I’ll admit that I’m hesitant to write a post about Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices after Doc’s fantastic post, but the movie was fantastic and has compelled me to tackle a different part of the film than the ideas of the movie and instead the oft-mentioned influence from Ghibli, especially from Laputa.
It would be difficult not to see the numerous connections that are littered throughout the movie. Supposedly Shinkai has said that Laputa was his favorite movie as a child, and it shows from the blue stones, the collapsing civilization long lost from history, or the way the Quetzalcoatl is very similar to the robot in Laputa. The comparisons don’t end at Laputa though, with Shin’s very Ashitaka-like exile and Mimi’s resemblance to Teto from Nausicaa, Shinkai obviously had a certain prominent studio in mind while making this film.
What interests me more, though, are the differences between Children Who Chase Lost Voices and the Ghibli films that inspired it, especially Laputa. One thing that immediately struck me was the fact that Agartha is located under the earth, as opposed to Laputa‘s castle in the sky. I think this immediately clued me in that Shinkai had a very different plan for his world than the Adventure! present in Laputa, as this journey to a different location led us to a darker place than the wondrous dream of living in the air.
Similarly, the magic presented in Children is far more terrifying than anything present in Miyazaki’s movies, perhaps barring Princess Mononoke (which I haven’t seen since middle school, perhaps something I should soon remedy). While the “magic” in Laputa is ultimately a danger, it’s only a danger because of the misuse by the humans who created it. Similarly, in Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the destruction wrought by the supernatural forces is only a result of the abuse committed by humans. In Shinkai’s film, however, magic seems to bring only ruin if it is trifled with, from the Izoku’s attempt to devour any Toplanders who wander into Agartha, to the frailty of Agartha’s residents when they enter our own world, and especially what happens when Morisaki reaches Gate of Life and Death.
These differences, along with the themes the film tackles that Ghibli would hesitate to touch on, seem to signify an attempt to break new ground with anime. For all the similarities to Ghibli, I was actually heavily reminded of Xam’d throughout the movie. Not that Children Who Chase Lost Voices was inspired by Xam’d, but instead that they seem to be new attempts to use the advantages of animation to convey a very foreign fantasy world. While Western fantasy seems content stick to its medieval setting (something I’m not complaining about, mind you), these two works represent new ways of really pushing the potential of the fantasy genre. I’d actually argue that fantasy is a setting rather than a genre except in the case of works like these, where the fantasy is truly intrinsic to the themes and ideas of the story.
It’s a very exciting direction for Shinkai to head, and I hope that more works follow in its footsteps. Perhaps we’ll see a time when films are referencing him but instead of repeating his accomplishments head in a unique direction.