4K UHD Review: Belle [Collector's Edition] | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, October 2nd, 2022  

Belle [Collector’s Edition]

Studio: GKIDS & Shout! Factory

Aug 29, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Soft-spoken Suzu lives with her father in the Japanese countryside. In the years since her mother died while saving another child from a flooded river, Suzu’s only retreated further inside herself – shrinking away from her loving dad, and avoiding all but her closest friends. Her trauma has also manifested in a negative physiological reaction to singing; an activity to she used to enjoy with her mother, but now can no longer even attempt without suffering a panic attack.

Her friend invites her to the “U,” a massively popular virtual world that’s something of a hybrid between a social network and an MMO. The program syncs with a user’s biometrics, automatically creating a character that reflects a person’s inner persona and magnifies their hidden talents. While in this digital world, Suzu transforms into Belle: a superstar pop singer and one of the network’s most beloved celebrities. Here, she finds that she can somehow perform her music without the crippling fear that she feels in the real world.

Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle (2021) was released last year to critical and commercial acclaim, rapidly becoming one of the country’s highest-grossing films of the year and surpassing classics such as Spirited Away and Millennium Actress to set records by being nominated for more awards than any other Japanese animated film. It’s not hard to process Belle’s widespread appeal, as it plays into several different types of story with relative ease: it’s a grounded teen romance at the same time as a sci-fi/fantasy adventure, a modernized retelling of Beauty and the Beast that shifts into a Silence of the Lambs-style, race-against-the-clock mystery in the final act. Not to mention, with several huge musical numbers! Belle is all over the place, but it works because all of these elements are interweaved so seamlessly. The film uses everyday things like phone messages and video chat to connect the two worlds, and better show how what happens in one affects the other.

It doesn’t hurt that the film is absurdly gorgeous, either. Belle may be the most colorful animated feature we’ve ever experienced, with an unbelievable amount of detail packed into the backgrounds of every scene. The virtual world of the “U” feels like a vibrant, pulsing place – the locations are packed with activity and avatars, resembling a digital Times Square on New Year’s Eve with the amount of activity filling the frame. These scenes stand in stark contrast to those set in the real world; while there’s far less activity, the level of detail drawn into the backgrounds is just as high. (See, for example, Suzu’s music room, where her mother’s record collection forms a fortress around our shy heroine; or her techie best friend’s computer desk, which is surrounded by stacks of books with readable spines.) Belle is a technically stunning animated film, particularly in its musical segments, which are a treat for the eyes and ears. If you have the setup to view the film in 4K with a good sound system, you’re going to get even more enjoyment out of the feature.

GKIDS and Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition UHD/Blu-ray is a deluxe package that’s befitting such a pretty film. Housed in heavy-duty slipcase with a sticker, poster, thick booklet, and a pack of art cards, this new edition also includes a host of bonus features previously unavailable, including quite a few all-new interviews and some additional looks behind the scenes of Belle’s creation. It’s an incredibly robust set. Belle lives up to its accolades as a downright stunning piece of animation, and this 4K UHD release serves as a potential showpiece for your home theater setup.



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