Suzume - chasing Miyazaki

Makoto Shinkai's Suzume is the first animated film in competition at the Berlinale since Spirited Away, a most fitting coincidence, as the latest work of the filmmaker behind Your Name. walks in Miyazaki's footsteps, both quality and storytelling-wise.

Shinkai is definitely one of the most distinct auteurs in Japanese animation with an international recognition.Your Name. has been his most popular work, but his latest, Suzume, reminds more of other entries. The closest, in comparison, is Children Who Chase Lost Voices, which has a very similar premise: the encounter between a young girl and a mysterious male character that ahderes to the trope of the byronic dark romantic hero that unleashes a surreal journey.Children however sources its fantasy world from the western legend of Agarthi, and also seems to draw some from Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky.  

More so than his previous films however, the structure of Suzume, a cluster of adventures and seemingly unconnected elements that are tied together by the ending, reminds closely of Miyazaki's narratives. Sato, the deuteragonist of Suzume, reminds of Howl, as they both have a byronic hero character profile. The presence of animal-supernatural companion, such as the moving chair or the talking cat also remind of the many complementary characters from Spirited Away. Suzume is however in no way a carbon-copy: Miyazaki's very peculiar sense of wonder is amiss, replaced by different tones, which make the film distinctively a Makoto Shinkai work: the use of stunning golden hour colouring, skies painted by vibrant starfields, the focus on coming-of-age and teenage stories with a fantasy angle, the passion for an emotionally invested storytelling, for the melodramatic.

Suzume is a more mature film, that leaves behind some popular anime tropes that were persistent in Your Name. and that could be perceived as juvenile by general audiences. While being more bound into reality than Children, with the presence of social media, everyday technology, these do not become at any time a dominating element, and remain the backdrop of the film. The main focus, instead, is on a very ancestral fantasy concept drawn from japanese culture, which is the mythological explanation of earthquakes. This ancestral bond is blended, implicitly, with the contemporary tragedy of the 2011 earthquake.

Suzume is a film masterful approach, capable of conveying deep sentiments, as well as a beautiful animation, more appealing and multilayered than the already outstanding Your Name., that once again proves Shinkai's autorial strengths.


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