“Grieving the dead is proper but continuing to pity them is a fallacy.”

Old Man of Amaurot

Of Makoto Shinkai’s anime, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is the most strongly influenced by Hayao Miyazaki, in its character and creature design as well as its journey into a hidden fantasy world that stands in contrast to the real world settings of Shinkai’s other supernatural stories. Its tone, however, remains more in line with his writing, trading a level of whimsy for pensive discourse on loss, loneliness and grief, wrapped in an adventure that remains accessible to children. The underground world of Agartha, inspired by Shinto mythology in Kojiki, already lies in ruins after numerous wars with “topsiders”, and its inhabitants’ own sense of tragedy provides a parallel for the way that often we grieve as much for an irretrievable past as for the deceased. As a fan of Shinkai’s own art style, I am admittedly less interested in his emulation of Studio Ghibli, but I never found Children Who Chase Lost Voices as visually breathtaking as his other work. It is when the film plays to his introspective strengths that it succeeds, but his later forays into fantasy are more satisfying.