Belle is the story of Suzu, a girl in high school, still grieving the loss of her mother years prior. She’s invited to join U, a virtual reality social media app, but instead of creating an avatar, the app utilizes a biometric scan and in the world of U, Suzu becomes Belle. Suzu, who has been unable to sing since her mother passed, can now sing in the U and eventually becomes a famous idol. Belle’s first large concert is interrupted by the Dragon… also known as the Beast. Suzu feels a connection to the Beast when she sees him covered in bruises and after this encounter, she feels compelled to find out who the Beast is, to help him in real life. The story takes an intense, dark turn at the end, and Suzu’s quest to help her finally process her grief.
Yes, the names of the main characters are Belle and the Beast. Disney is notorious for borrowing from anime and fiercely denying it, like the Lion King and Kimba the White Lion situation. Hollywood’s pretty bad about borrowing and not giving credit where it’s due. Still, you have good directors who acknowledge the inspiration, like Paprika inspiring Christopher Nolan’s Inception. In this situation, you could say there are multiple versions of Beauty and the Beast, and it’s a fairy tale. No, they came for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The film contained shot-for-shot scenes identical to Beauty and the Beast, like the ballroom dance scene. Belle also wore similar clothing when she sought out the Beast’s hidden castle, the cloak, and everything.
The animation in the ‘U’ is beautiful and complex, and the CGI is so good that it looks 3-D. The re-creation of the ballroom dance scene was gorgeous and did surpass the original. Outside of the digital world, the animation is Studio Ghibli-esque. The stark contrast was a good decision for the film, and I preferred the digital-world animation.
The best concept in the entire film was the virtual world. The U was an interesting take as an immersive social media platform. Unlike other sites, users don’t create their own avatars; they’re based on their experiences and who they are. This resulted in some hilarious avatars and the Beast’s tragic avatar.
The plot was thin, and my god, there was so much open mouth, pauses with heavy breathing. I thought I was watching Kristen Stewart in Twilight; it was so bad and obnoxious. I wasn’t all that interested in the real-life plot until the end. The film ends up tackling a subject that’s considered taboo and in an interview, the director, Mamoru Hosoda, was asked about his inclusion of a topic not often seen in children’s films. Side note: I would not classify Belle as a children’s film at all. Many people assume anime is always just for children, i.e., Pokemon, but it is not. Hosoda defended the topic’s inclusion and should be discussed more in general.
Many other reviews are touting this as Beauty and the Beast for the internet era… Not sure I exactly agree with that, but that’s probably coming from the people who gave the film a standing ovation for 14 minutes. Was this the best anime film I’ve ever seen? No, but it is, by far, the most general public-friendly anime. It even has a spot in the Cannes Film Festival in May, which is impressive. Is it worth a watch? Yeah, it is; it’s visually pleasing and has a familiar story.
See all photos >>
I’m a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I’m an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I’m not at the movies, I’m either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.