Makoto Shinkai strikes gold once more with new hit Suzume

Shinkai has struck gold once more, creating a film with an engaging story and characters, jaw dropping animation, an incredible score, and an emotional core.


Photo by Outlook India

Makoto Shinkai strikes gold again with Suzume

   I still remember my first time watching a film made by Makoto Shinkai: Your Name, the acclaimed 2016 film about two teenagers bound by fate who switch bodies. I watched it at a sleepover with my middle school friend in Fishtown, Philadelphia, and I have been a fan of his work ever since. The animation, the score, the characters, the humor, the heart—all of these aspects are seen in Shinkai’s work. This esteemed opinion of mine made me thrilled when I heard that his new film Suzume was coming out in theaters this year. But did it live up to my expectations?

   Yes. Yes it did.

   Suzume is, hands down, one of the best Japanese animated films I have ever seen. It follows the titular character Suzume, as she attempts to save her country from disaster through her ability to see the supernatural. She tasks herself venturing through the country with new friend Souta to close the mysterious doors between worlds that are spreading chaos and natural disaster.

   This review will contain major spoilers for the film. 

   The story of Suzume is incredibly engaging. The runtime is 122 minutes, yet it doesn’t feel overly long. Even the slice-of-life aspects of the film are fascinating, contributing to the message about the importance of living.

   Suzume is a self-destructive character, putting others before herself and tasking herself with saving the world around her. She blames herself when Souta is cursed to become a sentient chair. She was at fault for opening the door, but she gives herself way more responsibility than a high-school junior deserves. This characterization made her incredibly sympathetic and a protagonist I was truly rooting for. 

   The heart of the story, however, comes from Suzume’s trauma. Losing her mother at a very young age caused Suzume’s ability to see the supernatural, as she tried to find her mother in the afterlife behind a door by the ruins of her old house. Her aunt found her younger self after she returned to the living world, and took her in as her own daughter. Suzume feels the tremendous loss of her mother and feels awful for taking away her aunt’s youthful years. This aspect of her character creates tension between the characters and the major emotional drive of the story.

   The other characters featured in Suzume were also likable. Souta is a university student, aiming to become a teacher while taking on the family business of closing the doors between realms. He might be a chair for over half the film, but he provides ample characterization and comedy, as well as heart. I never thought I would cry at a CGI chair, yet here we are.

   Taijin was also a very complex character. I could not tell if he was an ancient god that solely wanted to cause chaos or if he truly wanted to help Suzume. He was revealed to be misunderstood, trying to lead Suzume towards the doors and wanting to truly live as a cat rather than protecting the doors. This made his sacrifice more meaningful, as he took a note from Suzume and sacrificed himself for the safety of the world.

   The animation of Suzume, as expected, was phenomenal. Every scene looked picturesque, and even the CGI was incredibly well done. The score, composed by RADWIMPS and Kazuma Jinnoucji, fit every scene perfectly. Whether it was a life-or-death situation or simply a scene of Suzume eating a meal with a friend, both artists tailored the music so it fit the tone of every second. The sound of the film was also incredible, making the film even more engaging.

   The most enjoyable aspect of the film was its moral about the importance of living. It expressed the importance of appreciating the small things in life, and realizing that you can and will get through your darkest moments. Suzume captured the beauty of the simple and mundane nature of life and displayed how the people you meet and the memories you make are what make living truly meaningful.

   Overall, Suzume exceeded both my expectations and the general public. The film has earned $290.6 million worldwide, and it truly deserves it. Shinkai has struck gold once more, creating a film with an engaging story and characters, jaw dropping animation, an incredible score, and an emotional core. I highly recommend watching Suzume, and I look forward to Shinkai’s next masterpiece.