Belle Review – IGN

Belle debuts in theaters on January 14.

Oscar-nominated Japanese director and animator Mamoru Hosoda is responsible for some deeply touching animated films: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and Wolf Children are widely considered some of his best, as is his work with the franchise. Digimon. . Hosoda returns with his ninth feature, Belle, a take on the classic Beauty and the Beast tale. Its heart is in the right place and it’s incredibly animated, but its message is dragged out a bit by a few plot holes and a bloated runtime.

Belle follows 17-year-old Suzu Naito (Kylie McNeill), who lost her mother at a young age in an accident. As a result, the already modest and shy teenager found it difficult to relate to others and withdrew, having lost her ability to sing in front of others as she once did.

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Everything changes when Suzu reluctantly joins the virtual world of “U”, a metaverse-like online community of over 5 million users, where you can “start over” as a new person. When she first logs in, U generates a jaw-droppingly beautiful pink-haired avatar for her that she can barely believe is her. She nicknames the avatar “Bell”, which is the English meaning of her name. As Bell, she finds she can share her beautiful singing voice with the world, and as she quickly gains popularity, she discovers that internet fame is forged through both devastating ups and downs.

With the help of her friend Hiro Betsuyaku (Jessica DiCicco), Suzu gains popularity and begins performing concerts while watching her alias become a beloved figure in the online community. Her fans start calling her “Belle” with an E, a reference to the word that means “beautiful” in French.

When a devastating dragon-like avatar nicknamed The Beast crashes one of Belle’s highly anticipated concerts, a group of vigilantes called the Justices, led by an avatar named Justin (Chace Crawford), accuses The Beast of inciting the violence in the otherwise peaceful world of U Belle, however, is intrigued by The Beast and goes out of her way to understand her actions, eventually befriending the misunderstood user. From there, she embarked on a mad dash through the real and digital world in an effort to find the “real” Beast as well as a way to reach him and his dark demeanor.

Obviously it’s a Beauty and the Beast for the digital age with absolutely stunning animation, with a mix of more traditional aesthetics and CG inside U, much like we saw in Hosoda‚Äôs Summer Wars. However, as pretty as it is, it looks half-baked in more than a few areas.

Belle seems conflicted about what kind of story she really wants to be.

Belle seems conflicted about what kind of story she really wants to be: a romance like the original fairy tale based on loving yourself, not judging a book by its cover, and being kind to others, or an action tale where there’s a villain for the sake of having a villain, but no real conflict beyond Suzu briefly bumping into the judges, learning the identity of the beast and the consequences that flow from it in real life.

And for a story that is clearly meant to be a musical spectacle, most of the songs, except for the effervescent “U” at the film’s opening, are syrupy ballads with no real appeal. They’re beautifully sung, and even analogous to the Japanese voice cast’s singing chops, but they don’t feel particularly memorable or important for the moments they’re attached to.

That’s not to say the whole adventure is disappointing. There are some satisfying highlights, mostly in how the film handles some of its secondary characters. In fact, many of Belle’s triumphs come in the form of surprising friendships and interactions. Suzu’s unexpected bond with her beautiful and popular classmate Ruka Watanabe (Hunter Schafer) flies in the face of convention. It shows us that there is still plenty of room, even in a mouse girl’s life, for meaningful friendships when she begins to realize that she is worthy of other people’s time and puts herself forward.

There are some other really heartfelt moments that come as Belle begins to move towards her end. The way in which The Beast’s true identity is finally revealed may be difficult to watch, but it also manages to subvert expectations in that it both illuminates a heartbreaking real-life subject and feels like a revelation from aka more realistic than what we usually see. in anime series and movies. If you expect feelings to blossom between certain characters and ultimately culminate in a kiss by the end of the film, you’ll definitely come out of the experience satisfied with the direction the film ultimately took.

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