Suzume is another winner of an anime movie that gives teens hope for tomorrow.
Published on April 12, 2023
Rating 4 /5
The current trend in anime has favored a particular type of film that continues to resonate with its audience. The type centers around coming-of-age stories set in modern Japan that mix some sci-fi and fantasy into heartfelt writing and gorgeous visuals. Director Makoto Shinkai is undeniably a significant part of this movement for directing such notable pictures as Your Name and Weathering with You. His latest film, Suzume, still works well and doesn’t stray too far from this current path.
What’s fascinating about this film is how it makes the audience care deeply about an absurd adventure between a teenage girl and a talking chair. The girl is Suzume, a high schooler with traumatic childhood for having lost her mother. Now residing with her aunt, who doesn’t feel up to the challenge of being a caregiver, Suzume lives the life of a typical high schooler. That all changes when she notices a fire nobody else in her town can see. She finds the smoke coming from a door set to unleash a nightmarish worm. She needs to shut that door and has some help from the good-looking Sōta, a mysterious man with a history of handling these threats to humanity. When he is run afoul by a cat-based spirit who traps him inside Suzume’s childhood chair, Suzume needs to continue his work. Otherwise, this invisible force could consume all of Japan from another dimension.
That’s a solid setup for an adventure story where a girl and her chair must save the world. Like Makoto’s other films, the journey becomes unique beyond the magic at play. Suzume’s trip across Japan to shut all the doors leads to such beautiful asides as hitching a ride from Sōta acquaintance seeking payment and a mom who runs a bar, relying on Suzume to take care of the kids and work the kitchen. These simpler moments, albeit with a talking chair, are unique for the slice-of-life aspect and make this tale all the more relatable, regardless of age or culture. The little moments between tracking down talking cats and magical doors shine brightest in this heartfelt tale about moving on and finding the will to live after the tragedy.
As with many of these teenage coming-of-age anime movies, Suzume is given a lot of agency and maturity for a teenager. She’s not treated like a stereotypical schoolgirl chucked into a magical scenario and more like a young adult still trying to process her life. The supernatural elements become more of a vibrant lattice for processing these hard feelings that boil up over time. One of the best scenes features Suzume’s aunt becoming so frustrated with her dependent that she explodes about how her life felt robbed by caring for someone else. It’s a sobering moment of being open but also trying to repair relationships where more significant fixes must be made. Only through unveiling the truth and stepping through the doors can Suzume become more complete. The door shutting becomes metaphorical and literal for Suzume as she walks that line beautifully when confronting her former self.
Suzume is another winner of an anime movie that gives teens hope for tomorrow. The design and animation are beyond beautiful, harboring some of the most eye-popping imagery for something as familiar as a fairy on the water or the neon glow of a bar. Despite how sad the film sometimes becomes, the story is profoundly engaging and never refuses to have fun with some of its absurdity. It all comes together to make another unforgettable animated movie with a warm heart.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.