Dir.: Makoto Shinkai, Anime with the voices of Nanoka Hara, Eri Fukastu, Hokuto Matsumura, Ann Yamane; Japan 2022, 122 min.
The turbulent history of Japan comes alive in this delicately drawn and magical adventure that will resonate with a generation of young people still traumatised by the Tohoko earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant disaster.
Suzume (voiced by Nanoka Hara) is a clever 17-year-old orphan who lives with her aunt in Kyushu, on Japan’s southern Island, after losing her mother. On the way to school one day she meets Souta (Hokuto Matsumura) a mysterious young man with a special ability for ‘closing out’, by way of a door, an ancient demon called the Worm who can bring havoc on Earth. Together, they set out in search of the door, tramping through ruins in the countryside, and Suzume is the first to find it, accidentally unleashing the Worm that then morphs into a kitten called Daijin, and leads them on to surreal adventure across Japan during which Souta miraculously transforms into a shape-shifting stool – of the wooden variety (!) – causing hilarious scenes – with Suzume and Souta having to wait a long time, before Daijin decides to turn Souta back into his human form.
The animation is spectacular, a mixture of 2 and 3D hand drawn animation and the use of CGI, which in the case of the red super worm is rather overdone: the worm looks tame in comparison with the rest of the Anime. Loss and decay are the main subjects of Anime director Makoto Shinkai (Your Name). The past is a dangerous place to return to, particularly for Suzume, who is able to close doors to keep the beastly worm underground, while also being afraid of what she will find behind the door leading to the house she grew up in during the first few of her life. Two scenes in particular stand out, one takes place in an ancient bath house, desolated and abandoned, and another in an old-fashioned fairground which comes eerily to life.
Suzume is a potent mixture of melancholy and hilarious fun, as the girl gradually grows up during her adventures. Suzume has an impressive confrontational scene with her aunt, accusing the woman of only adopting her to avoid an adult relationship. At a later stage, Suzume takes back her accusations, but this is as a result of her falling for Souta, as her Tom-Boy identity gradually recedes. Overall, this is a mature Anime, with Shinkai using lots of kawaii cuteness, but also referentially quoting Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service with the talking cat in the shape of Daijin. A magic round-about-movie. AS
SUZUME IN UK and IRISH CINEMAS on 14 April 2023