tek's rating: ½

Belle (PG)
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So, there's this 17-year-old girl named Suzu, who is still devastated by the loss of her mother, who died when Suzu was very young, saving the life of a child. Apparently ever since then she's been unable to sing, though she has other issues, and I'm not sure how much of that is because of her mother's death and how much is just on account of her being shy, or whatever. Her father tries to talk to her, but she always brushes him off. She has a sort of friend named Shinobu, who has considered himself her protector ever since they were six. She has a crush on him, but doesn't want to talk to him. She's actually rather socially awkward, and doesn't seem comfortable talking to anyone, except her friend Hiroka. Hiroka introduces Suzu to an online virtual world called "U", where everyone has an avatar called AS, which is to some extent based on biometric data. Suzu calls her avatar "Bell" (the English translation of her name), and she immediately finds herself able to sing again. She soon rises to superstardom in U, though people take to spelling her name "Belle" (French for "beauty"). Actually, it seems like half the people in U don't like Belle or her singing, but the other half adore her. Meanwhile, Suzu would be super embarrassed if anyone ever found out she was Belle.

One of Belle's concerts is interrupted by an avatar known as "the Beast". (At first Belle refers to him as a dragon, and I get the impression that the Japanese version of the movie might have continued referring to him that way, though I just watched the English version, in which he was called "Beast".) He's being pursued by some sort of peacekeepers, led by someone named Justin. I don't really understand what they had against him, but Justin wants to "unveil" him; i.e., expose his true identity. But the Beast defeats them and escapes (though they will continue looking for him throughout the movie). Belle becomes intrigued by the Beast, and wants to learn who he (or she) actually is. She eventually finds the castle where he lives in U (the design of which was influenced by Beauty and the Beast). He's angered by her presence at first, but over time they become closer. Meanwhile, various stuff continues happening in the real world, which I don't feel the need to get into. Actually, I want to say that for most of the movie, I thought the story was just okay, and was thinking I'd probably end up giving it about two smileys, and possibly consider that a bit generous. But when Suzu and Hiroka finally track down the real world identity of the Beast, things get very dramatic, in a very real way. I don't want to spoil that, I'll just say it made the movie much more compelling.

Well, I guess the movie has a happy ending in a number of ways, though there is one pretty major thing that felt unresolved, to me. Like, things were fixed in the moment, but the overall situation isn't over, and I don't know what can be done about it. But Suzu herself has overcome some of her issues, which is good. And... there are a number of characters I haven't even mentioned, who I probably should have. But whatever. It turned out to be a really good movie.

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