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Unveil Yourself | A Film Review on Mamoru Hosoda’s ‘Belle’

Photograph: © 2021 Studio Chizu

Last updated on February 10, 2022

Mamoru Hosoda’s most recent film is already conjuring a rumor that it may be Oscar-worthy – with peak box office sales of $3.3 million. It is also doing more than just that; it’s stirring hot dialogue of relevant present-day concepts. This PG-rated anime embroiled parasocial relationships, feminine virtual reality power, and child abuse. A riveting anime twist of ¨Beauty and the Beast¨ with a deeper, adult-level analysis of our sadness as a source of human anger and how vulnerable wounds can be the source of one’s strength.

It is now making its legendary mark for advanced and beginning anime enthusiasts. Most considerably, it is always doing what anime does best: compels the viewer to take action and challenge oneself to strive for self-improvement. By that logic, the experience of watching the movie is like being taken to a virtual reality futuristic, robust and vivid world. 

One of the best parts of the starting point is the catchy and peppy soundtrack in virtual reality known as the app ¨U¨. Typical high school 17-year-old teenager Suzu frequently ruminates on a myriad of reveries where she is free to be her avatar self and experience a whole new kind of liberation and self-identification.

Wherein the ¨U¨, she could finally be comfortable enough to sing, not as Suzu – but as Belle. With fiery and witty dialogue, one gets an immediate sense of the depth of the characters. On the verge of her breaking point, she attempted to sing as her outlet for her recent bereavement regarding her mother’s death, a central trope that exposes itself more than once throughout the film.

Essentially, the idea is that we can get on just fine without our mothers, so long as our hearts pay homage. Among the pressure to fit in and to sing for everyone as Suzu is the source for her quest to be Bella, the film indicates that she feels odd anxiety about conforming; this concept illustrates how, yet again why the show exposes pertinent concepts and issues. 

Further, Hosada and other collaborators effectively strike the heartstrings of any stale and stoic soul. The film conveys what it would be like in the future world, and the vulnerable and passionate influence is undeniable. ¨But now that you’re gone, I’ve got to move on.¨; these lyrics are part of the introduction song she sings in her epiphany moment as she enters the ¨U¨ all alone on her new and challenging journey of self-discovery. Belle begins to find a way to let out her pain regarding living without her mother and growing into a young woman without a mother’s influence. 

Hosoda frequently depicts Suzu/ Belle alone and triumphant or enjoying her solitude in a pensive, inquisitive, and at times – brooding space. ¨She’s making a splash,¨ one of the school girls yips, referring to Belle.

Gaining a mass public audience rather quickly, Suzu’s dream of changing the world goes from being at her fingertips to underneath her feet. Millions of followers espouse her image and perspective. But it does not come without its responsibility and pressures, ¨Half of the followers hate me?!¨ cried Belle.¨Yes, but the other half like you. So be more confident!¨ Belle’s friend shouts. This dialogue emphasizes the anxiety that one may experience in young stardom.

 Detectable and prevalent howls of anguish convince the viewer they, themselves are in the fight scene; the voice-over acting is commendable in this film; the peaks and valleys of the human tone are more than decently met in this film’s range.

Furthermore, there are moments of pleasant humor between the characters. We are frequently reminded in the film of Belle’s passing mother and the gaping hole it left in her heart, yet we are also, at times, when it matters most, reminded of how this is the source of Suzu’s transformation into Belle. More specifically, 

in one conversation with Suzu’s friend, she makes an egregious joke, with considerable ignorance of the weight in her words. Her friend gasps and mutters, ¨Sorry.¨, she then covers her mouth and says ¨I’m so sorry.¨, as she realizes Suzu had indeed lost her mom. The grace of silent standing sequoias,  Suzu imbues understanding and forgiveness. Suzu is brave. 

Then, Belle follows this magnetically charming bird, leading her to an exciting interaction. She meets the Beast all by herself for the first time in his menacing yet charming castle, where she gets a real sense of his magnitude of regret; she sees the ¨bruises¨ on his cape as he is crouched over on the ground. This stance symbolizes the fragility of the human psyche. More to the point, Hodosa raises important reminders or even omens that touch on the imminence of contrasting technological advances, such as air travel. 

What makes the film’s beginning so special is seeing all the fascinating and believable characters riding in the sky in some unspoken apparent order and structure that resembled a concept of non-chaos. Instead, the visualizations and cinema photography evoke exciting esoteric endeavors in our future. Alas, Belle sees the ¨colors¨ on his cape, otherwise known as ¨the bruises¨, a metaphor for child abuse, Hosoda does not shy away from polemical topics.

Suzu’s achievement of the hero journey is her selfless protection for Kei and Tomo. The boys that endured an unsafe living situation as minors, living with their disgruntled and callous father raising the two boys with no apparent mother around, yet again another subtle reference to the trope of lacking a mother.

The point to be illustrated with reputable strength here is that far too many children in Japan experience child abuse, as Japan recently topped 200,000 cases in 2021. These children endure unnecessary pain of all forms. Which thus acts as a segue to one of the most 

great and memorable quotes of the film, ¨If I can endure it, everything will be okay.¨ said by the Beast, whose avatar name is ¨The Dragon¨ who belongs to the character Kei (who is just as vulnerable as Belle). 

Yet another reinforcement that Hosoda drives home is the importance of self-preservation and self-improvement to push oneself – ideally daily. Hosada has such a visceral approach to capturing the emotions of the character’s experiences.

Be it euphoria stemmed from complete anonymity, yet another trope of the film, a gentle yet kind reminder of the future and our future selves will one day accept a reality we could never have imagined with total privacy. Or, as he effectively conveys the depth of the daunting dark dungeons of the loneliness that life sometimes can make one feel, the film expertly takes the viewer through the oscillations of the character’s emotions. 

As an observation of the illustration of Belle, she is unique, bold, and fierce with indescribably beautiful hair down to her calves, and distinctive pink face markings, giving her a fairy-like appearance. She gracefully transfers back and forth from the real world to ¨U¨, the future virtual reality. The Beast, otherwise known as ¨Dragon Boy¨, is ferocious yet marvelously tender.

He wants nothing more than to be loved, safe, and love someone he could truly and genuinely trust. To his chagrin, he doesn’t know how to begin to let his guards down and allow people to get close to him. 

This concept refers to the effect of the outcome bias that humans suffer from quite often. Otherwise known as either avoiding or espousing a situation where, historically, an undesirable outcome occurred at some point in one’s life; therefore, from that point on, one does their 

best to avoid making that same mistake. Succinctly put, the Beast/ Kei and Tomo grew up expecting feelings like disappointment, neglect, and a constant agonizing, relentless fear for their safety. Ultimately, this fear plagued Kei into a state of emotional paralysis, unable to unfreeze or unlock the trauma that undoubtedly affected his ability to form relationships that were only of very volatile vibes. Therefore, Hosoda’s overlap with mental health makes critical points that, arguably, trauma can stunt human growth due to inflicting and imposing memory.

The Beast’s teeth, sturdy snout, and growls truly convince someone who wants nothing more than to be left alone, yet Hosoda strikes a balance between the combusting internal desires and motives. The subtext in this situation refers to the point in one’s childhood where they are broken from then on, in fragmenting ways, and will never be quite fully healed again ever again. 

Despite how impressive and inspiring Hosoda’s feat is, there is always room for observations and constructive criticism. Like how when Suzu stands up to Kei and Tomo’s abusive father, the message is to be non-violent when other prerogatives like self-defense have the potential to be portrayed as powerful coming from a female character, like Belle. In contrast, the film doesn’t shy away from violence in the high-action fight scenes between Justian and the Beast, both male characters.

And yet, the scene where the father scratches Belle’s cheeks when she is protecting Kei and Tomo by using her body as a shield is stunning. She chooses to stare at him, where the blood on her cheek falls down her cheek, resembling a tear falling from the tear duct. A tear on the cheek symbolizes how she ¨ẗurned the other cheek¨ in her passive approach to save Kei and Tomo.

 And after a bout of rage, Kei and Tomo’s father falls backward and, in a very shocking moment, realize his powerlessness via his want for control and his violence and dysfunctional 

tendencies. Further, gender roles are prevalent when Belle gets the phone call that ¨she became the kind girl she is because her mother raised her¨. The message in this line is that girls are supposed to be socialized to be ¨kind¨, ¨nice¨, or ¨polite¨.¨

Moreover, the film neglects the representation of queer love. Belle only presents heterosexual love and relations between, for example, of course, Belle and the Beast. In addition, Raku and her love interest (the most vulnerable chapter for the two supporting characters takes place in the train station where Suzu helps them admit their feelings for each other). 

The majestic giant whale that Belle rides around on symbolizes magnificence, communication, music, protection, gratitude, wisdom, protection, gratitude, and transformation. Essentially, the whale is a metaphor for being a gentle prodigy, like how Belle came to be. Lastly, it would be remiss not to acknowledge Kaho Nakamura’s musical abilities as the voice of Belle; the soundtrack indeed lifts spirits.

In addition, it serves as a form of inspiration that we can all show our true hidden strengths, whether we are veiled or unveiled. ‘Belle’ is a relevant film and it is well done; further, it is an essential and inspiring anime twist on the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ we have all been waiting for but didn’t think it would actually happen; that’s how unique and exciting Hosoda is making the cinema reality. 

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