Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Voices of a Distant Star (2002) ★★★★★



Foreword

I think this is the first OAV that I review on my blog. Certainly, the cartoonish aspect is a turn-off for people who are unfamiliar with Japanese media. In Japanese culture, cartoon is not exclusive to children but it is an art form in itself which can be employed not only for children but also for any genre from thriller movies (Perfect Blue), to adventure (Wings of Honneamise), comedy (Samurai Champloo), action/fighting (Hokuto no Ken),  horror/gore (Elfen Lied), erotica... This OAV is targeted at a teenage and young adult audience and is a romantic psychological drama.


Plot

Mikako (a girl) and Noboru (a boy) are 2 junior school friends. Thanks to her excellent scores at school, Mikako successfully enrolls in the army as a mecha pilot and is sent to fight extra-terrestrials discovered in the surrounding of planet Mars. As the chase brings Mikako ever further away from Earth, her messages to Noboru take longer and longer to travel, extending to months and even years between the transmission and the reception.


My verdict

A true jewel, though short: 25 minutes only. Let's tackle the criticisms first! English voices are definitely stereotypes of the whiny girl and the indecisive boy. The character design is a bit simplistic, borderline doujinshi. That's it for criticism! That was fast. Now let's see the good of this movie!

The melancholy and the heart-wrenching feeling of separation in a long-distance relationship are very well transcribed (and I know what I'm talking about). With the time passing, we also perceive the evolution of the teenage characters into adulthood and the evolution of their relationship. The scenes and landscapes are splendid. Even though it's kind of a cheap move to use still backgrounds, it fits the epistolary nature of this story. Mikako's fights are violent verging on a gore side and I think this is a denunciation of the army in general and a factor explaining how the different daily experiences of both characters push them to evolving in different directions. The choice of putting the girl in the fighter role is a good alternative to the stereotypical gender roles in society and it allows both characters to focus on their feelings, while avoiding the nauseating representation of the heroic male worshiped by a stay-home vacuous female. In just 25 minutes, and with very little text, this OAV delivers a very rich scenario. Final verdict: 5 (not distant) stars and an enthusiastic recommendation.

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