Suzume Iwato is a high school girl who becomes interested when a handsome young man asks her if there are any abandoned settlements around. When she follows his trail, she unintentionally releases the malevolent force that the young man (whose name is Souta Munakata) was trying to literally lock up.
Well, once again Makoto Shinkai is giving us a young woman who gets involved with some pretty gnarly supernatural forces (as in Children Who Chase Lost Voices and Weathering With You), as well as maintaining his tradition of beautiful background art; even some of the desolate places here look attractive, in their own way. (Shinkai's character art, on the other hand, remains simple, but quite pleasant.)
Since at least Weathering With You, he's also been adding sympathetic and/or eccentric side characters to the mix. This time they include Suzume's Aunt Tamaki, who's raised the girl (her mom is dead); but at one point we discover that Tamaki's got some mixed feelings about her charge. (I really wanted to find out why Tamaki objected SO strongly to Suzume being with a boy, though I suspected jealousy might be in there somewhere.) There's also Minoru Okabe, a co-worker of Tamaki's who's got a possibly hopeless crush on her. (I seem to remember a similar sort of character in Weathering With You.) There are also a couple of people who assist Suzume on her quest to aid Souta: a girl named Chika Amabe; and a woman named Rumi Ninomiya, who works at a bar as an entertainer, and who has two unrelentingly bratty kids.
The kids are part of Suzume's focus on humor, which is, once again, part of Shinkai's new efforts to make "films that people enjoy"; his early efforts were kind of bereft in this department, but, as I noted in the Weathering review, it turns out he DOES have a gift for comedy after all. The centerpiece of this movie's humor is a bizarre transformation of one of its leading characters (the most genuinely surprising thing I've ever seen in a Shinkai film.) Since the cat in Weathering was a major crowd-pleaser, we've also got a cat here, but it's a troublesome one, no matter HOW cute it looks. Shinkai's other concession to the masses is an increasing willingness to let his characters' romances actually happen -even if any definitive move in that direction has to wait for the closing credits.
Shinkai's fantasy movies have tended to be short on explanations concerning their Supernatural Beings, but while I DID have some questions, the Divine Cosmology here nevertheless somehow felt more accessible than, say, the ones in Weathering or Children. My major questions HERE included: Why ARE there Doors? Why are there Worms, and do they have any objective other than random destruction? WHY do places abandoned by humans tend to foster Worm Breakouts? (And, on the OTHER hand, why were they breaking out of a Tokyo subway tunnel, which was certainly NOT an abandoned place?) We're told that when the Worms come down to the Earth's surface people die, and yet the first one Suzume sees- in her own hometown- seems to have fallen to the ground, and yet that didn't noticeably affect anything. In fact, most humans can't see the Worms at all, and remain oblivious. (The Worm's risings are accompanied by earthquakes, yes, but it wasn't always clear that their descents DID all that much.) But, as I said, some of the supernatural goings-on did seem to make some sense this time; I kind of understand the character of Daijin, at least partially. If I'D suddenly gotten freedom of movement after millennia as a stone statue, I'd be reluctant to go back to the way it was too, but taunting poor Suzume about the death of millions of her fellow humans was in VERY poor taste. (Gods are not always known for their sensitivity.)
By the way, I'd just recently noted in a review that a certain (RELATIVELY) recent event was having a strong influence on Japanese anime, and here it was AGAIN! But I'll leave that hint for the Recs.
Speaking for myself, I LIKE the newly crowd-pleasing Shinkai much more than the original version, and if Souta's performance was pretty wooden for a long stretch of the film, he really couldn't help it. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some violence and peril. At one point, Suzume is bathing, but nothing is revealed, and the poor girl had just lost her shoes (AND her boyfriend), so give her a break, OK?
Version(s) Viewed: Theatrical Release
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Suzume © 2022 Aniplex.
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