Belle Movie 2023: What if Social Media Existed in an Anime World?

Belle Movie 2023

As the concept of the metaverse appears to gain more... "traction" in the real world, we can't help but envision the myriad possibilities this dreamlike digital space can draw from the movies and television series we've been consuming for years. While Ready Player One is perhaps the first reference that comes to mind, being the most recent and widespread approach that Hollywood has presented, it's essential to acknowledge the countless digital realms established in comics, video games, cartoons, and, of course, anime.

From Digimon's Digital Monster to the acclaimed Sword Art Online, numerous anime have portrayed the Japanese interpretation of a virtual world where video games predominantly steer the narrative. Unfortunately, it appears that Japanese animation has been somewhat excluded from the ongoing discourse, contemplation, and references surrounding the metaverse in recent months. Fortunately, Mamoru Hosoda's latest film (Mirai, 2018) provides us with a glimpse into the distinctive Eastern perspective on the digitization of daily life, all while retaining the comedy and sentimentality intrinsic to anime that we cherish. It's a potent blend, featuring stunning visuals tailored for IMAX screens and a touch of fairy-tale magic. Without further ado, I invite you to delve deeper into the world of Belle.

Suzu Naito is a high school girl haunted by her mother's death for over a decade. This tragic event has profoundly impacted her relationships with friends and family, compelling her to desperately seek anonymity. Isolated from those around her, Suzu has found solace in art as a means to express her emotions. However, while drawing allows her to make gradual progress, there's another activity that paralyzes and unsettles her completely: singing. Suzu cannot sing, and this inability shatters her from within.

As our protagonist grapples with the quest to rediscover joy, Japan immerses itself in an unprecedented virtual world. U is a social network of sorts that offers individuals a metaphorical rebirth and the chance to start anew. To create an account on U, users must connect biometrically through a special accessory that captures data from their body and mind, crafting an avatar with the most concealed qualities of the individual. When Suzu first enters U, her avatar materializes as a beautiful young girl with pink hair and an angelic face, possessing a marvelous voice that captivates billions of users within the initial minutes. This not only enables Suzu to sing again but also alleviates the fear that plagues her in reality.

Belle unfolds two distinct narratives, leveraging the duality of universes and their unique characteristics. In the real world, we witness Suzu's journey of self-discovery through her newfound virtual persona, while in the digital realm, the story becomes a fable exploring social media trends, the creation of idols, and a poignant long-distance relationship between individuals who have never shared the same physical space. Belle illustrates how our existence is no longer confined to our physical form and emphasizes how our online actions contribute to shaping our personality and overcoming life's challenges.

In the realm between a fairy tale and teenage drama, Belle skillfully weaves together two compelling narratives. While there are some flaws in the construction of certain characters and events, the film is infused with enough heart to captivate the audience. Similar to Mirai, director Mamoru Hosoda guides the protagonist through significant growth, particularly when we witness her navigating the real world and reconnecting with people she had distanced herself from in recent years. The movie boasts a solid script, relatable personalities, and an emotionally charged conflict that is robust enough to sustain the entire storyline. Above all, it delivers a complex and genuine journey, drawing inspiration from the sorrow of loss and the pain of mourning.


Belle Anime Trailer

Fortunately, Belle diverges from the typical science fiction narrative where the protagonist confronts an evil creator to prevent them from controlling the entire world. It also steers clear of the trope where technology completely alienates the population, and reality teeters on the verge of collapse. In fact, when the characters exist outside of U, they engage in normal activities: attending school, participating in sports, and enjoying meals with friends. There's no desperate need to constantly connect, and there is no impending suicidal mission awaiting them on the Internet.

On the other hand, the virtual storyline fully embraces fantasy and the emotions tied to billions of likes and massive events surrounding a virtual character. Within U, Belle is essentially a princess combined with Ariana Grande, boasting millions of fans and an almost identical number of detractors. As if that weren't enough, they take the princess theme so literally that the movie suddenly feels like an anime remake of Beauty and the Beast, complete with a scene reminiscent of the Ancestral Fable and a race against time to reverse a "curse." In the end, the virtual story has repercussions in reality, but the way we reach that point doesn't align with the development of the protagonist, ultimately forcing a somewhat forced resolution.

There's a central event that manages to connect Suzu with Belle, shedding light on the protagonist's life. To reach that point, the story in U unfolds in a Sword Art Online style, with cartoonish heroes that clash entirely with the drama and a hurried resolution that doesn't feel like an integral part of the "real" segment. While the virtual tale is never meant to be taken seriously, what affects the film is that this segment produces the moment that defines the protagonist and triggers her new virtues. In the end, it works, but it could have been more emotional—perhaps two separate movies or a more substantial and less accommodating virtual segment in terms of drama.

However, this lighthearted narrative in the virtual world serves the purpose of highlighting the differences between the two universes. On one side, the real world in Belle is subdued, with natural colors and landscapes beautifully portraying a contemporary Japanese city; details that get lost in the towering buildings or the dozens of people surrounding Suzu and company. Meanwhile, the virtual side is a city filled with neon lights and vibrant colors, featuring hundreds of unique characters and figures that defy the imagination. Belle offers a particular vision of the Internet, where anime has taken over the network's structure, and every video, image, and audio materializes in the skies to provide users with an otherworldly spectacle. U is a dreamlike world, a metaverse that seems crafted by Studio Ghibli, with the ability to uplift our spirits in an extraordinary manner.

As a tech enthusiast, U captivates us, immersing us in the allure without leaving us entangled in the uncertainties of its potential dangers or the looming threat of a technological apocalypse. Belle aims to spotlight a virtual reality capable of coexisting parallel to the real world, with both benefits and consequences for these intertwined universes. U beckons individuals to reinvent themselves, yet, in reality, it exposes users as they aspire to be in their real lives. All the while, as an audience, we marvel at its vibrant palette of colors, innovative ideas, and visuals meticulously optimized for the grandeur of an IMAX screen. Belle stands as a cinematic gem, offering one of the rare opportunities to submerge ourselves deeply in anime on the big screen.

Just as the visuals enrapture us, the music assumes a pivotal role in this narrative. Belle adeptly channels the suppressed emotions within Suzu's soul, propelling her to stardom within this virtual realm. The music also functions as a guiding force, leading the characters to their destined places, fostering unity, and forging indelible bonds. Belle emerges as an artist who rapidly goes viral, not through a gimmicky cover or a song tailored for TikTok success, but through the authenticity of the emotions she evokes. Stepping into a world where she can be herself without the constraints of fear or regrets, Belle encapsulates the very essence of the Internet—a long-awaited fairy tale fulfilled.

The Positives

  1. The Japanese portrayal of a metaverse that avoids humanity's destruction.
  2. Impressive visuals and exceptional music.
  3. A compelling narrative in the real world.
  4. The chance to experience Belle in IMAX.
  5. The impactful climax song.


  1. The storyline in the virtual world lacks strength.
  2. The ending may feel hurried.

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