Random Thoughts on Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle”

Carlos and I watched the anime “Belle” by Mamoru Hosoda, as rec’ed by a friend on Twitter. We had MANY THOUGHTS and frequently paused the movie to share them with each other.

All in all, I have zero regrets… BECAUSE MY DREAMS LAST NIGHT WERE HALF-ANIME, HALF-MUSICAL THEATRE, and far more entertaining than they’ve been in a while. WHICH MAKES ME WANT TO WATCH MORE ANIME MUSICALS BEFORE BED.

A few thoughts:

– This movie was really eight movies trying to be one two-hour movie. Very ambitious. Kind of a glorious mess. Lots of emotional whiplash. Perhaps unintentionally comedic because of this whiplash in parts.

– The grief narrative of losing/finding one’s voice and the abuse narrative (both domestic and cyber) were the emotional and moral hearts of the story. When the movie was working its deepest metaphorical magic, it was here. The cloak of bruises. The relationship between the tiny, fragile angel and the dragon beast. Ah! My heart.

– The re-telling of Beauty and the Beast part (which was one of the eight movies this movie was trying to be) was essentially DISNEY’S Beauty and the Beast–both in emotional beats and narration style–almost at the level of pastiche. Not parody. It took itself far too seriously for parody, and I think was done in a spirit of homage not plagiarism, but it came really close.

The re-telling was actually one of the things that didn’t work for me, because “Belle” was using an adult romantic-love narrative to overlay/explain an essentially platonic rescue narrative among child characters. Kind of squicky?

– I kind of wanted the world–both the real world and its cyber counterpart to be a sandbox-style VR experience, so I could just wander around and LOOK AT THINGS. Sometimes it was so visually stunning I almost cried. Sometimes the CGI and normal animation were not… very well integrated. At all. But when it worked, IT REALLY WORKED.

– The music-video-concert-style parts were unexpectedly moving and catchy. They were set pieces, and could stand alone. And might have worked better that way.

– I don’t watch a lot of anime, and looking at some of the intentionally comic moments made me think of the history of Japanese theatre/clowning vs a more Western commedia dell’arte/vaudeville history of theatre and clowning. So much of our (Looney Tunes) early cartoon style comes directly from the vaudeville–slapstick, stock characters, situations.

I think some of the things I don’t connect to emotionally in anime comedy–the stylistic cartoon changes in face and posture, the long pauses, the emotional hyperbole–are simply things I don’t key into historically or culturally. BUT I WANT TO LEARN!

– What was up with the choir ladies? I mean, I LOVED THEM. But they were almost in a whole other movie. CHOIR LADIES, HOW I LOVE YOU. Choir ladies ex machina FTW.

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