Director Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume is set to hit theatres on April 14th, and fans worldwide are raving about it, just like his previous two films. And the director also brought back fan favorite RADWIMPS to channel the score for this latest film. Let’s dive into the trailer and synopsis and then talk about Suzume.
As the skies turn red and the planet trembles, Japan stands on the brink of disaster. However, a determined teenager named Suzume sets out on a mission to save her country. Able to see supernatural forces that others cannot, it’s up to her to close the mysterious doors that are spreading chaos across the land. A perilous journey awaits as the fate of Japan rests on her shoulders.
Director Makoto Shinkai returns with his next film that continues a theme seen in his most recent two films (Weathering with You, Your Name). Suzume dives into the collective grief felt by him and others in Japan following the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011. However, as Shinkai has previously demonstrated, he finds a magical and mythical way to demonstrate those stories in a creative way.
In Suzume Director Shinaki has turned the forces of nature into otherwordly beings that create destruction where ever they go. As is true of all his films, symbolism is a strong component of his storytelling. Earthquakes in this story are manifested as a giant red ‘worm’ that comes from the forever after (the afterlife). This place is where souls go to rest and where this worm lives under Japan, trying to break free. During this journey, Suzume meets a boy named Sota and a cat called Daijin. Each has a profound impact on Suzume and the solution to closing the doors.
Unlike his previous stories, the main character of this story wasn’t driven by romance. The story and Suzume were driven forward by a desire to not leave behind what they love. Sounds contradictory right? Well, that is where Director Shinkai shines the most. A story that is both about what we love and not about romance. Here, the emotional stories of family, friends, forgotten pasts and unknown futures collide with supernatural beings and events to weave a story of combined grief and togetherness.
As Suzume makes her way through various places in Japan, we get very short little breaks that reveal the communal nature of the close nit communities in Japan. This is clearly an important point that Shinaki wants to get across to viewers in the film. Each interaction feels like a missing piece of Suzume’s life had things been normal for her. Combined with the stunning backgrounds we have come to love from Shinkai’s films, we also get a musical score that again tightly ties all of it together. Shinaki brought back RADWIMPS for the score and it’s everything you have come to expect from them.
I would argue that Suzume as a film is almost the exact opposite of Weathering with You, which tried to drive home the sacrifice for the greater good over yourself. With Suzume, he is exploring the concept of not neglecting yourself. This has a lot of layers, and he doesn’t try to spell it out for you. And that is the beauty in his work. You leave the film diving deeper into these concepts long after the credits have rolled.
Suzume is another beautifully crafted story from Makoto Shinkai that explores the impact of mother nature and the impact of our relationships around us and how we cope with the grief from both whether they are connected, or not.
Suzume hits theatres in the US April 14th.