Belle

Where I Watched It: HBo MAX

Audio Description Provided By: Descriptive Video Works

Just in case anyone important at a studio ever reads my blog, I’d like to start off by saying there is a deeply underserved portion of the blind and visually impaired population that is craving English audio description tracks for anime. Just, in general. Whether either Funimation or Crunchyroll decided to drop into the audio description game, it likely would lead to an influx of subscribers, if you feel stagnation, as well as just (quite frankly) being the right fucking thing to do for every content provider, studio, producer, etc.

That being said, my anime is somewhat limited to the amazing mess that is Miyazaki. So, this being something not from Studio Ghibli, it’s one of only a handful of titles not from that studio I’ve watched. And I’ve enjoyed some. in the early 2000’s there were anime titles like Spriggan and Metropolis that caught my eye, but the true classics come in the form of Akira and Grave Of The Fireflies.

I know Belle managed a Best Animated Feature nomination last year, but it was a decidedly weak year for animation. Belle is an interesting enough concept, based on the idea that a girl who is basically a nobody in real life, enters this internet world much akin to that of Second Life, where she becomes a pop superstar, and her avatar becomes wildly famous.

It explores this culture we have nowadays with the overnight success stories of going viral, and how just an ordinary person can find themselves suddenly in a position where they have fans, and they inspire people. The truth is, this girl really just needed inspiration herself. So while she was looking for a way to fill something inside her, this whole other thing starts, and it predictably becomes something she really can’t control or fully understand.

it’s a nice plot, and many people have made projects that lean heavily as some form of discussion on our current state of celebrity, and things like influencers and tick tock stars. It’s not the first film to do this, it just feels different because of the artistic approach, in using the Japanese animation form to tell this story.

At the end of the day, Belle just fell short of being something that could light a fire for me. Something like Grave Of The Fireflies really takes the medium in a serious direction, really in a way that most American animation houses would have never considered doing. Belle toys with the idea of overnight fame and online success much the same way something like Turning Red does. If anything, the form isn’t challenged here, it’s just offered a rather simplistic story that is complimented well by being in animated form and allowing the internet world, and the avatar and her performances the chance to be as vibrant as possible. That’s just my guess, since as a blind viewer, I got audio description.

And since I got audio description, I also got the rather uninspiring voice cast that really did nothing for me, and all sounded like they were performing that over exaggerated anime voice acting, regardless of whether the scene required it or not. Not everything has the same tone, and if everyone talks like they’re about to battle with their Pokémon, the moments can get lost. The audio description does the best it can, though I have a feeling that visually, this film is quite striking, and that is half the appeal.

It’s a good film that could have been better. It ends up just being part of the crowd, instead of being the one out in front.

Final Grade: B-

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