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DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Suzume

Long ago on a different timeline Makoto Shinkai was a video game animator at Nihon Falcom but the attraction of making films caused him to reset his destiny to become a dominant force on Japanese box office and in process of doing so gained worldwide recognition.  Understanding the universal appeal of Shinkai’s stories is not hard.  If you go beyond the high concept of transcending time and trying to advert a pending ecological catastrophe, at the core of Your Name, Weathering With You and Suzume are individuals attempting to dealing with the seismic emotional consequences of falling love.  There is always the risk of trivializing real-life disasters such the tsunami and earthquake that caused the death of almost 20,000 people and a nuclear meltdown in 2011 which serves as the narrative framing device of Suzume, but the attention to detail ensures a respectful treatment of the subject matter.

Cold breathes, lens flares, torrential downpours, bird calls, and toe-tapping music, Shinkai has left no stone unturned visually and sonically.  What makes Suzume different is the integral roles given to creatures that harken from the mind of Hayao Miyazaki whether it be the creepy ever-expanding reddish worm that brings devastation or cat-like spiritual beings that quickly shift between being cute and scary.  Then there is the matter of a chair which becomes the road companion of the title character and her love interest; this affords Shinkai the opportunity to create unique action sequences and comedic moments as well as raise stakes as the true nature of the curse-induced transformation comes to light.   I have never gotten my mind around the anime fascination with male characters having long flowing hair that rival their female counterparts; however, the clever treatment of the chair which respects the rigidness of the wood adds to its believability and personality.

The Japanese voice cast provides energetic performances which is interesting to compare with the English dub, but in the end, the former stands out more for its emotional heft.  It never ceases to intrigue me the number of times in anime that names of the characters get spoken which is frequently; that is not to say that the dialogue is poorly written as Suzume speaks, acts and behaves like a teenage girl still struggling from the childhood loss of her mother.   As usual the animation is at a high standard.  Nuances are incorporated into a misfunctioning convertible roof and captured lobsters still show signs of life.  A highlight of the world building is the Ever-After which has a celestial timeless quality.  Having fun providing the music are the Radwimps with one of the band members inspiring the character design of the male protagonist; Shinkai’s relationship with them is the subject of an interest bonus feature where they converse with each other.  A nice touch with the Director’s Filmography Recap is not being reliant solely on text but actual clips; however, the real highlight is “The Making of” documentary as it does not shy away from the creative differences that are inevitably going to happen when producing a project requiring contributions of so many individuals.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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