“Suzume,” otherwise known as “Suzume no Tojimari,” is directed by Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering with You) and stars Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shota Sometani, Sairi Ito, Kotone Hanase, Kana Hanazawa, and Matsumoto Hakuō II. This film is about a teenage girl who finds out she must save Japan from various threats by locking a set of doors.
If there is one door that has opened for me in 2022, it is the one that unveils the vast world of anime. When the year started, I did my first anime review, “Belle,” which has now become one of my favorite films of all time regardless of the genre or medium. Since then I have watched other titles such as those from the Studio Ghibli collection, “Akira,” “In This Corner of the World,” and “Inu-Oh,” the last of which I have reviewed. I have not touched much in the television realm, such as the “Dragon Ball” franchise, but that is partially because I am usually more committed to film than television regardless of the genre. Anime has also introduced me to some notable filmmakers such as Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Hosoda, and the one of focus in this review, Makoto Shinkai.
In just a short amount of time, a couple of anime titles have risen to the top of my all time favorite films list. The recently mentioned “Belle” is an example, but when it comes to Makoto Shinkai, “Your Name” is another. The chemistry between the two main characters, which is unlike many other films in history, is executed with utter brilliance. It is beautifully animated, fantastically written, and ends on the perfect note. It shows the power of animation at its finest. It is easy to see why the film has become one of the most successful anime titles of all time, making $382 million worldwide. “Suzume” is having similar success. The film has raked in $221 million worldwide and has already passed his last film, “Weathering with You,” even this early into the official U.S. release.
But just because something is successful, does not always make it great. Look at “Jurassic World: Dominion” for example. Is “Suzume” for starters, worth the hype? And also, worth showering with tons of box office revenue?
To answer both of those questions, that is a paramount certainty.
After seeing “John Wick: Chapter 4” and now “Suzume,” I can declare spring 2023 is a great time to go the movies.
“Suzume” is just about everything I wanted and more. It is a beautifully animated triumph of a picture that does everything a movie is supposed to do. The last movie I reviewed, also an animation, specifically “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” could arguably have placed itself in the same boat. But when I say that, I mean it did the bare minimum to “not suck.” If this were a classroom, “Suzume” is the one student that studies hard, earns extra credit, always raises their hand, and dresses exquisitely as a bonus.
Now that we are in 2023, good animation has basically become a requirement. Thankfully, “Suzume” has unbelievably superb animation. Much like Shinkai’s other films, “Suzume” has this gloss to it that I can only find in one of his features. The colors are out of this world and the palette is both lifelike and imaginative at the same time. This is a film that having seen it, I could never see working in live-action without a couple significant changes.
“Suzume” reminds me of some of the better Pixar movies, because Pixar has a tendency to make films, many of which are phenomenal, where it begs to ask what would happen if certain objects or concepts had emotions. Sure, giving emotions to or personifying things in animation is not unusual. But when it comes to Pixar, it stands out because of the way they go about it. They gave toys emotions. They gave cars emotions. They gave preexisting souls emotions. They gave robots emotions. They gave literal emotions emotions. And this idea has worked every time. I am amazed on how Pixar was able to make a movie centering around a couple of robots and give them more emotional attachment than many films putting PEOPLE in the spotlight that have come out during the past decade. Similarly, the power of “Suzume” was unveiled as soon as I found out how much I cared about a chair. Granted, the chair is also human, but still. The movie made me care about a chair and got me attached to a cat who happens to be a statue. Despite the chair being human, it begs the question. What if chairs had emotions? This movie is the result.
As for the characters, I liked all of them. Sota, who becomes the chair, served well as a prominent sidekick. Daijin, the cat, is utilized perfectly. His lack of dimension, which is usually a deterrent for many characters, actually serves as a benefit with how his lines are delivered. Every moment he was on screen stood out to me. Suzume’s aunt, Tamaki, is perfectly written and executed. I believed every line out of this woman.
As for Suzume herself, I thought she was a great centerpiece to the story. When it comes to her as a main protagonist, she definitely served her purpose. I have no real complaints about the character that had to do with her charm or screen presence. If anything, I loved her ability to stay motivated throughout the film’s progression. Overall, I thought she was a joy to watch. But if I have anything negative to say, it would be this. Despite Suzume’s backstory being fleshed out, my one complaint is that I do not know a ton about her interests or what she does. Yes, she goes to school and has friends, but there is not much about her that separates her in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to Suzume’s depth, we get perhaps somewhere above the bare minimum. Although the movie managed to make a compelling aspect within the story out of the notion that she lost her mom and is raised by her aunt. Therefore, given the film’s significant fleshing out of that aspect, I can forgive the slight lack of personality even though it is an issue the more I think about it.
Despite what I said about Suzume not being fleshed out, one thing I thought was finely detailed throughout the film was Sota and his job, if you will, of being a closer. This film is about closing doors to prevent disasters. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that Sota calls himself a “closer.” It does not pay the bills, but the movie implies it is important. I like how they gave the occupation of sorts a backstory, it brought some intriguing depth to the table.
When I say I can forgive this movie for its flaws, I mean it. It is perfectly paced. The film clocks in just over 2 hours and not once was I bored. I was smiling the whole time. The first ten minutes of this movie are some of the best I have seen in animation. While this film may not be as good as “Your Name,” the titles rival each other from a technical perspective. The animation style is almost comes off as a lifelike video game. The sound design is hypnotizing. The score is outstanding. Kazuma Jinnouchi and RADWIMPS did such a banger job with all of the music. I can personally claim I have listened to some of it during the making of this review. This movie is such a technical behemoth that the minor story flaws honestly take a bit of a backseat. “Suzume” is a must see for Shinkai loyalists and newcomers alike.
In the end, Makoto Shinkai continues his hot streak. Between “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” and now this banger of a film, “Suzume” is every bit as awe-inspiring and excellent as I hoped it would be. With this film now in the can, this affirms Shinkai’s status as one of my favorite directors working today. I cannot wait to see what he does next. “Suzume” is beautiful, original, and occasionally jaw-dropping. The characters are great. The animation is some of the best in recent memory alongside “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” If it is playing in theaters near you, see it on the biggest screen you can. I saw it in IMAX and it was worth it. I left “Suzume” feeling satisfied. That is how I would want to feel after every movie I end up seeing. Again, it is no “Your Name,” but it comes close. Therefore, I would have to give “Suzume” a 9/10.
“Suzume” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! This week I will be watching the brand new movie “Air,” starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Also stay tuned for my review for “Super Mario Bros.,” the 1993 film, coming sometime soon. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Suzume?” What did you think about it? Or, did you watch any of Makoto Shinkai’s other films? If you have a favorite, list it! I already mentioned this film, “Your Name,” “Weathering with You,” but if I must throw something out, I also saw “The Place Promised in Our Early Days,” which I would recommend. Check it out. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!