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The animated short film "Voices of a Distant Star" (ほしのこえ) released in 2001 was created almost entirely by one man. Makoto Shinkai (新海 誠) wrote, directed, animated, and edited, the film that has won critical acclaim and numerous awards. Only the music and the voices were done by others. Shinkai decided to create Voices after his 5 minute black and white short film "She and Her Cat" (彼女と彼女の猫) was met with great success. "She and Her Cat" acted as a testing ground for Shinkai, who believed he had the ability to create an animated piece on his own.

The film, which combines the look of CG and traditional cel animation, tells the story of two teenagers, Mikako and Noboru, in the year 2046. Mikako and Noboru had been friends since childhood but became more then friends as they got older. Shortly after graduating middle school (chugakko) Mikako decides to join the United Nation Space Army to combat the Tarsians who attacked the human colonies on Mars in the recent past. Learning from Tarsian technology, the humans incorporate faster than light technology to their ships. The United Nation Space Army is sent off in search of the Tarsian homeworld. Mikako leaves earth to become a pilot of a giant mech. Her only means of contact with Noboru is through the instant messaging feature of their cell phones. However as Mikako travels farther from the Earth the "instant" messages start to take months, and eventually years, to reach Noboru. A form of simple communication starts to take a greater importance as Mikako gets farther away. The story examines the relationship between Mikako and Noboru as their only link becomes weaker. Although it contains various battle scenes with Mikako's mech against the Tarsians, it would be unfair to call this film "another mecha anime." The aliens and robots are secondary to the relationship Mikako and Noboru share.

The animation is simple but is rich in color. While the story is allowed to develop at a comfortable pace. The beautiful image and the excellent story leaves the viewer to think about the importance of communication and human relationships. Although stories concerning the consequences of faster than light travel are not new, few are as poignant or thought provoking as Shinaki's story. Voices of a Distant Star stands out as a great achievement because of its content and because of Shinkai's individual effort. Voices of a Distant Star represents the ability of a single person can create a great work without a great financial burden. Hopefully this will open the door to more independent animation making it to the public.

Fun Facts and Other Miscellaneous Information:
  • Shinkai and his fiancée did the original voice-over work so Shinkai could adjust the timing of the animation. This track is available on the DVD release of the film.
  • The film was created over seven months on Shinkai's Macintosh G4/400.
  • Shinkai won the “Most Valuable Newcomer” award at the 2002 Tokyo International Anime Fair.
  • The original English title displayed in the Japanese release of the film was "The Voices of Distant Star".
  • Many of the settings on Earth are exact copies of locations around Shinkai's house.
  • ADV Films has released a Region 1 DVD of "Voices of a Distant Star." The DVD includes three versions of "She and Her Cat" as well as an interview with Shinkai.

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