“Suzume”: Makoto Shinkai completes the disaster anime trilogy

The massive earthquake in Japan in 2011 inspired Sinkai to create this drama infused with surprising humor.


Although anime master Makoto Shinkai has been consumed by disasters in his last three Japanese blockbusters — “Your Name,” “Weathering With You” and “Suzume” (opening domestically on April 14 via Crunchyroll) — the latest is his most personal and ambitious. . film to this day. This is because “Suzume” was directly inspired by the massive nuclear meltdown earthquake that struck the Tōhoku region of Japan in 2011. The title story is about a teenager who tries to close supernatural doors in Japan to stop a chain of earthquakes from spreading.

“With the earthquake, that peaceful everyday life came to an abrupt end, and I realized that we were living with something very phenomenal,” Shinkai told IndieWire through an interpreter. “Even in Tokyo, the ground shook quite a bit, so everyone was evacuated to a nearby high school to an elementary school. Luckily I was close enough to walk home. I remember just going home, holding my wife, my daughter, and just wondering, what’s next that night?

“And towards the end of March, when the cherry blossoms started to bloom, Tokyo residents lived a somewhat normal life. And of course the same cannot be said for everyone in the Tōhoku region. I don’t think even after 12 years, any of their lives have returned to what they would consider normal. And it really got me thinking: why didn’t it happen to me? What made us so different? (We) were filled with this kind of anxiety or helplessness. And as an animator and a director, I thought, ‘How do we place this and organize our thoughts in the context and background of entertainment?'”

Suzume Makoto Shinkhai


Courtesy of Crunchyroll

Although Shinkai flirted with dealing with disaster in the body-swapping romance “Your Name” and the climate-change romance “Weathering With You,” it wasn’t until “Suzume” that he was ready to confront it. “Suzume” is much more traumatic. adulthood as romance. The film follows Suzume as she struggles with her emotional demons after surviving an earthquake as a child that took the life of her mother. Since then, his aunt Tamaki has been taking care of him. Still, they have a stormy relationship, which was poignantly revealed by the director, who, as a father in his late forties, had a lot to draw from.

“In the beginning, I didn’t have many scenes with Tamaki,” Shinkai said. “But I gradually understood the importance of it being Yojiro Noda from Radwimps (the rock band he’s been working with since Your Name). When I gave him the script, he read it and started composing music. The first track he uploaded for me was ‘Tamaki’, which never made it into the film, but starts with the words ‘I’ve always hated you’. And it made me realize that his character and his point of view were essential to the narrative and the core of the film.”

The sprawling adventure, which begins in the quiet city of Kyushu in southwestern Japan, has Suzume and a mysterious traveler named Souta (magically trapped in his three-legged chair) trying to stop a giant, ethereal-looking red worm that is ravaging the country. . This allowed Shinkai to create CoMix Wave Films’ complex hybrid of 2D character animation and CG environments. In fact, the chair proved to be the scariest thing for the animation studio.

Suzume Makoto Shinkhai


Courtesy of Crunchyroll

“We started with 2D hand-drawn expressions for the chair,” he added. “But when I saw the first few animations, I didn’t really like it because I felt like I’d seen that expression before in Beauty and the Beast. He had this strange liveliness that I wasn’t looking for in Souta because he was trapped in this very stiff and awkward object. I wanted it to be rigid, and I wanted to animate something solid. So in this case he helped with the 3D/CG.”

Souta, trapped in a chair, also introduced absurd comic relief when chasing a possessed cat or trying to assert control during action sequences. Shinkai’s previous two films lacked this. But he believed that humor was an important element to relieve the constant tension in this disaster movie.

“Humor was essential to this project early on in development,” Shinkai said, “and especially because I’m making a film about this earthquake.” I don’t think anyone will come, especially the younger crowd. You would think it would be social commentary and explaining the earthquake that hit society, so I had to turn to entertainment.”

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