If someone asks me who is my favorite princess, it would be undoubtedly Tangled’s Rapunzel. A close second was always Belle. She had the dream life; reading books all day and even when she did get kidnapped she was ultimately permitted to have the entire castle at her disposal including the exquisite library maintained by the Beast. I even fell in love with Emma Watson’s Belle. Yet, I am always apprehensive of more adaptations of Beauty and the Beast. There are already way too many.
When Belle by Mamoru Hosoda and Studio Chizu was announced I was excited for a Japanese Animated movie but not as enthused about another adaptation. I underestimated the genius of Mamoru Hosoda. The English dubbed movie has only recently been released in America, January 14th. It is an interesting take on the classic story where the entire “Beauty and Beast” is taking place on a virtual reality platform.
The protagonists are teenagers who join a platform, U, that designs a virtual avatar. Suzu Naito who is from a rural town in Japan, is a talented singer who is shy. She makes a virtual avatar that is built based on her own skills. This avatar, named Belle, has a completely different persona and is not shy to perform. People from all over the globe through their avatars, start discovering her and soon Belle is famous. Her fame results to the appearance of the Beast. From here the story picks up and though it is not exactly like the classic it is a refreshing take.
It is almost impossible to find the interlinking of the two stories apart from the borrowed names. That is the brilliance of Mamoru Hosoda. He is subtle and yet masterful with this story. A beautiful retelling that has been dubbed by Kylie McNeill, Chace Crawford, Manny Jacinto, Hunter Schafer and Paul Castro.