(Photo: Courtesy of Belle Movie Website)
by Natalie Roe, staff writer
It’s been two years since I’ve been to a movie theater, and there was no better way to come back to a bit of semi-normalcy with a great movie like Belle. Belle is directed by Mamoru Hosada, who is known for his work on other anime movies such as Mirai, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and more. Belle tells the story of Suzu, a girl in rural Japan who suddenly gets popular overnight on the social media site U, and how she’s able to use her circumstances to help someone misunderstood. Beware minor spoilers in the following.
Belle takes place not too far in the future. Suzu is an ordinary 17 year old high school girl who lost her mother when she was young and has since distanced herself from others. She decides to try out “U,” the popular virtual reality mixed with social media program, in which the user is matched up with an avatar and given control of them in the U world. Suzu named her account “Bell,” as her name means bell in Japanese. Suzu soon realized that the talent she couldn’t unlock after her mother’s death, was back in the world of “U”–her singing. Suzu started to get millions of followers, and then more and then more. Her song “Gales of Song” blew up, with people wondering who is the girl behind “Belle,” her new nickname from the French word meaning beautiful. Belle becomes so popular that she even hosts her own digital concert, which was going smoothly until another user, known as the Beast, was chased by moderators onto the concert stage. Belle notices that the Beast’s back is covered in bruises and wants to know why he’s being beaten up. Suzu and her friend begin the search for the Beast. Belle goes into the “U” world to see if she can find him. She’s able to find his castle and tries to help the Beast.
This movie really resonated with me because of the fact that Suzu had gone through hardship and yet was able to put her insecurities aside and be strong as she had a second chance in another world. I really felt like I could relate to Suzu in the same way that she felt depressed and dispassionate about what she used to love because of a traumatic event. With the fires, pandemic, and constant catastrophes year after year for the past five years, while not being the same as Suzu’s pain, I did feel as though I reacted similarly to it the way that she initially did. I believe that not only me, but many people at Carrillo and teenagers in general wish they could get that second chance in another world too. What we would do with it would be up to us. I even felt like I relate to the Beast in some ways, as we sometimes can become monstrous in our way to handle hardship.
I loved this movie, and was generally surprised with how beautiful and honest it was. The music, animation, voice acting, and story was amazing. The way it portrays how we can use our online interactions for good and how we use our personas both in person and online can both be beneficial and destructive.
I enjoyed Belle’s retelling of the Beauty and the Beast narrative, even though it was used as a method of telling a greater story. I liked this version more than other renditions of the Beauty and the Beast story, such as Disney’s version, as Belle has a greater message and gives more power to the really important characters. I liked Belle and the Beast and felt their struggles more than I ever did with the glamorized versions of the original tale.
The animation style, a sort of mild anime, didn’t bother me and actually added to the flair of the movie, especially in the “U” world. I personally only watch anime once in a blue moon as sometimes I feel the style can be a bit overused and tiring at times. The English dub was actually insanely good, especially Belle, as her voice was amazing, most notably when she sings. The animation was really good, and I loved how they used the 3D for the “U” world and the 2D for the real world as an aesthetic. The 3D still kept the anime-esque style while also giving it that otherworldly flair.
The sci-fi and fantasy aspects of the movie were fantastic, and somewhat oddly accurate. At first I thought that the said “five billion users” was a bit too much, but it turns out that Instagram has about 4.18 billion users, so in a few years as the population grows it would make sense that a site such as “U” could get so many users. The technology and virtual world “U” makes reminds me of VR chat and the body matching somewhat reminds me of the body composition feature on current smart watches which are able to track and analyze certain functions of the body.
I really enjoyed this movie; it’s storytelling, animation, voice acting and message were fantastic. I recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good, impactful film, and a reason to go to the theaters again.