Much like most of the director Makoto Shinkai’s work, Suzume’s emotional core sucker punches you as you follow a tale of far-fetched supernatural occurrences. Bringing back themes of time, remembrance, and the butterfly-effect from his previous films, Shinkai weaves a narrative that emphasizes the importance of learning to live with our traumas, rather than suppressing them.
Suzume revolves around natural disasters that occur around multiple parts of Japan. The inspiration for this was the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami that occurred on 11th March, 2011, and is referenced throughout the film. In fact all the towns that Suzume visits throughout her journey have been hit with major natural disasters in the past. At a surface level, this makes the film uniquely Japanese, considering how disaster-prone the region is. Yet if you examine the core messaging of the film, remembering the dead and honouring their memory by living your life to the fullest, it is universal, especially after the pandemic.
Keeping in line with CoMix Wave productions’ style, Suzume’s animation is hyper-realistic and the colours are enchantingly magical. You feel the textures on screen – understand how bright the sun is, what the rain would feel like against your skin, how the breeze might blow past your hair – it is all incredibly visceral. The sound design is impeccable as well – the sound of cicadas on a cloudless bright sunny day draws you into the scene. The Radwimps, a frequent collaborator for Shinkai, imbue the film with the necessary drama that is apt for an emotional adventure.
In an age of social isolation, Suzume demands that we slow down and cherish the present for the gift that it is. It centres around the importance of healing your trauma and showing up for yourself. It pleads with us to continue enjoying the abundant beauty that life has to offer in the face of calamity. Smell the flowers, strike up a conversation with a stranger, take a stop on your road trip to enjoy the view. Ultimately, Suzume is a celebration of life and the desperation we all have to continue living, come what may.