Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices) (2011) Review

Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices)
星を追う子ども
Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

Directed & Written by Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Hisako Kanemoto, Kazuhiko Inoue, Miyu Irino

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A coming of age story involving young love and a mysterious music, coming from a crystal radio left as a memento by an absent father, that leads a young heroine deep into a hidden world.

My Opinion:

I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages. It was recommended to me by S.G. of Rhyme And Reason a very long time ago & I picked up the DVD right away but then it sat on a shelf for years (like most DVDs I buy). Thanks for the recommendation, S.G.! Like Shinkai’s other work, it’s a lovely film and I really enjoyed it. I have to say I slightly prefer his other films, though, which I didn’t expect as the story in Journey To Agartha is much more “me”.

This anime is from director Makoto Shinkai, who also made Your Name and two beautiful short films that I watched recently: 5 Centimetres Per Second & The Garden Of Words. I’m still fairly new to anime so I stick to the most mainstream stuff and admit that Studio Ghibli will always be what I love the most. Beyond that, Shinkai & Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children, Summer Wars, etc) are the two main directors I’ve been exploring. So far, I think I slightly prefer Shinkai’s work. This is mainly because of his style more than the actual stories themselves: his films are beautiful works of art. They’re all very “teenage love story”, though, so I was looking forward to Journey To Agartha as it sounded like a far more interesting plot. It’s “weird” and much darker than the other Shinkai films I’ve seen.

But I couldn’t really get into this one. I think the reason was partly because I couldn’t help but keep comparing it some of the Miyazaki Ghiblis. It’s a bit of Castle In The Sky crossed with Howl’s Moving Castle and a sprinkle of Spirited Away. Those are brilliant, of course, so nothing from other directors or studios can really compare to them. When I want that sort of style, I watch a Ghibli film. From the little I’ve seen, I prefer when Shinkai has stuck to his own style. Your Name worked really well for him so I don’t think he needs to try to make a Ghibli-inspired film. I also didn’t really connect with the characters in this one in the same way I did with those in his other films (such as the woman in The Garden Of Words – she was a strong character). The story in this was also intriguing but the plot was a little messy (but Howl’s Moving Castle can be accused of that too).

I do think this film really picked up at the end, though. The climactic scene was pretty cool & intense (don’t let your young kids watch this one – it’s aimed at an older audience). And this dude was pretty groovy, even though he’s one of the most obvious Ghibli-inspired things:

Oh yeah! And I forgot that the girl’s animal companion in this reminded me very much of the one in Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind:

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Journey To Agartha but I haven’t yet seen an anime film that I’ve not enjoyed. This one won’t be an absolute favorite, though. I think my expectations may have been a little high as, looking at the images, it looked like one I’d love. However, I’d like to give it another try sometime as I watched it after a crappy night out so probably wasn’t in the right kind of mood. I’ll see what the kid thinks of it once she’s a couple of years older and I’ll see if my opinion changes on a re-watch. For now, I’m a bigger fan of Your Name.

My Rating: 7/10

I’ll be reviewing Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai later today. I can’t quite decide if I preferred Journey To Agartha or Mirai…

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