A visually stunning animation about a shy, talented girl discovering her voice through online anonymity while dealing with the challenges of life. Although her online name is Bell, the film goes by the French term Belle which means beautiful or lovely. Suzu (aka Belle) is a lovely person with a gorgeous avatar in the online world of “U”. And her enchanting voice she finds herself, discovers her inner courage, and what she really wants to be in life.
You may not be able to start over in the real world, but you can start over in the world of U.
The Story of Belle
Suzu is a small town girl with big dreams of becoming an amazing singer. Unfortunately, an unfortunate event and living in an isolated Japanese town has prevented her from having the experiences found amongst a larger community. Shy to a debilitating degree, she takes opportunity to U, an online gaming world. Where she creates a version of herself that she’s always wanted to be.
With the help of her friend, she becomes an online pop idol with fans around the world. But her pop singing dreams are interrupted by a Beast, followed by her paralyzing bashfulness in the real world. Eager to create happiness for everyone, she takes it upon herself to help the beast. But this goal requires her to sacrifice her privacy and the help of many. As the digital world spills into the real world.
Through her adventure, we discover the online world can be as difficult as the real world, that with support hope can flow like a river, and being true to yourself may be the biggest challenge we all face in life.
Shyness, Online Anonymity, A Difficult Past
When it comes to social anxieties, an often-easy solution for many is to leverage online anonymity to explore a bolder version of ourselves. Yet when we try to feel close to someone else, secrecy prevents us from forming a deeper bond with others. Once Suze logs off, she’s no longer Bell and feels forgotten to the world. Including the bravery she musters through her online transformation.
Unfortunately, our past can sometimes haunt us. For Suzu, she enjoys being Bell due to her ability to lifts the spirits of others. But where Suzu has found a light, others have found darkness. As the good hide their light in the real world, evil hide their darkness as well. Making an online persona a place to fully exploit one’s own nature onto others. Good or bad, not everyone is who they might claim to be.
Beasts Are Made, Not Born
Whether inside or outside, we all carry scars. When a Beast suddenly appears in the world of U, everyone treats him as though he was born a beast and always will be. Just like Beauty and the Beast, we eventually learn that beasts are made. But this reality is changed when we realize you can’t always judge a book by its cover, as all beasts are not bad. But rather a beast may simply be a good person living a harsh reality.
This plays well against the presumed intentions of so-called good people when they harm the very people they claim to protect. A dynamic that provides an interesting twist to the larger story. Oftentimes, people who behave poorly are simply in need of kindness. Something that is rare in the online world and real world. The world would have much fewer beasts if we simply were kind to one another.
Visually Stunning, Uplifting Music
Belle’s deep character story is enhanced by its stunning visuals and uplifting music. From the moment the movie starts, you are introduced to a world we have never been shown before. U’s world is where many go to live their true life. And life is bigger and stranger than it could ever be!
A high note of the movie are musical performances that would make any concert seem boring. As the impossible is realized for all to observe. The level of execution may be the best we’ve ever seen in animated film. As whales with speakers fly, ornate costumes glorious transform, and a graceful voice provides uplifting words to soothe our ears. If the story isn’t enough for you, the animation and music will find a way into your heart.
Subtitles vs Dubbing
One minor controversy with Belle involves the quality of the original Japanese voices in comparison to localized translated voice work. The English-speaking voice actors are up to par for the story, so this is more a matter of personal preference.
Some noticeable details you’ll notice are Bell’s Japanese singing is believable for a young Japanese girl, how certain cultural aspects getting lost in translation, and some tonal shifts with some characters. Also, the lip-syncing has flaws with non-Japanese voices. So, if you don’t mind subtitles or prefer the filmmaker’s original vision, we recommend the Japanese voice work for the best experience.
Reaching Our True Potential
Inside each and every one of us is the potential to be more than who we are. Belle excels at displaying the hidden costs of keeping a secret identity, the challenges of online anonymity, how personalities are made, and how we forget to let our true self shine.
When we are true to ourselves, we release our full potential. Fear and doubt may be in the way, but with support and faith in oneself, we achieve anything we yearn for. Combining these themes alongside a visually stunning animation makes for a unique and inspiring experience. If this sounds interesting to you, then Belle is a movie you should definitely experience.
Want to see the opening scene of Bell? Watch it here:
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- Our friends at Nerd Crusade recently discussed Belle in one of their podcasts.
- Listen here: Nerd Crusade Podcast – Belle, The Quarry, Dusk Falls
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