‘Belle’ is a captivating, modern retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ A quiet high school student travels into a virtual social media world

‘Belle’ is a captivating, modern retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Ayma Malik

By day, Suzu is a shy, awkward high school student who lives in the rural town of Kochi, Japan. But, by night, she’s the pop star Belle, with bright pink hair and an audience of billions.

Suzu (Kylie McNeil) had been a vocalist since she was a child, however once she witnessed her mother drown, she stopped singing in public. She joins “U,” an online platform which uses virtual reality to create a personal avatar for its users, and allows them to interact with each other. Suzu uses the technology as an outlet to sing, and she ends up going viral. Her fans call her “Belle.” Soon, however, a mysterious avatar called Dragon (Paul Castro Jr) wreaks havoc on Belle’s concerts, and she becomes obsessed with him. With the help of her friend, Hiroka (Jessica DiCicco), Suzu tries to discover who Dragon really is. 

The imagery and animation of the movie is bright, colorful and absolutely stunning, flowing easily from hyper realistic to cartoonish. The recreation of the Beast’s castle is personally my favorite part because it is drawn like a crystal palace with reflections that enhance it. Belle’s outfits, especially her iconic rose colored dress, are animated beautifully, with every detail done perfectly. But, the Inside of U itself isn’t very beautiful, however it’s drawn with incredible detail and done in a graphical style.

On top of that, the script is written well overall. For the dialogue, it sometimes falls into clichés, but then again the characters are mainly teenage high schoolers so it is expected. The voice actors all have dynamic voices and their voices are full of personality. 

The most masterful part of the film is how it combines the fictional social media with the real life one. It shows that despite being able to hide behind anonymous avatars, being seen as who you truly are is the real daring feat. 

“Belle” draws into the plot of “Beauty and the Beast,” but it isn’t a simple love story. That’s shown through the way Suzu and Hiroka scour through the U-verse for clues as to the Dragon, “the Beast” in the film. However, the point of the story is not the retelling of the classic story. Secrets and anonymity are the core of the story. The film explores what the internet and connectivity within it can enable. Although characters in the movie are able to reinvent themselves through U, their real life problems still seem to bleed through to reality. For example, the patterns on the back of Dragon resemble the bruises on the back of the real person behind him. 

The movie overall blew me away and was a lot better than I expected. I’m not usually a fan of dubbed movies, however the acting and the singing were breathtaking. The script at points felt predictable, but the sound and visuals were absolutely stunning, and made up for it. It was a refreshing, new take on “Beauty and the Beast,” and the visuals kept me entertained for the entire movie. It tackled topics from coming of age to compassion and self discovery. Even if you don’t particularly like anime, “Belle” is worth watching for the animation and soundtrack. The movie is available to watch in an English dub, or in the original Japanese version with subtitles.