Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no Koe) (2001)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 24-Oct-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternate Audio-Director's Cut with alternate vocals
Short Film-She and Her Cat - 3 versions
Interviews-Crew-Makoto Shinkai (Creator)
Featurette-Original Production Animatic
Theatrical Trailer-Original Japanese Trailers
Trailer-Battle Doll: Angelic Layer, Full Metal Panic!
Trailer-Martian Successor: The Prince Of Darkness
Trailer-Neon Genesis: Evangelion
Reversible Cover
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 25:04 (Case: 30)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Makoto Shinkai
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Makoto Shinkai
Mika Shinohara
Sumi Moto
Chihiro Suzuki
Donna Burke
Cynthia Martinez
Adam Conlon
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Tenmon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I'm quite accustomed to reviewing animated pieces that are about 25 minutes long. Normally, however, they are individual episodes of a series. This entire feature is 25 minutes long. Unusual. But very effective.

    This is a simple story, set decades into the future. A UN mission to Mars is attacked and destroyed by an alien race that is called the Tarsians. Mankind salvages technology from their vessels, and now a force is heading out to track down the Tarsians and "discuss" things with them (OK, they intend to blow them away). A group of spacecraft are heading out, each carrying a bunch of Tracers — these are giant mechas, piloted by young people.

    Mikako and Noboru have been going together since middle school. Mikako is chosen to pilot a Tracer — she ships out to Mars to train. Noboru is left on Earth; he's studying. They communicate via e-mail on their cell-phones (voice is impractical because signals take hours between planets). The delay between messages gets longer and longer, as Mikako and the fleet head further out from Earth. It's bad enough when they are still in the same solar system, but when they are forced light years away...

    What kind of relationship can you have with someone when your only communications link may take years to deliver a message? And worse, when relativity separates your ages?

    The animation is exquisite: beautiful and fluid. It's quite obvious how much work has been put into this. And the Japanese script and score match up to it. Unfortunately, the English does not — not because of the acting (which is very good), but because the script has been changed, and this alters the meaning in a number of places — please do not regard the English dub as authoritative.

    This is a beautiful little story, inspired by SMS. Strongly recommended (in Japanese).

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This piece is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced, understandably. That's the original and intended aspect ratio.

    The image is sharp and clear — superb stuff. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise.

    Colour is absolutely top-notch. This uses a palette of deep rich colours, and they have been rendered really well. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no film artefacts. There are examples of beautifully simulated lens flare, but these are completely deliberate. I gather that this was transferred digitally, so no film stage was involved.

    There is some aliasing, but it is mostly quite minor and easy to ignore — only the vending machine around 3:01 bothered me at all, and it is still not too bad. There is no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts. There's very occasional light shimmer, but it is easy to ignore.

    There are two sets of subtitles, both English. I watched all of them. One lot only translates songs and signs (that includes cell-phone displays) — there are plenty of things to translate! The other set translate the Japanese dialogue as well.

    The disc is single-sided (with a beautiful picture label), and single layered. The one layer is ample to hold this piece and all of the extras.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This feature has three audio tracks, all of which are soundtracks. The one to avoid is English. The other two are both Japanese. All three are Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps). I listened to all three. The difference between the two Japanese tracks is simple enough. One is the director's "scratch" track, voiced by the director and his fiancée (Mika Shinohara). The other is the commercial track, recorded by professional voice actors: Sumi Muto as Mikako, and Chihiro Suzuki as Noboru. Interestingly, this track also includes some English, from Donna Burke as the operator on the Lysithea. I am not sure which version of the Japanese soundtrack I prefer, which is an interesting testament to the voice work from the director and his fiancée.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand, but is not true to the original storyline (to see where the deviations are, listen to the English dub with the full English subtitles). Both Japanese tracks sound clear enough.

    The score, provided by Tenmon, is a touching example of solitary piano. There are plenty of moments without score, and that is quite apt.

    The Japanese soundtracks seem to offer a little more in the way of enveloping sound than the English — you'll know why you laid out the money for those surround speakers, even though they are not used continuously. The subwoofer is used when required, mostly to support explosions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu is subtly animated, and there is music behind the menus. They are easy to navigate.

Bonus Animation: She and Her Cat

    This is an award-winning short animated piece by Makoto Shinkei. It is presented in three forms:

    This may sound strange, but I urge you to watch all three versions, in the order listed. This is because you will see more detail unfold as you watch each longer version — it's really cool. It's black and white, and quite simple, but really quite charming stuff. It is voiced by the director and his fiancée, too.

Interview: with the Creator (8:16)

    This is an illuminating interview, for all that the video is not particularly high quality and there's considerable noise on the sound. Well worth watching.

Director's Cut

    This is another way to see the main feature with the soundtrack from the director and his fiancée.

Featurette: Original Production Animatic (23:01)

    This is an impressive extra. It blends pieces of black-and-white computer generated animation with storyboards and a soundtrack (in Japanese without subtitles) to present the whole story. Very cool.

Original Japanese Trailers (7:34)

    These are not actually trailers. These are a series of preview pieces. The first one features rather cruder animation, which is interesting. Watch out, though — the sound on this is a bit loud.

Reversible Cover Slick

    If you decide that you strongly prefer She and Her Cat over Voices of a Distant Star, then you can slide out the slick and reverse it, labelling the disc as being She and Her Cat. Because the case is a transparent one, you don't have to slide the slick out to see what it says.

Trailers: ADV Previews (6:48)

    This is four trailers presented one after another.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release, which came out mid-2003, is quite similar to the Region 4. It has an insert with the words to the song printed on it, but that insert is pretty much the only difference between the two releases. The Region 1 transfer sounds as good as ours. I'd say this would be a case of picking up whichever version you want, confident that both are good.

Summary

    A labour of love, resulting in a brilliant short piece of anime. Presented very well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras add up to three times the running time of the feature. That's a lot of extras!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, January 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Jules F
The DVD Bits - Damien M
impulsegamer.com - Tory Favro

Comments (Add) NONE