The anime cinematic universe just gained a new masterpiece with Belle, and I cannot praise it enough. It was truly a touching and wholesome story with stunning visuals, a tear-jerker plot, heartwarmingly relatable characters, and so much more. In the ever-evolving day and age of social media, a story such as this is undoubtedly relevant to audiences young and old alike.
From the celebrated Academy Award®-nominated director Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Chizu (the creators of Mirai, Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and more) comes a fantastical and heartfelt story of growing up in the age of social media. As the synopsis explains, protagonist Suzu is a shy high school student living in a rural village who for years has only been a shadow of herself.
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But when she enters “U”, which is a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona. As Belle, she becomes a gorgeous and globally beloved singer until the day her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.
Belle Is A Tale Told With Love
I felt so many emotions while watching Suzu navigate her struggles. I had tears streaming down my face as I related so much with the character. And I wasn’t the only one, as it was clear people around the world who struggle with finding themselves and conquering their fears could feel the powerful message Belle sends. It speaks eloquently of facing your fears, fighting for what you believe in and, most of all, believing in yourself.
I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as the resemblance in some sequences were incredibly similar – but always with their own refreshing twist. More and more often, I am in awe of how powerful anime movies are becoming. In spirit, I join the audience at the Cannes Film Festival in their first ever 14-minute long standing ovation for this film.
To help viewers better prepare for what they may witness, here are a few words from director Mamoru Hosoda:
“BELLE is the film I’ve always dreamed of making and which now I’ve finally been able to make thanks to the success of my previous films. In BELLE, I explore romance, action and suspense, as well as deeper themes such as life and death.
In the past I have dealt with the way in which people have become more connected than ever before, as well as the infinite subject of connectivity via the internet, which I hope will enable the younger generation to change the world for the better in a positive and fun way. But I am also very conscious of the problems associated with the internet such as online abuse, social exclusion and fake news.”
Throughout Hosoda’s work it is clearly evident that he draws inspiration from his reality. It gives the audience a bit more understanding behind the genius and how he creates a perfect marriage of fantasy as well as reality. With Belle, he not only gives Suzu her voice but also to those around the world who don’t have one.
ABOUT STUDIO CHIZU:
Co-founded by Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito in 2011 to produce the film Wolf Children, this animation studio literally means “map” in Japanese. Since its creation, Studio Chizu has been dedicated to the production of Hosoda’s films, and has provided him with total artistic freedom, as well as the support of his friend and long-time producer Yuichiro Saito.
Among the top designers who have joined BELLE is Jin Kim, the character designer of several iconic Disney films such as Frozen, Tangled and Moana. Cartoon Saloon, the independent Irish animation studio behind beloved titles The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and Wolfwalkers, also helped create some of the virtual fantasy worlds in Belle. With Belle, Studio Chizu celebrates its 10th anniversary, and remains, along with Studio Ghibli, the only animation studio in Japan devoted to one emblematic director.
GKIDS is the producer and distributor of award-winning feature animation for both adult and family audiences. Since 2010, the company has scored an an astounding 12 Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations with The Secret of Kells in 2010, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2012, Ernest & Celestine in 2014, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya and Song of the Sea in 2015, Boy and the World and When Marnie Was There in 2016, My Life as a Zucchini in 2017, The Breadwinner in 2018, Mirai in 2019, and Wolfwalkers in 2021.
GKIDS also handles North American distribution for the famed Studio Ghibli library of films, one of the world’s most coveted animation collections with titles Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and others; as well as the critically acclaimed television series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. GKIDS also hosts ANIMATION IS FILM, an annual LA-based film festival which embraces the highest aspirations of animation as a cinematic art form, and is a vocal advocate for filmmakers who push the boundaries of the medium to its fullest range of artistic expressions.
Are you excited for Belle? Leave a comment and catch it in theaters starting January 14, 2022.