Suzume Charms With A Beautiful Fantasy Road Trip

Suzume still of Suzume (Nanoko Hara) standing in front of a mysterious door holding a chair.

Suzume is a wondrous story filled with fantasy and beauty. It’s a journey that brings you right back home. The animation is awe-inspiring, with a similar feel to any Studio Ghibli joy, yet the natural aspects and lighting are breathtaking. With an imaginative journey across Japan, and a heartfelt story about loss and grief, Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume weaves a stunning tapestry in this wonderful film.

Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, Suzume follows teen Suzume (Nanoko Hara) as she helps a young man close mysterious doors that can unleash destruction upon Japan. The film opens with a child crying, searching for their mother when they encounter a young girl. Suzume lost her mother as a child, and her aunt, Tamaki (Eri Fukatsu), raised her. Next, the film shows Suzume heading to school. While biking there, she meets a young man, Sōta (Hokuto Matsumura). As she passes him, he asks her about a door. She directs him to an old abandoned resort. Though she heads toward school, her curiosity compels her to go to the resort to search for the young man.

Suzume Finds A Door to Somewhere

Suzume still of Sōta (Hokuto Matsumura) smiling gently.
Suzume still

When she finds a door in the middle of nowhere, she enters and sees a star-filled world for a moment before winding up back into her world. After returning to school, Suzume does not realize her actions unleashed something till she sees something spill into the sky from the resort. Frightened but concerned, she heads back and helps Sōta close the door, preventing a disaster from befalling Japan. These disasters are destructive earthquakes, a common occurrence in Japan. Both earthquakes and tsunamis caused by them are a danger in Japan. Suzume blends the fantastical with real threats, tapping into human fear. 

A Road Trip of Wonder

After successfully closing the door, the threat does not end. For various reasons, Suzume must now aid Sōta in closing these doors as they sprout up and prevent these red worms from spilling out and causing earthquakes. Here, Suzume transforms into a road trip story as the pair travel through Japan, much to the stress and anger of Suzume’s aunt, Tamaki. Tamaki is, of course, preoccupied with ensuring Suzume maintains a vow of chastity when it comes to boys and men. 

Through their trip, Suzume meets plenty of caring and helpful people. Though they cannot see the threat, they help her in their own way. The fantasy elements are not just the red worms spilling out majestically and destructively from the door. In fact, it blends seamlessly with the rest of the film. Suzume and Sōta chase down a talking cat, Daijin (Ann Yamane), and Suzume carts around a talking chair. Anytime a film roots fantasy in actual world events, it serves as a history lesson and a way of expelling some of that tension. 

Captivating Film You’ll Love

Suzume still of cat, Daijin (Ann Yamane), lying on their back adorably.
Suzume still

Suzume delivers this in a gorgeous animation style filled with light; even the threat looks stunning. Shinkai’s style and how he combines fantasy and the history of Japan are similar to some of Hayao Miyazaki’s wonders, like Princess Mononoke. The music gives that same moving, mystical feel. Although some tracks would be at home in a Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. Despite all the moving components, the cat, Daijin, tugged at my heart the most. One of the most visually arresting, breathtaking animated films I’ve seen, Suzume tackles heavy subject through a fantastical unforgettable journey. 

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