While I was watching “One Piece Film: Red in the theater, I saw a trailer for a new film called “Suzume”. While the animation looked stellar, and the music was fantastic I had no idea what it was going to be about. The only thing I knew going in was that it was directed by Makoto Shinkai, whose previous works include “Your Name” and “Weathering with You”. Both of which are standalone anime films that drew people in with their intriguing premises. As the months passed by, I repeatedly saw ads for it on Crunchyroll and reviews from people saying how amazing it was. When I saw there was a showing near me, I wasted no time in driving to the local theater.

The story centers on a 17 year old high schooler named Suzume Iwato, who lives with her aunt in Kyushu, Japan. One day on her way to school, she comes across a university student named Sōta Munakata who is looking for an abandoned area with doors. These doors are revealed to be keeping a supernatural force from causing natural disasters all over Japan. From here, the movie is a road trip as the duo team up to keep the doors closed and possibly become close with one another.

That is the general premise behind the film. There is a lot more that I do not want to give away for the sake of the experience. But believe me when I say, there are some surprises to be found here.  The first third of this film, I had no idea what was going on. A lot of that is because the movie is very skilled at playing with expectations. For example, after the first door is closed there is a character who comes in and you are not sure of who they are or what their intentions are. You can not tell if they are good or bad, and it is not until the very end that you understand what their purpose was.

You are basically following Suzume, who is a regular person who is having a normal day before she notices something. Much like her, your curiosity gets the best of you so you follow something unusual. Then before you know it, you are on this bizarre journey. You see her endure tons of life threatening risks and dangers, while also making some friends and learning more about herself along the way. It’s a classic situation of an every person thrusted into a fantasy type scenario. People might question why someone would go this far into a situation that has nothing to do with them. But they write the character in such a way where you understand why they make the choices they make. You understand their fears and state of mind walking into these dangers.

It was a very refreshing experience since I feel like mainstream films nowadays feel the need to spell everything out for the audience. This is mainly because they do not feel like a lot of people are going to be invested enough to understand everything for themselves. Thankfully, this movie is smart enough to take its time and allow you to figure out everything for yourself alongside the protagonists. You feel more invested here because your knowledge is limited to the characters point of view, and you are learning everything firsthand from their perspective. When you see someone open a door and see a different world on the other side, much like the character you would have no idea what that is or how it connects to the series of events throughout the film. 

Not surprisingly, the animation here is phenomenal. I could tell this film was going to look great based on the trailer. But it looks absolutely spectacular seeing it on the big screen. The amount of artistry and detail in the backgrounds and the expressions on the characters is astounding. It not only does a fantastic job at enhancing the journey, but it also gets across some good subtle humor. For example, there is a character who gets turned into something else. It was like something out of the mind of Hayao Miyazaki. It was so weird and out of nowhere, but I could not help but smile at it because it caught me off guard and was animated so nicely.

I have heard some people say that the movie was too similar to Shinkai’s previous works. It still has the trope of star crossed lovers, a supernatural event that needs to be stopped, etc. I can definitely see that argument, but I feel that they added so many new elements here with the mythology behind these doors and how they connect with disasters in the real world. Elements such as this are so smart and interesting since they add a sense of reality to this fantastical film.

Overall, Suzume is the definition of fantastic. The characters are enjoyable, the animation is stellar, and the story finds that balance of being a bizarre fantasy and an emotional journey. This is definitely a door you want to open.

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