There have been a few attempts at adapting the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast for a modern audience. While most fall into obscurity, I believe that Belle is a solid attempt. Belle is the anime version that tells the story in a Ready Player One-like future. In this version, there is a game everyone plays that allows you to log into a virtual world. Suzu is a grieving teen who has lost her mother and is floating through life, trying to find her place in it. She plays the game and becomes the worldwide pop sensation Belle. The rest of the movie is a retelling of Beauty in the beast in a virtual world.
As far as remakes go, this is a sold one. It is far better than the monstrosity that was Beastly, and I even dare say it is better than Disney’s own live-action. The art is pretty, although some of the animation is awkward, and the voice acting is amazing. I did watch it in the original Japanese with subtitles, but there is an English dubbing available if you don’t want to read. I can’t speak on how good the voice acting is for the dubbed version.
Belle is a movie that focuses more on being a slice-of-life anime. Instead of focussing on the bizarre and magical, a lot of the focus falls on the mundane and serene. Scenes will let you admire the scenery surrounding the sleepy town in japan rather than magical transformations. As a result, you get a lot of scenes that pan over rivers or skylines while Suzu deals with the newfound pressures of being popular. There is a lot of beautiful art in this movie that should not be slept on.
This is not your typical action-packed anime. While there is fighting and action, the story focuses more on dealing with grief, loss, and abuse.
The story handles each topic appropriately while telling a decent story. What I liked the most about this version is how active Suzu is in the narrative. Most of the time, this story paints Belle as the smart woman who must save the beast because she has no other option. She is sold or trapped into a situation where she learns sympathy out of necessity. In Belle, Suzu chooses to log into the game as a way to escape and likes being someone different. It helps her cope with a lot of her pent-up feelings. She doesn’t have to help the beast but chooses to on her own. Although Suzu’s motivations for helping the beast are unclear, she drives her own narrative. I love Suzu as a protagonist, and while some of this story is cheesy, it never got unbearable.
I liked this movie, but I love a slice-of-life anime. If you like this art style and genre, this is a solid pick. Otherwise, this movie might be a bit too slow and uneventful.