Warning: Slight Spoilers ahead. Content warnings: Death of parent
I had the opportunity to watch BELLE (directed by Mamoru Hosoda, studio Chizu) at Anime NYC before it’s US premier, and it was an emotional experience. I am familiar with Mamoru Hosoda’s films like The Girl who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf children, and I knew coming in that this film may be intense. However, I had little knowledge on what the movie was about and I was shocked with what occurred. Also seeing this film in a room filled with other anime nerds made the experience more special.
This movie was great in all its aspects, it had wonderful voice acting, music, animation, and a thoughtful story. The movie displayed themes of revealing your true self, friendships, control, love, and understanding. What moved me the most was Suzu’s actions to save the lives of two brothers.
As a child, Suzu and her mother spent a lot of time together making music. Suzu witnessed her mother die as she sacrificed herself to save another kid. Suzu was traumatized, and felt her mother had abandoned her for another. Suzu has not been able to sing publicly since, and when she entered the virtual world, “U” she was finally able to do so as Belle. U generates avatars based on the user’s physical appearance. In U, she encounters a Dragon-like avatar who is being chased by U authorities. Belle is curious about this user, and she later discovers his castle which reveals some troubling things about him. She sees his suffering and wants to help him through her music.
After a series of events Suzu and her friends discover who this person is and what he and his brother are experiencing in the real world. The situation is dire, they track down his location and she courageously goes to them alone to intervene. Through this experience I believe she learns why people risk their lives for people they don’t know. From the moment they met, Suzu wanted to help this person, while no one else would. She ultimately understands why her mother did what she did.
I really enjoyed this movie for its amazing music and visuals, it’s references to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and its numerous comedic moments.
I recommend you watch it in IMAX when it releases in the US on January 14th, 2022.