Suzume is an Animated Masterpiece | Review

Suzume, the newest film from director Makoto Shinkai is here and we assure you it absolutely needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

When word came that director Makoto Shinkai was releasing Suzume (Suzume no Tojimari), his first new film in three years, there was instantly a great amount of interest. After all, this is the same director who gave us Your Name and Weathering With You, both acclaimed films in their own right. Suzume looked to be another home run and after seeing it at my local theater, I can confirm that this film is an absolute masterpiece, possibly the best work Shinkai has ever done.

Suzume follows the titular character, a 16 year old student, who finds her life turned upside down the day she encounters Souta, a mysterious traveler in search of “doors” that need closing across Japan. When Suzume impulsively follows Souta to find out what he’s doing, she inadvertently stumbles into an adventure that leads her across Japan. During this journey, Suzume learns more about what it means to live, and love, even after enduring unimaginable loss.

The film is visually stunning throughout, and features the style that has come to be associated with Shinkai’s past work. One detail that continues to fascinate me is how anime films blend together CGI and traditional animation. I know this technique isn’t new, but the way it’s presented in Suzume feels completely natural and unforced.

The characters are all fleshed out and feel like real people, impressive considering the movie only runs for two hours. Suzume herself will appeal to a lot of people, especially anyone who has struggled with a huge loss in their life. Aside from her, my favorite character is probably Daijin, a mysterious little cat that Suzume and Souta spend most of the film pursuing for a very important reason. The fascinating thing about Daijin is, due to the way he’s presented, you’re not sure for most of the film if he’s good or bad and it’s that not knowing that makes him so much fun to watch. Souta is also a fun character, mostly because of his character arc, which for plot reasons I can’t discuss due to spoilers, but needless to say you’ll find it very entertaining.

The story of Suzume is completely enthralling. It’s part road trip, part comedy, part spiritual journey, and while you might not think the last part would blend together so well with the rest, it does in a very powerful way, especially once Suzume’s past is fully spelled out for the audience. That’s something else the film does very well: Suzume’s backstory isn’t spelled out all at once, but is given in little hints that aren’t connected until close to the end of the story. It’s all very well done and pulls at your heartstrings perfectly. The spiritual parts of the film are among my favorite. You don’t need to be familiar with Japanese culture to understand anything being presented here, the film makes sure to explain the concepts introduced in the film, so you never feel lost with what is going on.

Suzume is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year and should easily earn a nomination for Best Animated Film at the Oscars next year. It deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible so I highly recommend going to see it in the theater if you have the opportunity to do so.

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Armed with a PhD. in Musicology, Becky spends much of her time blogging about movie music on her blog Film Music Central when she isn't otherwise occupied watching movies and her favorite anime series.