This week saw the release of the much anticipated BELLE, Mamoru Hosoda’s 7th feature film. The film instantly made headlines at Cannes with a 14-minute standing ovation. The film later made headlines among anime fans during its theatrical release back in January of this year. Both the original Japanese and the newly dubbed English version were shown in theaters nation-wide. In the film’s U.S. opening weekend it made $1.6 million from 1,326 theaters, and a total of $1.8 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Day holiday frame.
The film received five Annie Award nominations making it the most nominations for a Japanese anime film ever at the show, even surpassing previous films Spirited Away, Millennium Actress, and the more recent, Weathering with You. Most notable, the film’s cast, both in English and Japanese, were both praise for their vocal performance. This is both Kaho Nakamura and Kylie McNeil’s first anime, voice over performance.
Kylie McNeil, already an upcoming actor and singer in the theater scene in New York, had zero film credits, aside from an off-Broadway show “Runaways“, BELLE is Kylie’s very first film credit.
Join us in celebration of Mamoru Hosoda’s BELLE release with this special interview with the voice of Suzu / BELLE, Kylie McNeil! Back for a more in-depth and formal interview, Kylie walks through her experiences working behind the mic, voicing Suzu / BELLE.
Watch our interview above and learn how you could win our exclusive BELLE Bundle, which includes:
The BELLE movie (Steelbook ed.), A copy of the BELLE soundtrack (from Japan) & an autograph print from Paul Castro Jr. (the voice of BEAST)
all this and more in our exclusive interview! Don’t forget to subscribe for more anime and voice actor content or subscribe to our site:
Known for his emotionally touching and visually captivating films, such as Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Summer Wars, award-winning film director Mamoru Hosoda is back with his ninth film, BELLE.
Now playing in theaters, Belle is a modern adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast and could be considered a spiritual sequel to Hosoda’s 2009 film, Summer Wars, as it also deals with a virtual world.
The film starts with Suzu Naito (Voiced by Kylie McNeill), a shy 17-year old high school student living with her father (Voiced by Ben Lepley). She lives haunted by the memory of her mother’s death at a young age. Since then, Suzu has been living in her shadow, having almost no close connections and no self confidence. At least, until one day, with the help of her one close friend Hiroka Betsuyaku (Voiced by Jessica DiCicco), she discovers the online virtual world of ‘U‘ where over 5 billion users log on daily. When Suzu logs in for the first time, U automatically creates a beautiful, freckled, pink-haired avatar based on her biometrics, and she nicknames herself “Bell” (鈴 = Suzu is Japanese for Bell).
Enjoying her newfound life in anonymity; Suzu, using her voice and overcoming her trauma, develops Bell into a world-famous singer among U. Rapidly gaining popularity, Suzu holds events and concerts as Bell in U, and fans come to dub her as ‘Belle‘ (French for “Beautiful”) However, during one of Belle’s online concerts, she is interrupted by an avatar named only as “TheDragon” (Voiced by Paul Castro Jr).
Intrigued, Suzu & Hiro embark on a journey to discover the person behind The Dragon. Along the way, Suzu realizes the real power of being anonymous online and the many reasons why people like her escape to U from their own lives.
What type of story is BELLE?
The film seems to be confused about what type of story it wants to tell; whether it is an action-adventure story, as Suzu begins to discover the virtual world of U as Bell, or a romantic story, as the plot depicts the ‘forbidden’ nature in the relationship between Bell and The Dragon and Suzu’s determination to help The Dragon. One thing is for sure, the film is a musical feature. Unlike a Disney film, where characters spontaneously spring into a musical number often without warning, the film does a great job in coordinating the music with the imagery that’s on screen.
The film touches on several sensitive topics and themes, such as overcoming personal trauma. The film successfully portrays one’s desire to escape real situations for a glamorous, anonymous lifestyle; a secret, secondary life where real-life issues are nonexistent. Additionally, many viewers find themselves connected to the main character as the film dives into the psychological impact of dealing with a personal loss and its effects on a person’s daily life.
The music in this film is captivating and leaves the viewers in astonishment, undoubtedly worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation. Kaho Nakumora (Suzu/Belle in Japanese) and Kylie McNeill’s vocal performances are phenomenal and are presented with a profusion of emotional appeal. Kylie’s vocals perfectly embody Kaho’s performance as BELLE and, with Ludvig Forssell’s creative songwriting skills alongside Mamoru Hosoda and actress Kaho Nakumora, make exquisite lyrics.
“Should I Watch it?”
Though the film may contain some unnecessary subplots, it makes up for its visual presentation and musical and vocal performances. The film portrays Suzu with relatable qualities that speak to the viewer, whether you have experienced personal loss or not. If the above mentioned is not convincing enough to watch BELLE in theaters, consider that this film was worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation during the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Perhaps cast members, Kylie Mcneill and Paul Castro Jr can convince you through our exclusive interviews. Watch as Kylie & Paul share behind the scene stories and their experiences working on BELLE.
Interview With Kylie McNeill
Interview With Paul Castro Jr
We also included a brief Interview with Mamoru Hosoda we conducted during the 2021 Animation Is Film Festival in Hollywood, CA.
Watch BELLE the newest movie by award-winning filmmaker, Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai, Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and more), comes a fantastical, heartfelt story of growing up in the age of social media.
Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.
English Dub Trailer
You can watch Belle in theaters and IMAX in both Japanese and English starting January 14, 2022,get your ticket now!
For the first time, outside Japan, Mamoru Hosoda’s newest film BELLE had a chance to capture western audiences’ hearts during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood!
In 1999, Mamoru Hosoda began his journey with Dejimon Adobenchā (Digimon Adventure) as his first anime directorial debut; since then, Hosoda has developed this craft and quickly became one of Japan’s most predominant figures in Japanese animation. In 2011, Hosoda founded his own animation studio, Studio Chizu.
Hosoda developed his own unique and highly influential animation style, which can be seen and felt throughout his work. His works are heartfelt, beautifully animated films and convey a sympathetic aesthetic element, often relatable. In 2019, his adventure fantasy comedy film, MIRAI, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. His most recent film, BELLE, premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, receiving a 14-minute standing ovation.
In BELLE, Hosoda visually transforms the internet, as the popular virtual world known as ‘U’. In a plot where characters face personal turmoil, isolation, a sense of belongingness, and the need to pretend to be someone else, Hosoda effectively exploits the ability to remain anonymous online and how anonymity can have its benefits and disadvantages on its users.
We had the opportunity to briefly speak with Hosoda during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 regarding his newest work and his thoughts on MIRAI’s Oscar nomination:
*The video below may contain SPOILERS* After the screening, Hosoda addressed the audience members and answered fan questions:
The film pays homage to Beauty and The Beast (specifically Disney’s version) and is composed of tantalizing visual animation with extraordinary, captivating music tracks. In addition, Hosoda mentioned working with veteran Disney animator Jin Kim as Belle’s lead character designer earlier this year. (Below are some of Kim’s BELLE concept Sketches).
Kim has worked for Disney since 1995 and is credited in over 30 Disney titles including, Zootpia, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and his most recent work Raya and the Last Dragon. Adding to Kim’s involvement, Studio Chizu also teamed up with Irish animation studioCartoon Salonto produce the background art for the popular virtual world, ‘U’.
Get ready to dive into the beautiful world of U and watch BELLE this spring! Gkids is set to release BELLE in theaters on January 14th, 2022. For more information, visit GKids.com.