The 2002 short film Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ) is one of Makoto Shinkai’s earliest works. But for anyone who watches it after having already enjoyed his more recent films, it is easy to see the talent and depth he would bring to his work later on already present.
Voices of a Distant Star tells the story of 15-year-old friends Mikako and Noboru as they continue to communicate via text/e-mail when Mikako is enlisted to join a space army to fight a war against a group of aliens. As Mikako travels farther and farther away from Earth, however, the length of time their messages travel (from months to years) also grows.
The 25-minute short film is itself just the right length to tell their story. The familiar themes from Makoto Shinkai’s work such as slice of life, ethereal and poetic nostalgia, young friendship and romance and magical, sometimes extraordinary circumstances are all here.
Despite the unfathomable distance between our two main characters, Makoto Shinkai’s storytelling allows you get a feel for them both and their connection.
Having been adapted into a light novel and a manga after, there is certainly room for a feature length film. But in just a short amount of time here, Makoto Shinkai is already able to take a very simple premise and somehow turn it into an epic story of love, friendship and bravery.
It is this kind of storytelling that he would go on to expand and build upon in his later work. And obviously to great success.
But Voices of a Distant Star feels like such a special film. Simple, yet profound in its story. And a peek at how Makoto Shinkai started out already being a talented storyteller.