Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume has taken the Japanese box office by storm with earnings of 14.79 billion Yen post-theatrical run with a sale of 11.15 million tickets. As of May 29, 2023, Suzume has impressed viewers worldwide, grossing an astounding $321.1 million globally, including the impressive ¥14.79 billion in Japan.
The movie claimed the fourth spot on the list of highest-grossing anime films of all time. Right from the beginning, Suzume stormed to the top of the Japanese box office with an exceptional opening of 1.88 billion Yen (13.49 million dollars) from IMAX screenings and the first three days of its release. Beating the three-day opening record of Shinkai’s previous masterpiece, Weathering with You, Suzume established itself as a must-watch.
In Japan, it’s not only the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2022 but also the eighth-highest-grossing anime film ever and the 14th-highest-grossing film overall. Now, that’s what I call a mega-hit! Shinkai’s ability to make back-to-back hits is underappreciated and not talked about enough. Let’s see what lead to the film’s massive uproar across the globe.
Makoto Shinkai’s Suzume
In the United States, Suzume faced competition from films like Renfield, The Pope’s Exorcist, and Sweetwater upon its release. With high expectations, it was projected to earn 4.7 million dollars during its opening weekend.
The film had a great start, earning 2.15 million dollars on the release day, including 680,000 dollars from Thursday preview screenings. It debuted with 5 million dollars in its opening weekend, taking the seventh position at the box office behind Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Internationally, Suzume gained recognition and awards at several film festivals. The film received a nomination for “Best Film” or “Golden Bear” at the Berlin International Film Festival. At the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, the film won the Silver Raven on April 23, 2023. It also received nominations at the Hochi Film Awards for “Best Animated Picture,” the Japan Academy Film Prize for “Animation of the Year,” and the Mainichi Film Awards for “Best Animation Film.”
Masayoshi Tanaka is responsible for the character designs, accompanied by Kenichi Tsuchiya as the animation director. Takumi Tanji handled the art direction. The movie was produced by CoMix Wave Films and Story Inc., while TOHO made the films available to watch. TikToker star Toaka lent sang the first theme song “Suzume” which was composed by Kazuma Jinnouchi.
Synopsis of Suzume
Suzume, a typical high school girl residing with her aunt in southern Japan, has a life-altering encounter when she crosses paths with Souta, a young man exploring the region for ancient ruins. Intrigued by his quest, Suzume follows him and stumbles upon a strange sight- a single door settled in between the ruins of a hot springs resort. Overtaken by curiosity, she opens the door only to find a parallel world teeming with ominous, calamitous forces yearning to break free.
However, the situation worsens when the door shuts, leaving Souta transformed into a chair by a talking cat named Daijin. Now, a determined Suzume has to journey across Japan to seal these portals and stop impending disasters from taking place, all while pursuing Daijin to restore Souta’s physical form.
The Cast and Characters
Suzume Iwato, voiced by Nanoka Hara, is the main character of the film. Her mother died in the tsunami which took place in Japan in 2011 when she was just four years old. She is 17 years old during the film and lives with her aunt in Miyazaki Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. Souta Munakata, voiced by Hokuto Matsumura, is the young man Suzume runs into. He’s on a quest to close all magical doors before they cause natural disasters but gets turned into a chair. Suzume helps him to complete his mission and get his body back.
Tamaki Iwato, voiced by Eri Fukatsu, is Suzume’s Aunt. She is 40 years old and works at a fishing cooperative. Tsubame Iwato, voiced by Kana Hanazawa, was Suzume’s mother. She passed away due to a tsunami that took place in Japan. Daijin, voiced by Ann Yamane, is the cat that turned Souta into a chair.
Other minor characters include Minoru Okabe, voiced by Shota Sometani, Rumi Ninomiya, voiced by Sairi Ito, Chika Amabe, voiced by Kotone Hanase, Hitsujirō Munakata, voiced by Matsumoto Hakuo. And finally, Tomoya Serizawa, who Ryunosuke Kamiki voices, is Souta’s best friend.
Review of Suzume
By the box office earnings, it’s evident that Suzume impressed viewers all around the globe with its storyline, characters, music, and animation. With hits like Your Name and Weathering with You, we didn’t expect anything less from Makoto Shinkai. His delivery of emotions and sentiments is like no other, and he proved it with Suzume.
Rotten Tomatoes expresses that Suzume falls just a bit short of the bar set by Shinkai’s previous works, but the film is “visually thrilling and emotionally impactful,” making it hard to find much fault. Ninety percent of Rotten Tomatoes reviews and ratings are positive, with a response of 7.8/10.
According to Metacritic, the film holds an average score of 77 out of 100, with generally positive critic reviews. An audience poll conducted by PostTrak revealed that the film received an 89% with 72% viewer recommendations. On the Japanese review site Filmarks, Suzume got a rating of 4/5. The Japan Times praised the film as the “director’s most satisfying work yet” with a 4/5 star rating.
Is It Worth a Watch?
Suzume is a captivating and emotionally charged film that delves into the story of a girl, Suzume, who embarks on a journey to confront her deep-rooted trauma following the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. The loss of her mother in the tragedy has left her emotionally guarded, and she struggles to let anyone into her life. However, as she travels and relies on the kindness of strangers, her perspective begins to change.
Though many say the plot is similar to Shinkai’s previous works, the addition of Daijin gives the story some elevation. Here, Daijin can be seen as some sort of antagonist that adds to the basic ‘hero, side kick and villain’ storyline that is absent from Your Name or Weathering with You. Suzume’s journey with Souta deepens their relationship, and the possibility of losing him, as he is turned into a chair, forces her to confront the pain of her past once again.
As it follows the theme and base plotline of Shinkai’s other works, the film is pretty predictable. However, the emotional layers of dealing with grief and loneliness show us how trauma can create unfavorable situations in the long run.
The addition of a love interest in this film is done from an individual standpoint rather than your typical “sacrifice everything for you” love story. Throughout the film, Souta inspires Suzume to live, not because he potentially loves her, and that becomes a reason to live, but because he releases his worth leading her to know her worth as well.
The movie, at first, might seem like it’s mainly about preventing natural disasters from taking place, but it heavily focuses on Suzume’s character development, giving us a clear understanding of who she is, her struggles, and how she evolves. Souta plays a significant role in her journey, enhancing their relationship and making it more fulfilling.
In summary, Suzume is a refreshing take on romance by stressing personal growth and individual stories. Souta’s influence on Suzume is vivid, but it is not solely based on romantic love. This makes their relationship more authentic and relatable, leaving room for discussion and allowing the audience to appreciate the depth of their connection.
Thematically, it dips into the process of healing and accepting loss, as well as the importance of opening up to others. It is not just the journey across Japan but also the journey to a mentally better place.
You can enjoy Suzume with the manga and light novel adaptations as well!