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Voices of a Distant Star is Makoto Shinkai's first major work. This short film was released in 2003 and is considered one of the most poignant Anime romances around. However, it is better known for the the fact that Shinkai scripted, drew, animated and produced the entire movie on his own.
Fourteen-year-old Nagamine Mikako and her friend Noboru had looked forward to attending high school together, but when humanity declared war on the mysterious alien force known as the Tarsians, she was drafted by the UN Space Army to serve as a Tracer pilot in the task force assigned to the Lysithea. Mikako leaves Noboru behind on Earth as the UN Forces pursue the Tarsians deeper into space.
During their separation, she communicates with Noboru via email, but as the fleet travels farther from the Earth, the transmission time grows increasingly longer, until eventually Noboru must wait years for any word that Mikako is even still alive.
- Alien Sky: From Agartha's surface, the sky is a green tinge and at least one of its moons are visible.
- All There in the Manual: Those who missed the newspaper headlines in the movie's finale might misinterpret it as either a Downer Ending or a bittersweet one. However, those headlines report the Lysithea's victory at Agartha. Additional details like Noboru's Navy uniform in the closet suggest his eventual reunion with Mikako. The supplementary Novelization states outright that the Lysithea won the battle, but their FTL drive was damaged beyond repair, so they have no choice but to call for help and wait eight years for the message to reach Earth.
- Anime First: This is Makoto Shinkai's first major work: his first actual work was the short She and Her Cat and is a bonus feature on the DVD release.
- Asteroid Thicket
- Benevolent Precursors: It is implied the Tarsians attacked humanity to give them the motivation to venture into space and challenge them as a species.
- BFS: The Tracers possess a powerful beam saber that can be used to slice an alien battleship in half.
- Can You Hear Me Now: Mikako's phone is piggybacked to the Lysithea's communications array and allows her to send mail even when she's outside of our solar system.
- Cool Starship: The Lysithea and its sister vessels of the UN Navy possess a warp engine and beam weaponry that can curve at right angles to hit enemies.
- Child Soldiers: Mikako is decidedly of the precocious variety, being the only member of the fleet's crew to appear in the anime.
- Doing It for the Art: Makoto Shinkai did everything himself, except for the music and voice acting. In the original cut, he even did the voice work - he and his fiancee acted out all the roles. After the film's phenomenal success, a new voice track with professional voice actors was created for a wider release.
- False Camera Effects: This aspect is particularly impressive and demonstrates Makoto Shinkai's attention to detail, giving the anime a greater degree of realism.
- Fantastic Romance: The degree of separation between Mikako and Noboru is a consequence of FTL Travel.
- Foreign Language Theme: "Through the Years and Far Away" (performed in English by LOW aka Yuuki Mizusawa) is played during the final battle.
- FTL Travel: The UN vessels like the Lysithea are capable of FTL travel using warp engines, although they lack the FTL communications capabilities to complement it.
- High-Pressure Blood: Tarsians bleed in dramatic delayed-reaction jets of it.
- Humongous Mecha: The suits deployed by the UN Navy are called Tracers.
- I Will Wait for You: Noboru struggles a great deal with whether or not to keep waiting for Mikako, and tries to give up on her a few times. Ultimately, the trope is subverted when he chooses to follow her into space.
- Laser Blade: Energy swords are part of the Tracer's combat loadout.
- Limited Wardrobe: Mikako still wears her school uniform while fighting Tarsians, contrasting the expectation that pilots would be supplied with plugsuits.
- Long-Distance Relationship:
- Macross Missile Massacre: The Tracers wield missile pods as part of their loadout.
- Magic Skirt: The skirt of Mikako's school uniform stays down even in zero-g.
- No Ending: The anime is rather open-ended. The manga adaptation adds some resolution.
- Rain Aura
- Roboteching: Ships in the Lysithea task force use their particle cannons to great effect against the smaller Tarsian mecha: the cannons are mounted in groups and fire beams that can curve at right angles.
- Scenery Porn: The landscapes and attention to detail are staggering; terrestrial locations within the film were designed from actual locations in Japan.
- Short Anime Movie: The running time of the film is 25 minutes.
- Starfish Aliens: The Tarsians have an anatomy similar to those of starfish
- Subspace Ansible: Inverted; while UN spacecraft are capable of FTL travel, they lack FTL communications. Ironically, a newspaper near the end of the film reports that the generation of starships built after Mikako departed will have the FTL communication capability that the ships of her fleet lack.
- Surprisingly Good English: The Computer Voice of the Lysithea is voiced by a native English speaker (the same actress who provided the voice of Raising Heart in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha), and thus her pronunciation and intonation are flawless, although the word ordering is unusual in some places.
- Time Dilation: The fleet has FTL travel, averting this trope. It merely takes an increasingly long amount of time for Mikako's messages to reach Noboru as she travels farther from Earth due to the lack of FTL communications technology; she compares it to twentieth-century air mail.
- Time Skip: The narrative skips back and forth between Mikako and Noboru, covering a period of about six months on her side and more than eight years on his.
- Time Travel Romance: While no time travel is involved, the lack of FTL communications means that the past Mikako is, in effect, sending messages to the future Noboru.
- Umbrella of Togetherness