On 20 March the Japanese embassy held a screening of two anime films, shown consecutively, both by director Makoto Shinkai. The first film was Voices of a Distant Star, which tells the tale of a young girl, Mikako Nagamine, who is recruited by the UN space army at the age of 15. She leaves her friend Noboru Terao behind, but they continue to communicate via cell phones.
The film chronicles her struggle to keep in touch with her friend as she goes deeper into space, fighting the Tarsians. The film spans over 10 years so that Noboru becomes 25 years old, but Makoto only ages one year. Mikako also struggles with her feelings for Noboru as she battles the Tarsians. Her messages keep taking longer and longer to arrive as the battle progresses towards distant planets and stars.
As Noboru receives a last, partial message, in which Mikako professes her feelings, her spaceship is caught in the midst of a brutal battle with the Tarisans and she drifts in space. The film ends on this note.
The second film was 5 Centimetres Per Second. The film follows a boy named Takaki Tono and the progression of his life from the 1990s to 2007. Shinkai’s films usually have science fiction and space travel elements, yet, in 5 Centimetres Per Second, he chose to move away from his usual style and instead portray real life. The film is divided into three parts, each chronicling a stage of Tono’s life. The title is supposedly the rate at which the cherry blossoms fall, reminiscent of people starting their life together and then drifting apart, as is the case with Tono and Akari.
The aim of the film is to show how technology progressed and became an essential part of life. The film also follows Tono’s romantic life as he falls in love with Akari Shinohara, who then has to move away because of her family. The first part of the film revolves entirely around Tono’s trip to Kagoshima to meet with Akari. Tono is faced with many hurdles, including a snowstorm and late train services. During his trip he reminisces about his relationship with Akari and how it progressed.
The second part of the film revolves around a third character, Kanae Sumida, a girl who has fallen in love with Tono and grapples with telling him about her feelings. Eventually Sumida realises that Tono is pining over someone else, as he is always texting and looking out into the distance. She finally decides not to tell him. In this part, both Sumida and Tono witness a rocket launch; apparently, Shinaki couldn’t resist putting some space element in the film.
The third part brings us back to Tono as a grown man working in Tokyo. He is still very much attached to the memory of Akari and fails to move on. Meanwhile, an older Akari is preparing to get married and has a life of her own. They almost meet at a train station, but a moving train impedes them from seeing each other. The film ends with Tono smiling.
Even though the two films are different, their storylines share some similar elements, such as distant lovers, unrequited love and problems with communication. In addition, they both contain characters that are reclusive, alone and pensive.
The films were a good chance for Egyptian audiences to be introduced to the complicated genre of anime. The embassy plans on hosting a few more screenings of different Japanese films, including another anime film in April.