The Inspiration Behind Makoto Shinkai’s New Movie ‘Suzume’ Hits Close To Home


After announcing the English voice cast back on March 21st with an official subbed trailer (which can be viewed by clicking here) with the theater date set for April 14th, just over a week later on March 30th, Crunchyroll premiered the English dub trailer for Suzume no Tojimari, which literally translates to “Suzume’s Door-Locking”. Although the announcement says April 14th is when it comes to theaters, it appears many theaters have showings on April 13th. Check your local theaters for times and tickets for both sub and dub showings.

Here is the English dub trailer:

In November 2022, Japanese anime news site Animate Times shared an interview they did with Suzume director Makoto Shinkai, where he describes his inspirations behind the creation of his latest movie.

The first inspiration was the decline in population growth in Japan. As he explains, more places in Japan are becoming abandoned and essentially turning into ruins. The places the character visits are places of mourning for the decrease in population. The population growth is sadly not projected to improve any time soon.

Translating from Japanese text, Shinkai says:

As a starting point for the work, I wanted to make it “a work that mourns a place.” Japan is becoming depopulated, and the number of areas where the population has decreased is increasing. Ruins and abandoned houses are becoming visible, and I think everyone feels that in their daily lives.

When I go back to my parents’ house, I often think, “It used to be a lively place.” However, I thought that when a person died, a funeral was held, but when the person disappeared and the place fell into disrepair, no one would do anything.

So, the starting point was that I wanted to create a story about a trip to mourn for places where people have disappeared, and from there it inevitably took the form of a road movie about places.

Also, since I was making it during the corona crisis, I think it also contains the desire to “move freely to any place you like.”

The other inspiration was the Tohoku earthquake of 2011, more commonly known as 3.11. The 9.1 magnitude earthquake began at 2:46pm JST on March 11, 2011. Tohoku region is in the north east of Japan and includes Fukushima, Yamagata, Miyagi, Iwate, Akita, and Aomori Prefectures.

You can see what it was like during the earthquake in these compilation videos (10-video playlist):

The undersea megathrust earthquake lasted approximately 6 minutes. Known as the “Great East Japan Earthquake”, it was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since records started to be recorded in 1900. Unfortunately, this massive earthquake triggered a very powerful tsunami that engulfed Iwate and Miyagi Prefecture. Residents of Sendai in Miyagi only had an 8 to 10 minute warning to evacuate the area. And many evacuation sites were washed away. The tsunami waves are estimated to have reached up to 133 feet high while traveling up to 435 mph and up to 6 miles inland.

You can see a 3-video playlist compilation of the destructive power of the 2011 tsunami here:

The wintry weather made rescue efforts more difficult, with temperatures around 32 °F. As of March 11, 2023, the official confirmed dead or listed as missing from the 2011 disaster is estimated to be at least 20,000. Over 6,000 were injured and over 2,000 are still missing to this day. Many thousands were displaced from their homes. Because of how destructive the storm was, it caused the Fukushima nuclear accident to occur on April 1st, 2011, which is considered the second worst nuclear accident in recorded history. The radiation leakage into the air forced people to leave the area. On the 12th anniversary this year, the people of Japan held a moment of silence in remembrance at 2:46pm, the exact time the earthquake began.

A trailer of a 41 minute documentary that came out on September 12, 2011. You can watch this documentary on Apple TV. Click here to watch the full documentary.

In answering his thought process on what led to this particular inspiration to his newest movie, Shinkai explains:
I have a lot of thoughts, but the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is an important element of the motif. I think it was an event that rewrote the world and even myself for the Japanese who were alive at that time and had a sense of purpose. A lot of things have changed because of that, and I think people’s mindsets have also changed.

Even for myself, although I wasn’t directly affected by the disaster, I felt that my life had been rewritten. Until then, I had taken for granted the ground I was standing on, and I had the feeling that the city and buildings would always exist, but after the earthquake, I lost that feeling.

Since then, I think that I have continued to think, consciously or unconsciously, about my own feelings that have changed and the scenery around me that has changed the way I see it for the past 10 years. So, Your Name (2016) and Weathering with You (2019), I was thinking about the same thing when I was making it, so I didn’t really feel like I was drawing something different this time. However, it’s been more than 10 years since I wanted to depict the Great East Japan Earthquake as a direct event.

Aware that the majority of his target audience in Japan are teenagers, he wanted to bring it to their attention as many teenagers today were either too young to remember or not even born at the time.

Personally speaking, I do remember watching the live news as well as seeing video coverage of the storm, and how horrifying it was to see people trying to escape the oncoming path of the tsunami coming up fast behind them, with some on video not making it up the hill in time.

What do you think of the inspiration behind Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume? Does it peak your interest in seeing it in theaters? Do you remember the 2011 earthquake and tsunami?



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Sarah Leone
Sarah Leonehttps://sarahleone.com/
An independent artist who loves to mix things up between traditional and digital art. She has a love for all things anime, animation, and manga. Oh, and cats. Can't forget the cats.

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