Clearly, Makoto Shinkai has discovered the winning formula, as each of his films have achieved blockbuster status, both domestically and globally. This is evident once more with “Suzume”, which has earned a whopping $322 million worldwide and is now the fourth highest-grossing film of 2022 in Japan and the fourth highest-grossing Japanese film ever.
The movie “Suzume” will be shown in over 200 theaters in the US and select cities in Canada starting on October 27 for a limited time. Viewers can watch the highly praised film in its original Japanese with English subtitles or with an English dub. Tickets can be purchased on suzume-movie.com.
Suzume Iwato is a 17-year-old high school student who resides in a quiet Kyushu town in Japan with her aunt Tamaki. After losing her parents, Suzume encountered a young man named Souta Munakata while on her way to school. He was searching for an abandoned area with a door and Suzume directed him to a nearby abandoned resort. However, Souta is actually a Closer whose job is to close doors that appear throughout Japan and prevent huge supernatural worms from emerging and causing earthquakes. Despite inadvertently causing the opening of one of these doors, Suzume ends up helping Souta close it and they become fast friends. One day, while hanging out in Suzume’s apartment, a talking cat appears and curses Souta, turning him into a three-legged wooden chair that Suzume had in her room. This sets off a wild chase across Japan as the pair, with the help of the chair, try to catch the cat who seems to appear wherever worm-spawning doors are found. Meanwhile, Suzume’s aunt grows increasingly worried about her niece’s whereabouts.
It is clear that the idea of young people rescuing Japan from calamity is a commonly used theme in the anime world, especially in Shinkai’s works. However, what is more intriguing is the symbolism that runs throughout the film and the different messages woven into the storyline.
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One of the main themes in this work is the idea of an impending earthquake, symbolized by the presence of worms. Shinkai uses this element as a warning about the constant threat that Japan faces. The significance of the doors being in abandoned places is not immediately clear, but it could also be interpreted as a warning about people abandoning potentially dangerous locations over time. The protagonists, a high school student aspiring to be a nurse and a man studying to be a teacher, represent the future generation and the potential saviors of society. Shinkai’s message seems to emphasize the importance of teachers, medical professionals, and young people in shaping society’s future.
In regards to the feedback, a recurring topic that is popular among Japanese audiences arises again, as the absence of parents is notable, especially with the main characters. The inclusion of Tamaki and the development of relationships between Suzume, Souta, and eventually Yamashita takes a different direction, portraying the idea that families can be created through non-blood relationships. This optimistic perspective also leads to the most intense moment in the movie.
In addition to what was mentioned before, the current popular theme of the aftermath of Fukushima is also present in the film. The mention of the beauty of the area may be seen as a message of hope for its recovery. The area also plays a significant role in one of the most impressive sequences in the movie, which may remind some viewers of the finale in “Kenya Boy.” The inclusion of cats with supernatural abilities also follows a crowd-pleasing trend. Additionally, Shinkai includes a tour guide element, showcasing the beauty and attractions of Japan. Neighborhood bars and public baths are central to the story. This aspect may also be aimed at portraying the Japanese as welcoming, as Suzume receives help from strangers she meets along her journey.
As always in Makoto Shinkai and Comix Wave Films, the artwork is of the highest quality. Masayoshi Tanaka’s illustrations of the characters and animals are exceptional, pleasing to the eye. The backgrounds are also well done, combining realism and beauty. The worms, however, stand out as the most impressive and visually appealing element, showcasing the mastery of both drawing and animation. The character movements are realistic in the “normal” scenes, with great attention to detail shown in everything from their walking to the way their hair moves. The chase between the chair and cat enters a more fantastical realm, but is equally impressive to watch.
“Suzume” may not revolutionize the genre, but it is a highly entertaining anime that contains subtle messages and commentary. Overall, it is an exceptional film that demonstrates how Shinkai has modernized and perfected Miyazaki’s recipe for success.