrow aspects from the spirits and demons in Mononoke too.
    • As a 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, and Agartha is the name of a planet in Voices of a Distant Star.
  • Sinister Shades: One of the Arch Angels conspicuously wears shades.
  • Snow Means Death: Asuna's father died during the winter. Morisaki is also shown standing over his wife's grave in the falling snow.
  • Soft Water: While trying to escape the Izoku, Shin, Asuna and Mana fall a long way into water without experiencing any effect. This happens again when falling into the water at the bottom of Finis Terra, though this time they had a Quetz Coatl to carry them part of the way down.
  • Soul Jar: One of the functions of a clavis is to enable a soul to take residence in a living body; when Shin destroys the one used in Lisa's resurrection, she is unable to stay in Asuna's body any longer.
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • Shun and Shin are very similar physically, which throws Asuna when she first meets the latter.
    • Enforced and subverted in the designs of Morisaki and Asuna, who could convincingly fit a father and his daughter, particularly in shots where their identical hairstyles are highlighted. They aren't related, but she does come to see him as something of a father figure. She even comments at it at one point, pointing out how much he resembles her late father, which draws an uncharacteristically emotional response from him.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Shin, Shun's younger brother, arrives after Shun's death. Their similarities are such that Asuna initially mistakes him for Shun. Later discussed and deconstructed. Asuna notes that Shin and Shun aren't perfectly identical: Shin is shorter, younger, and has very slightly different colored hair and eyes. They're brothers, not copies. This helps Asuna come to terms with the fact that Shun isn't coming back.
  • Tainted Veins: Morisaki develops these shortly before his right eye is taken from him as the price for Lisa's resurrection. They recede after bleeding to leave an ugly scar on his face.
  • Tempting Fate: The moment Asuna's teacher mentions that a bear-like creature has been sighted nearby and Asuna tells her schoolmate that she needs to hurry home, it's obvious that she's going to end up running into it.
  • Time-Compression Montage: The initial part of Asuna and Morisaki's exploration of Agartha is done in a fast-forward montage.
  • 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.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The Amarout guards get called on this by the Elder, after Asuna saved Mana from the Isozo.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Agarthan civilization was once one of the most advanced and powerful civilizations in the world. However, numerous wars with the surface world and the subsequent isolation from it have resulted in the Agarthan civilization declining to the point where the population is steadily dying out. Things for them are so bleak that the few Agarthans left have essentially accepted that their end is inevitable and they'll just keep carrying on until it comes.
  • Villainous Rescue: Shin and Asuna are saved from the gatekeeper by Arch Angel, who want Shin's clavis.
  • Walking the Earth: In the end, implied to be the fate of Shin and Morisaki; the former can't return to his homeland, having failed his mission, and will be scorned everywhere for aiding topsiders, while the latter chose to stay in Agartha.
  • Weakened by the Light: The Isozo can only move in shadow; light and water hurt them.
  • 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.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Gender-inverted. Asuna's mother has a busy schedule because she's a nurse, which means little time for her child. Leaving Asuna craving as much quality time as she can manage.
  • Worst Aid: Morisaki pulls out a shard of rock that gets stuck in his leg.
  • Wrecked Weapon: Shin breaks the blade of his sword trying to get through a forcefield.
  • 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.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Shin realizes this when he rescues "topsiders" Asuna and Morisaki from death. The Amarout soldier even states this.

Alternative Title(s): Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below