The official website for Mamoru Hosoda and his Studio Chizu‘s new Belle (Ryū to Sobakasu no Hime, literally “The Dragon and the Freckled Princess”) anime film revealed a new visual and staff members for the film on Friday. The visual will appear on posters in Japanese theaters early next month.
The studio announced that Akiya Kageichi drew the original character designs for the film’s Dragon character. Below is Kageichi’s illustration of the Dragon:
Other newly announced staff members include Takaaki Yamashita (Digimon Adventure: Bokura no War Game) as the chief animation director for the segments of the movie set in the “U” virtual world, Hiroyuki Aoyama (Mirai) as the chief animation director and character designer for the real world segments, Nobutaka Ike (Satoshi Kon‘s films) as the background art director, Anri Jojo (Summer Wars‘ “Oz” world art design) for art setting, and Summer Wars CGI artists Ryo Horibe and Yohei Shimozawa as the CGI directors.
The film will open in Japan on July 16. Advance MoviTicke Card passes go on sale online on Friday.
Chizu describes the story:
Our protagonist, Suzu, is a 17-year old high school girl, who lives in the countryside of Kochi Prefecture with her father, after losing her mother at a young age.
She loves singing with her mother more than anything else, but as a result of her mother’s death was no longer able to sing.
It wasn’t long before she and her father grew more and more distant from each other, and Suzu closed her heart to the rest of the world.
When Suzu felt that writing music was her only purpose left in life, she then discovers the massive online space known as “U,” where she takes on her persona, Belle.
We are no longer limited to a single world.
Suzu quickly realizes that when she is inside “U” as her avatar, Belle, she can sing quite naturally. As she continues to showcase her own music in the virtual world, she fast becomes the rising star of “U.”
Nonetheless, that surprise is short-lived. Suddenly, a mysterious dragon-shaped creature appears before her…
Ryō Narita plays Shinobu Hisatake (both upper left in image above), a childhood friend of Suzu’s who worries about her. His place in the school basketball team earns him a lot of popularity with girls, but he maintains a mysterious aura. He once proposed to Suzu when they were kids.
Shōta Sometani plays Shinjirō Chikami (both upper right), the sole member of the school’s canoeing team, who still aims for the nationals. He has a pure and straightforward heart committed toward his goals, but that commitment often alienates him from other people.
Tina Tamashiro as Ruka Watanabe (both lower left), a girl with the air of a fashion model, and an alto saxophonist in the school concert band. She is the kind of perfect girl that attracts everyone’s attention.
Rira Ikuta (YOASOBI duo’s vocalist ikura in her voice-acting debut) as Hiroka Betsuyaku (both lower right), Suzu’s close friend and constant confidante. She has a sarcastic wit honed by many Internet interactions. She is the one that invites Suzu to the online world of “U,” and acts as the producer of Suzu’s character Belle. She is a key person in the story, being the only one that knows of the person behind Belle.
Toshiyuki Morikawa (leftmost in image above) plays Justian (seen below), who takes the uncovering of the dragon’s identity as his personal mission as leader of the “Justice” vigilante group. Kenjiro Tsuda (center left in image above) plays Jelinek, a contemporary artist who is one of the likeliest candidates to be the dragon. Mami Koyama (center right) plays Swan, a lady that lives in a palatial estate that is also another likely candidate for the dragon. Mamoru Miyano plays both Muitarō Hitokawa and Tokoraemaru, YouTubers on the hunt for the dragon.
Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars,The Boy and The Beast, Mirai) is directing and scripting the film, and is also credited for the original work. The film marks Studio Chizu‘s 10th anniversary. Taisei Iwasaki (Blood Blockade Battlefront, Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan, The Naked Director) is the film’s music director and composer.
Eric Wong, a London-based architect and designer, created the concept artwork for the film’s online world of U. According to Chizu, “Hosoda personally found and commissioned Eric to come up with this universal and international “internet space” from both an architectural and design perspective.”
Jin Kim (Frozen, Tangled, Big Hero 6, Moana) designed the titular protagonist Belle. According to Chizu, “Mamoru Hosoda and Jin have long respected each other’s work but met for the first time when Mirai was nominated for an Oscar in Los Angeles. There, they promised to one day work on something creatively together and finally realized that goal with Belle.”
Studio Chizu‘s previously announced that the film would portray an “ever-evolving online world” that takes place in an online world called “U,” which has 5 billion registered users. Studio Chizu mentioned Hosoda’s past films where virtual words play a key role, such as Digimon Adventure: Children’s War Game and Summer Wars, as similar titles of exploring modern society, but based on the director’s “recent insights.” The studio specifically mentioned themes of “coming of age, family ties, love between parents and children, friendship that transcends species, the links between our lives.”