When it comes to anime theatrical releases, the name Makoto Niitsu should definitely mean something to you. Responsible for anime stories like Your Name, The Garden of Words, and Weathering with You; all of his films have thought-provoking stories matched with beautiful visuals. The newest theatrical release from Niitsu follows suit with his past works, taking the audience on a journey across Japan and into a mystical realm just beyond the door between life and death. Suzume, also known as Suzume no Tojimari in Japanese, lets you marvel at tons of eye candy as you go along for the ride.
Suzume follows a young girl named Suzume Iwato who gets caught up in a magical journey after coming across a mysterious young man named Sota. Suzume’s normal life consists of high school and living with her aunt after the passing of her mother at a young age, but everything is thrown off when she finds a door that leads to another word an inadvertently provokes a natural disaster. Sota closes and locks the door, saving Suzume and everything else before things can get dire. After returning to Suzume’s home, a magical cat follows them and turns Sota into a small chair that Suzume owns, which at one time was made by her mother. The two of them then set off on a journey to close more of the doors and prevent natural disasters from happening, as well as restore Sota to his original form.
While there’s a big element of magic and mythological powers at work throughout the film, the bulk of the story is about Suzume accepting the grief of her mother’s death and moving on with her life. There’s also a strong influence in both the story and visuals related to many of the disasters that have happened in Japan over the course of many years, including the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. When the doors the two search for are left open, a giant worm comes out and begins to cause earthquakes that could devastate the people of Japan. And all anyone could do is stand by helplessly, feeling the impact of the force at play. It’s powerful symbolism that conveys the general feeling of being around such an event, something which Makoto Niitsu was heavily influenced by for the film.
The best aspect of the film is the visuals. Nearly every frame has an incredible amount of detail that makes it seem like a beautiful painting. There are elements of computer effects in some scenes or sequences that involve motion, as well as a few spots where the backgrounds take an almost otherworldly effect. There’s beauty, mysticism, grace, and horror on display in many ways throughout Suzume.
Some of the best scenes with the best animation are when Suzume and Soto are trying to close doors together, with lots of magic swirling around. But even in the quieter moments showcasing everyday life in Japan, the movie takes a lot of care to let enough little details work together in making a beautifully framed shot. It can be a simple setting of a field with junk around, but hot damn does it look super good.
For some people who watch Suzume, the story will start off mysterious and slow in the early sections of the film. At the same time, the latter portion of the story may come off as a bit rushed and confusing, especially when certain characters appear at first one way and then totally change their purpose later on.
Without spoiling too much, many things don’t appear to be what they are at first, both with people and creatures Suzume comes across. It can feel like a sense of whiplash with the plot, but everything leads to a rounded conclusion by the time everything reaches a climax. And luckily the gorgeous visuals make up for most of what the plot stumbles with.
For the English version of the film, there’s a nice blending of Japanese dialogue in some scenes that doesn’t come off as jarring. Certain scenes that feature karaoke or music playing on the radio incorporate the Japanese language. Watching the Japanese dub of the film completely makes this irrelevant, but it’s nice to see that songs included in the film weren’t changed to English versions that can ruin their rhythm or mood. They’re small parts of the film, but again it’s the small details that make Suzume’s larger pieces of the experience work so well.
For those that want to watch a story with a lot of emotions and magical elements, with a hint of harsh themes rooted in reality, Suzume will be a good watch. Whether you decide to go with the English or Japanese dubbing won’t take away from the fantastic visuals of this film. Its story beats will have a few flaws you might pick out along the way, but none of it will dampen the overall great time you’ll have watching this animated fantasy.
Have you gotten the chance to watch Suzume in theaters? Are you a big fan of anime films? Post a comment down below and let us know what you think!
This is a beautiful-looking anime film that has some amazing animation. While the plot may have a few parts that fall a little short, the overall presentation and experience of watching this anime fantasy are really good. The characters are interesting and the magical effects are awe-inspiring. There are deep themes within the gorgeous visuals that many people will enjoy thinking about.
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