Press "Enter" to skip to content

“Suzume closes the doors”: cats, RADWIMPS and a national tragedy in the new anime by Makoto Shinkai

Shinkai’s new work has just been shown at the Berlin Festival (although it has already been released in Japan). We tell how the director’s constant themes of natural disasters, Japanese mythology and growing up have found a new interpretation in this film about a girl and a chair chasing a magical cat all over Japan.

A desperate little girl is looking for her mother, standing in front of the door to what looks like another galaxy. Suddenly, a blurry figure appears in the distance, whose face is not visible, and offers help. In 2023, schoolgirl Suzume wakes up from this strange dream, whose mother died 12 years ago during a tsunami. Later, on the way to school, Suzume meets a stranger who vaguely resembles a figure from a dream. He first turns to her with a question: “Can you tell me where the nearest ruins are? I need to close the door.”

A new acquaintance – his name is Suta – is mysterious for a reason: he is one of the “closers” of the doors, from which giant red worms periodically break out. It is important to close each door in time: if the worm has time to fall to the ground, an earthquake will begin. Usually, special key stones help to close the doors, but Suzume unwittingly turned one of them into a cat. This cat (his name is Daijin, and he can talk) for obvious reasons no longer wants to be a stone and runs away, after turning Suta into a three-legged high chair. Suzume and the Suta Chair go after Daijin to close new doors and prevent new earthquakes.

Shinkai routinely draws inspiration from Japanese mythology. The main character, Suzume, according to the director, is based on the image of the goddess Uzume (Ame no uzume) – this may be indicated by the similarity of their names. According to legend, it was Uzume who managed to lure the sun goddess Amaterasu from behind the cave door when she hid from the world after a quarrel with her brother. Uzume is also considered inari – these are kami (gods or spiritual beings) closely related to kitsune foxes (and there is a visual reference to the super-strong nine-tailed foxes in the film).

Shinkai did not want to create his heroine in the paradigm of a “girl in trouble” who needs to be saved; in his case, it is Suzume who saves both those around him and himself. Over masculinity, Shinkai makes a lot of kind mockery through the lips of his heroines (with jokes in the style of “dating boys is a complete ambush”, and in the context of the plot, this is really funny). The irony, of course, is enhanced by the fact that the young protagonist spends 2/3 of the film in the guise of a talking stool. The character of the cat is responsible for the cuteness here – at the same time absolutely charming and unbearable. At a press conference, Shinkai admitted that cats have accompanied him all his life (and this is noticeable). During the production of Suzume, he adopted another one and named it guess what. In addition, the director noted, cats are very popular in social networks, and this is a big plus for promoting the film.

In recent films, Shinkai melodrama is increasingly diluted with humor. The director admits that it is important for him to make a movie as spectator as possible (“In Japan, movie tickets are very expensive, and I want most people not to leave the film disappointed”), and this just needs humor. At the Japanese box office (there “Suzume” was released back in November 2022), the film grossed over $100 million and took fourth place in the top of the annual box office. It may have been a success that the soundtrack for “Suzume” was commissioned by the super-popular Japanese band RADWIMPS (they had already worked with Shinkai on “Weather Child” and “Your Name” ). Composer Kazuma Jinnochi was also involved in the work.(composed music for the video games “Halo” and “Ghost In The Shell”, as well as for “Metal Gear Solid” from Kojima Productions). The soundtrack album performed well on the Japanese charts, reaching the top ten several times.

Shinkai is again trying to survive (or metaphorically prevent) the great national tragedy of Japan – the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 (during this disaster, 20 thousand people died, including Suzume’s mother), the strongest in the history of the country. Teenagers of Shinkai – the generation that survived the disaster as children – once again save the world in secret from everyone, pass the test of first love and difficulties, but never forget to eat (indeed, the characters of the film eat regularly, three times a day). In Suzume and her peers from other Shinkai anime, a philosophical attitude to death and a stunning all-conquering desire to live are combined.

At the same time, returning to his idefixes, topics on which he had already discussed many times, Shinkai does not repeat himself, but opens up new points of view on old problems, speaking about them in a new way. And that’s why the calm everyday magic happens on the screen over and over again.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *