What it’s about: Mikako and Noburo both apply to join Earth’s defence force after a discovery on Mars reveals that humanity is not alone in the universe. Only Mikako passes the test and goes on to leave Earth behind. The story is fundamentally about separation. As Mikako’s duty takes her farther and farther from home and the time dilation of lightspeed travel keep her young, Noburo is left behind, torn between moving on with his life and waiting for the next message from the stars.
Why you should watch it: This is a classic Makoto Shinkai work, and develops along much the same thematic and narrative lines of his other films. It’s a pure and simple story told at a slow, meditative pace, and it amply fills out the short time it’s allotted. The dub is pretty decent, as they go. It’s interesting to see “auteur” works in anime – shows or films that were created almost entirely by one person – simply because they’re so rare.
Caveats: The animation is a little dated. And while it’s told well, at its heart, the story is quite simple.
Themes: Distance and long distance relationships. Growing up, growing apart.