ANIME & MANGA - Article
09:06 - 1st August 2013, by Matt Kamen

Movies of a Rising Star

In a little over a decade as a professional animator, Makoto Shinkai has produced a respectable body of work. While perhaps not the most voluminous filmography, his movies perfectly epitomise the maxim 'quality over quantity', and nearly all have gone on to be award winners. Here's NEO's rundown of his major features to date!

She and Her Cat - 1999
Unconventional from the off, Shinkai's premiere work was a five-minute independent short, made entirely in black and white. It explored the relationship between a cat and his female owner, but was amusingly told from the cat Chobi's point of view. The charming short won him the DoGA CG animation award and caught the attention of studios. Too short for a stand-alone release, She and Her Cat is available in the west on the DVD of his next effort....

Voices of a Distant Star - 2002
Clocking in at a meagre 25 minutes, Voices still manages to cram more content and ideas into its short run-time than many full length movies are able to. Focusing on a young couple in the near future, we see the pain of the ultimate long-distance relationship, as Mikako and Noburo are torn apart by interplanetary war. With Mikako fighting an alien menace in the depths of space, they can only communicate by electronic messages.
In a stroke of genius - or perhaps cruelty - Shinkai incorporates principles of physics such as relativity into the narrative; with messages only capable of being transmitted at the speed of light, they take increasingly longer to be received, and become more garbled with progressive distance. Mikako also ages more slowly than Noburo due to travelling faster than light - when she is 15, Noburo has already aged to 24. A stunning accomplishment for one man, Voices is heartbreaking but breathtaking in equal measure.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days - 2004
Shinkai's first feature length effort, and one that's won awards in Canada, Korea and his native Japan. Set during an alternate 1990s, following historical diversions post-WWII, Place Promised follows three friends - Hiroki, Takuya and Sayuri - living in the southern half of a segregated Japan. Finding a crashed plane, they vow to repair it and one day fly to the mysterious Hokkaido Tower that rises high into the sky from the prohibited northern state. Then, Sayuri disappears...
Place Promised blends international war, parallel universes and extra-sensory perception with themes of growing up and experiencing young love into what is simultaneously one of Shinkai's most personal stories, yet biggest collections of ideas.

5 Centimeters Per Second - 2007
Shinkai's most recent work, and the first time he stepped away from science fiction influences. After its conclusion, he spent most of 2008 relaxing in London before returning to Japan to begin work on his next epic!

A Gathering of Cats - 2008
Before he got to that, though, Shinkai would create this revenge fantasy of a family cat whose tail has been stepped on one too many times! Light-hearted and humorous, it aired as part of the NHK television network's 'Ani*Kuri 15' selection of one-minute animated shorts.

Journey to Agartha - 2011
Originally titled Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, Journey to Agartha sees a return of more fantastic elements in Shinkai's storytelling - such as ruined temples, strange powers and monsters - while remaining a close and personal tale. The story centres on a girl named Asuna who is "on a journey to say farewell" as Shinkai put it on his blog. Such a tease!

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