Suzume is directed by Makoto Shinkai and tells the story of a young girl who discovers a door to another world, and after a brief encounter with a young man, Suzume discovers that creatures from that other world threaten Japan. After a series of plot machinations, she finds herself traveling throughout Japan accompanied by the young man who has been magically interred in a small chair.
The most striking element about Suzume is the breath-taking animation. The backgrounds are absolutely beautiful, and the world beyond the door is magically rendered and glorious to behold. The character designs are rather standard for Japanese anime, but the rest of the film, using a combination of classic 2D designs and 3D computer-generated images, is a visual delight.
Japanese anime is not just for children, and the medium often includes rich characters; Suzume, like another Shinkai film Your Name (2016), is no exception. As much as the surface plot is about preventing giant, other worldly worms from causing earthquakes, the character plot is about a teen girl exploring her identity and reconciling childhood grief and trauma. What seems like a simple story reveals an astounding depth that is absent in much of the popular US animation.
The only hiccup in Suzumeis the story structure, which is a little wonky. There are two sections when it looks all of the story elements will come together in the film’s climax, only for the film to restart and ramp up to another crescendo. The result is that the latter half of the film drags after clocking a good pace for the first hour-thirty.
Fans of Japanese animation likely have already found Suzume, based on its strong box office internationally, but for people who have not had an opportunity to see much anime, Shinkai’s latest offering is a good place to start.