INTRODUCTION. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Journey to Agartha in the UK) was one of those films that would erratically pop up on my radar in the last fews months. Seeing its gorgeous blu ray cover at Forbidden Planet cinched the deal: I wanted to see this. No regrets. Anime fans will be happy to hear that this is one of Makoto Shinkai’s productions (5 Centimeters Per Second, Voices of Distant Star).
CHARACTERS. Here is not the most original of protagonists: the hardworking school girl, peppered with a wistfulness for the unknown, which we can all understand- ah, but her motivations aren’t transparent from the getgo. Rooting for Asuna is effortless as she embodies both the innocence and unexpected maturity of childhood. We could say the same for the other children in the film. Its adults are (intentionally) less likeable by being… well, by being realistic adults. Ryuji best encapsulates this- he is determined beyond all reason and projects an inflexible energy against Asuna’s more organic openness. The resulting dynamic keeps us concerned for them.
STORY. Shinkai does an excellent job of establishing a routine norm in Asuna’s life before setting us off on the long trek to (as well as through) Agartha. It’s best not to know more about its premise other then “Magic crystals!” The genius of the journey’s unpredictability is that we don’t really know what to find in this world- except that perhaps, at its end, something ominous.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is indisputably grand in its sweeping shots. What I adored most were the rare moments of quirkiness; almost Ghibli-esque glimpses of fantasy. Agartha is a dying arcadia and the scarcity of these glimpses allude to a greater, more vivid past. It sublimely accomplishes the state of being both tragic and beautiful.
CONCLUSION. There are many themes and sub-themes here: life, death, colonialism, environment, war. Don’t try to take it in all at once. Like any good story, Children Who Chase Lost Voices will plant rather unusual looking seeds- but I promise you, the fruit is worth a wait.
CHARACTERS: 7/10 STORY: 7/10 REWATCH FACTOR: 6/10 OVERALL: 7/10