Suzume, a 16-year-old high school student, meets Souta, a man in his twenties who introduces himself as a “closer” and is on a mission to close the doors through which a large worm-like creature is attempting to emerge and cause disasters throughout Japan. Suzume is compelled to take on Souta’s task and travel throughout Japan to close these doors after a magical keystone vanishes and transforms into a cat, cursing Souta and transforming him into Suzume’s childhood chair.
I’m on the fence about this one because I’m a big fan of Makoto Shinkai, and his last two major films, Your Name and Weathering With You, were mega blockbusters, so my expectations were pretty high. Despite the fact that it is in 2D, I knew I had to see it in IMAX. I watched it over the weekend and did not regret spending 690 PHP because Shinkai’s animation is simply breathtaking.
Suzume, the titular lead, is a brave character. Her sense of responsibility is admirable, but at the end of the day, she’s still a 16-year-old girl raised by her aunt after her mother died when she was very young. She’s a typical adolescent who rebels, trying to find her place in the sun, and she’s still that kid who misses her mother. If there’s one word that best describes her, it’s resilience.
Souta’s character on the other hand lacks backstory. We were only informed that he comes from a family that ‘closes’ these doors or gates, and he decided to be a teacher just to have a paying job, and that’s all. There was a lingering question about Souta’s family being “closers” at the back of my mind. It was like, “Are you guys from a secret society, or was it bestowed by some sort of magical being since they’ve been “Closers” for generations?” Another question I have that is central to the story is, “Where do these worms come from? We were informed about “Ever After” or “After Life” or an alternate universe, but why do these things emerge in the first place?
The narrative, in my opinion, was not as strong as in the director’s previous works because, despite covering such heavy topics and events—the film was apparently inspired by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster, which I saw on TV while it was happening, which was terrifying and heartbreaking—it feels very niche.
What I meant earlier when I said I was on the fence was that I didn’t connect much with the characters in the film. Yes, they’re likable enough, but unlike Mitsuha and Taki in “Your Name” and Hodaka and Hina in “Weathering With You,” I didn’t really root for them.
I find myself trying to just enjoy other aspects of the film. I enjoyed the bits about Suzume spending time with the amazing strangers she met while she was traveling with Souta as a chair. The conclusion was definitely the strongest part of the film, as Suzume gets to confront her loss, her guilt towards her aunt, and find her place in the sun. Another enjoyable aspect of it is its music. Its soundtrack is heavenly; I had to stay until the film credits ended.
The film was nominated for Animation of the Year at this year’s Japan Academy Film Prize, which goes to show how much Shinkai’s work is revered in his home country. I’m probably in the minority in not fully embracing the film, but if you enjoy fantastic visuals and awesome music, this is a must-see!
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Nanoka Hara as Suzume Iwato (岩戸 鈴芽, Iwato Suzume)
Akari Miura as child Suzume
Hokuto Matsumura as Sōta Munakata (宗像 草太, Munakata Sōta)
Eri Fukatsu as Tamaki Iwato (岩戸 環, Iwato Tamaki)
Shota Sometani as Minoru Okabe (岡部 稔, Okabe Minoru)
Sairi Ito as Rumi Ninomiya (二ノ宮 ルミ, Ninomiya Rumi)
Kotone Hanase as Chika Amabe (海部 千果, Amabe Chika)
Kana Hanazawa as Tsubame Iwato (岩戸 椿芽, Iwato Tsubame)
Matsumoto Hakuō II as Hitsujirō Munakata (宗像 羊朗, Munakata Hitsujirō)
Ryūnosuke Kamiki as Tomoya Serizawa (芹澤 朋也, Serizawa Tomoya)
Ann Yamane as Daijin (ダイジン)
Aimi as Miki (ミキ)