Usually translated as "The Voices of a Distant Star," - though "Voice of the Stars" is a bit closer to the literal translation - this anime movie clocks in at at well under 25 minutes. In this short time, it manages to have a beautiful plot and some of the best 2D and 3D animation I've ever seen - right up there with Read or Die or Blood: The Last Vampire.

The two main characters are Nagamine and Noboru, young middle school friends with hopes to attend the same high school. However, Nagamine is selected to take part in a mission to track down the aliens that attacked a human exploratory force on Mars.

The anime deals primarily with how they each deal with this separation and the difficulty of communication with each other. There are also some fight scenes, but just enough to get some action in and help advance the plot - and they're very well done. Not quite up to the standards of Noir - but still quite nice.

So we've got a fantastic, beautiful (visually and emotionally) anime which crams an amazing amount of value into a fairly short time span. What are we talking here? Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli? There's mecha running around - maybe Gainax? Or even CLAMP?

Ha! They wish. This masterpiece was put together by Makoto Shinkai and Studio Himself. Yup, that's right. Further proving that the Japanese are insane - and often in the best possible meaning of the word - this guy worked from the concept art right up to the finished product almost entirely by himself on his iMac.

The original voices are done by Makoto and his wife (later replaced by professional voice actors, which I have not heard). This is a great touch - either they're just brilliant voice actors, or the long-term involvement in this project really brought out emotion in their performances.

Currently, this anime is only available outside of Japan via alternate means - downloading a fansub or buying a bootleg DVD are the only options.

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