I have always loved a good animation and I watched Makoto Shinkai's 5 CM per second a couple of years ago (loved it, by the way). So when this one got released, I immediately ordered the DVD.
image taken from fukachansmemoir.blogspot.com
The heroine of the film is Asuna, a lonely 14 year old girl whose father has died and left her a radio as a memento, and an overworked mother who comes home late every night. One day she hears strange music from the radio as she sits in her favorite spot in the mountain. Then she meets a strange bear-like creature and is saved by Shin, a boy claiming he comes from a place called Agartha. They form a friendship, and after giving her a blessing in the form of a kiss in the forehead, he disappears. Asuna sets out to discover more about Agartha, a place known to be down below the earth, with a portal to be opened with a crystal, and a place full of old wisdom and knowledge that people have been looking for it to ressurect the dead.
The artwork is wonderful and detailed, as always. Nature has always been part of Makoto Shinkai's films, and the beauty of this film is extraordinary. There are unimaginable creatures and a world so unique we just wish we could explore it further. Agartha is strange and amazing, with guardians that reside there once humans no longer need them. There is also his characteristic galaxy and sky filled with illuminated colors, which is a pleasure to the eyes.
Character wise, I feel that Shin and Asuna's friendship is a bit brief and has not been deep enough. His character is also not fleshed out and I do not understand his reasons for wanting to get out of Agartha, and why he disappears. I also wish we can be shown a family background to get a better glimpse of his motivations.
The pace is rather slow, but I've grown used to it after watching 5 CM per second. It feels less rushed that way, as if allowing the viewer to enjoy the lavish details and the luxurious colors.
Overall, I do enjoy this one although it's not my favorite. I love the soundtrack, the premise, the story, and the ending :) such a bittersweet, lovely movie.
image taken from fanart.tv