Watched Suzume no Tojimari
What’s on the other side of the door?
I haven’t had the chance to watch any Japanese animated movies in the cinema for years. It has been a while, and I hadn’t realized how great this genre actually is. I went in completely blind, without even looking at the trailers. If it’s a Makoto Shinkai 新海 誠 film, I’d say I’m never disappointed. I was stunned by its breathtaking visuals and the phenomenal music score. The humming from the theme song elevates the entire movie and brings it to the highest level. A magical journey that will touch many souls.
I claimed to be an anime fan but failed to put up any reviews of them. I only wrote one post last year, which briefly talked about the first season of JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure: Stone Ocean. To further embarrass myself, I even named this blog as “a fulltime Otaku’s blog”. The fact is, I don’t watch anime that often. I see myself as an Otaku, but that’s a broad term that describes people who have some nerdy hobbies in general. I’m also being very selective about picking what to consume. We’ll see if I can devote more time to anime, manga, or related content. I wish I could share more on the matter.
I’m not saying I’ve got better taste than anyone’s by any means, it just so happens I only managed to watch anime films, which are mostly from Studio Ghibli. The art, aesthetics, and the sense of human touch of hand-drawn 2D anime are substances to which 3D animated movies never come close. This is a short review of the animated film, Suzume すずめの戸締まり, directed by Makoto Shinkai.
Minor spoilers ahead.
If you wish to avoid spoilers of any kind, don’t read.
The story was about a high-school girl Suzume 鈴芽, who stumbled upon a young man, Sōta 草太, who was trying very hard to close a door preventing a worm like creature from breaking out. It’s a massive sized earthworm living underneath Japan that has caused earthquakes for centuries. Sōta, a Closer, a secret profession that has existed for many generations. Their duty is to lock doors—backdoor that connect reality to the world behind doors—to stop the worm from causing earthquake. There are many “gates“ in the world that very few people have access to. Some doors opens to the Ever After, a limbo like place where timelines and memories are intertwined.
Later, Suzume learnt that she broke part of the seals that used to seal off the big worm by innocently lifting a Keystone that was buried in the ground, and it somehow turned into a cat named Daijin 大臣. Suzume, together with Sōta, who was being cursed into a broken child’s wooden chair—a momento from Suzume’s mother—with a missing leg. They embark on an adventure to look for the wicked cat to lift the spell and lock opened doors to save Japan from calamity. A journey that takes you travel throughout Japan, and experience the livelihoods in those locations.
Natural disaster is the main theme throughout Makoto’s trilogy. The films explore how people felt after those incidents, how their lives were impacted, and how to deal with the traumas that had caused them. In Suzume, the story took reference from real life events, such as the earthquake and tsunami that happened in 2011. The background is a bit heavy, but the story was filled with some lighthearted moments to balance things out. Many places are visited, including some abundant areas, to recall the memories of people who once lived there. A worm like creature was used as a visual representation of an earthquake. It combines traditional Japanese folklore with some fantasy elements. I think it will hit differently for the people in Japan who have experienced that kind of tragedy in real life. The film also touches on topics like parenting, friendship, loss, and love.
I try not to spoil anything, but when Suzume faces a life-or-death situation, saving Sōta or millions of people, it’s tough, but I bet most people will make the same choice as she did. The most touching part for me is when she realized all the mess was on her, and she was determined to right the mistake she made. It’s a journey to discover herself, and her past memories. Also, I was a bit surprised that Sōta, one of the main characters, stayed in the form of a broken child’s chair for the majority of the story. The romance between Suzume and Sōta is developed during this period when they are chasing Daijin, the celebrity cat. I was annoyed by the cat that caused more than a mess. It kept me questioning the intentions of Daijin.
Aside from that, I especially enjoyed the road trip that Suzume had together with her aunt Tamaki and Sōta’s friend. When her aunt confronts Suzume about taking her as a daughter, she wastes the most precious period of time in her life. It feels very real. Unveiling her true feelings towards a person for whom she deeply cared hurts, but the authenticity makes her a real human being. And the dude who drives, looks like he’s having a good time for the ride, and the way he keeps a positive attitude makes him a good supporting character. I really liked how he played songs that matched the current moods and sang along.
Similar to previous works by Makoto, mobile devices and the internet are being relied on for storytelling. There’re lots of social media influences in modern day Japan. They use Twitter and Instagram heavily in their daily lives. They’re like the default apps, even TikTok is present in the film. Hopefully, they may somehow be replaced by the Fediverse in the future.
The graphics are visually stunning, literally every frame can be treated as an art piece. You can see lots of effects were applied on top of 2D environments, and the graphics are enhanced. It looks absolutely gorgeous. If I had to pick one thing that I didn’t like, it would be the worm creature rendered in CGI. It’s too generic looking, it lacks creativity, and the worst part is that it’s in 3D. It actually reminded me of Evangelion 2.0: You can (Not) Advance (2009) when the Third Impact occurs. I simply dislike how it was being visualized.
It was an impulse decision when I decided to go watch it in the cinema. I was about 8 minutes late when I got there because I misread the schedule. I think I missed the part when Suzume and Sōta first met. I didn’t do any homework before getting in the cinema, but I immediately recognized the music: “It has to be RADWIMPS.” It was easy to guess with its signature JPop style. The soundtracks bring the entire film to another level. I personally think it surpassed Weathering with You (2019).
This is a masterpiece of an animated film. The plot structure seems familiar, but it doesn’t mitigate the overall experience. It was great.
Watched in Cinema
- Makoto Shinkai 新海 誠
- Nanoka Hara 原菜 乃華, Hokuto Matsumura 松村 北斗
- Release Date
- Mar 2023 (HK)
I really enjoyed the film. Yet again, after Your Name (2016) and Weathering with You (2019), director Makoto created one of the best anime film to date. It is one of the best anime films out there. The film just got released this month in my area and soon will be available in the West. Go watch it if you’ve got the chance. I’m certain it will be worth your time. Even if you’re not into anime, this is a great chance to broaden your taste. Don’t skip this beautiful piece of art.