a.k.a. O-Hoshisama no Rail
Deep inside the mind of a young actress named Chiko lie memories of dark times. Growing up cheerfully in northern Korea, where her father owned a coal company, the Second World War turned her existence upside-down. Now under Russian occupation, the tables have turned for the Japanese residents who are forced to leave their homes and live in communes after ruling Korea for over thirty-five years. A daring escape to the south seems to be the last alternative for Chiko’s family to seek the freedom that they long for.
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs: A stirring perspective on the Second World War; heart-rending situations; second half flows smoothly
Lows: First half is too fragmentary; doesn’t successfully build fondness towards characters
Any anime that touches themes connected to Japan’s view on the World War II grudgingly enters in competition with a matchless opponent: Grave of the Fireflies. Let’s try for a minute to set aside Rail of the Star‘s comparative letdown and concentrate on how this novel adaptation stands on its own.
A tactless introduction inflicts to this anime an early wound from which it hardly heals. Instead of opting for a traditional, linear approach, characters are introduced by disparate events while slowly bringing in the impact of war. Contextually and historically, this method was incredibly educational; as far as characters are concerned, these short plays do not bring nearly enough character development for us to commiserate with the cast. What’s left is a first half that, in all this rush and patchiness, desperately tries to make you weep.
The second half is a vast improvement; lacunas of the first thirty minutes are amended, and the storyline finally gets some meat to it. Thankfully as the focus shifts to a single, extended storyline, it stays as edifying as ever with deep insights on what life was like in Korea during Japanese occupation and after W.W.II. Powerful imagery and situations almost make due of the lack of solid character development and occasional farfetchedness.
In sum, Rail of the Star is a passionate story that was dispassionately conveyed. It is deep, enlightening and at one point engaging, but drama just doesn’t work right when characters have so little to work with. If you expect a new and improved version of Takahata‘s masterpiece, you will be crying for all the wrong reasons.
Rail of the Star can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.