Hi, how are you? Long time no see. Anyhow, let’s talk about some anime!
Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Belle”.
Following a traumatic event many years ago, high schooler Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) has become a shadow of her former self, becoming very quiet and withdrawn. But one day seh joins “U”, an online community where you can be whoever you want to be. In here she becomes Belle, an internationally beloved pop star. However, her reign soon takes a turn after she finds out about a mysterious user known as The Beast (Takeru Satoh). As you can probably tell, this story takes some cues from “Beauty and the Beast. And it uses some of those elements as a springboard to tell a tale of finding oneself again, exploring the effect of trauma on a person, and how it makes on act in real life and online. And I think it does a beautiful job exploring its themes, all while perfectly balancing emotional resonance with popcorn friendly fun, creating a magnificently wonderful story.
Much like the story before them, the characters in this strike a really nice balance between an emotionally rich realness and easily digestible tropes. Many of the characters at first glance sort of fit into familiar stereotypes in various animes and coming-of-age dramas. But as we go on throughout the movie, more is unveiled about our cast to add depth. And then you add the characters’ reactions to the immediate events of the story, they feel more dynamic and real and I found the entire cast quite engrossing. Speaking of cast, the actors in this are all quite good. Featuring people like Kaho Nakamura, Takeru Satoh, Ryo Narita, Lilas Ikuta, Shota Sometami, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Koji Yakusho, and many more, there’s not a weak link in this cast.
The score for the movie was composed by Yuta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell (SWEDEN REPRESENT!), Miho Hazama, and Taisei Iwasaki, and it’s great. It’s a varied mix of traditional orchestration with more more electronic/synthy sound, which I think perfectly marries the real world drama and cyberspace parts of the world/story marvelously. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, it’s fun, it just works so well. There’s also a few song-songs (for lack of a better word) done by Japanese group Millennium Parade, and holy fuck, they are so good. Not only are they a delight to listen to on their own, but they also help with the storytelling in their respective scenes. So yeah, this movie has some wonderful music.
“Belle” was written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda, with animation by his own studio, Studio Chizu. And once again, everything on that end is top tier. Every shot is lovingly crafted, drawing the eye to the visual splendor in every frame. What I also like is how they differentiate the real world from the world of “U”. The real world is pretty much all 2D animation, with fairly muted colors, whereas nearly everything going on inside of “U” is done in 3D with some really slick cel-shading and plenty of saturated and crisp colors. And just briefly, that 3D stuff is some of the best I’ve seen. Cel-shaded 3D in anime can often look really rough, but the insane wizards at Chizu managed to make it pretty much flawless. But pretty art/animation only gets you so far, but luckily I can happily say that Hosoda’s direction shine’s here. From the quiet scenes between characters, to the action scenes inside of “U”, to the more comedic bits, all of it is perfectly directed.
So yeah, I absolutely loved “Belle”. It’s an emotionally rich adventure that I can’t wait to revisit in the future. It has a fantastic story, great characters, great performances, fantastic music, and fantastic direction/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Belle” is a 9.93/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.
My review of “Belle” is now completed.
Hosoda-san sure loves the internet, huh?