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starring: nanoka hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Kana Hanazawa, and Ryunosuke Kamiki

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

A modern action adventure road story where a 17-year-old girl named Suzume helps a mysterious young man close doors from the other side that are releasing disasters all over in Japan.

Suzume is the new film from Makoto Shinkai and CoMix Wave Films, following the acclaimed and Oscar nominated 2019 film Weathering with You. Shinkai has over the last 15 years or so garnered a strong reputation from the films he’s helmed and Suzume should only add to this; the film is a treasure. 


Suzume sees 17-year-old Suzume Iwato swept off on a journey through Japan to stop the attempts of a giant supernatural force from breaking through the barriers (doors) of the Afterlife and wreaking havoc upon the living world. 

The film explores through this fantastical premise director Makoto Shinkai’s lament for deserted places in Japan, the result of societal change in the country over time. It has been reported that the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami served once again as an influence upon the director in the writing of the film, with reference to Shinkai’s concern that the memory of the disaster held by the people of Japan may begin to fade with time, especially with young people. 


The supernatural force in Suzume that seeks to threaten the world looks to breach barriers at certain deserted and forgotten sites across Japan. The people living in the towns below or around these sites can’t see or perceive the danger that grows only more imminent, only Closers - those who can perceive this threat and see through the doors to the afterlife are capable of fighting against the malevolent supernatural force and close and lock the doors.


Suzume has a wonderful roster of interesting characters that young Suzume Iwato encounters throughout her journey. Makoto Shinkai allows time for his supporting characters to become interesting or relatable and often funny, which in turn makes their contribution to protagonist Suzume’s journey that much more impactful. 


The film also benefits from beautiful animation. Many times you could pause the movie only for the still frame to be worthy of a canvas or poster print. The sky of the afterlife, or sunlight sparkling across bodies of water are defining images of the film.


Suzume is a treasure of a film: with beautiful animation, engaging characters and an emotional, impactful story. Suzume is a rewarding experience, even for those new to director Makoto Shinkai’s work.


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