Written and directed by the man behind such esteemed anime outings as Weathering with You and Your Name., Suzume is an animated fantasy adventure that revolves around its eponymous heroine, a seemingly normal 17-year-old high school girl.

One day, Suzume opens a mysterious ‘door to disaster’ and ends up accidentally unleashing an unforeseen level of devastation upon Japan in the form of massive, towering worms that shoot up into the sky before crashing down and destroying everything in its path.

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Feeling responsible for the resulting horror, Suzume travels all over Japan with her newfound friend Sota – now trapped in the body of a three-legged chair she used to use as a child – in search of the keystone, which is said to be the key to closing the doors forever.

However, Suzume and Sota soon discover that the keystone has come to life as a talking, chaotic cat with strange powers known as Daijin. As a result, their simple search becomes an almost literal game of cat-and-mouse for the fate of the World.

Dajin (Ann Yamane) prepares to unleash his power in Suzume (2023), Toho Co. Ltd.

Dajin (Ann Yamane) prepares to unleash his power in Suzume (2023), Toho Co. Ltd.

Notably, the film has a number of influences, including both Kiki’s Delivery Service and the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake.

Also known as the Great East Japan Earthquake, this six-minute earthquake was the most powerful ever recorded in Japan and produced a monstrous tsunami that caused widespread death and destruction across the region (as well as the Fukushima nuclear disaster).

One of the most devastating natural disasters to ever hit the country, it’s easy to see how the scar it left on Japan’s psyche influenced the film’s main worm threat.

Further, Sota’s role as a chair for the majority of the film represents Shinkai’s feelings of being trapped inside during COVID – a sentiment made all the more relevant by the fact that the film was being produced during the pandemic.

Sota Munakata (Hokuto Masamura) has a new form in Suzume (2022), Toho Co. Ltd.

Sota Munakata (Hokuto Masamura) has a new form in Suzume (2022), Toho Co. Ltd.

Another high point of the film is its characters, as everyone is enjoyable in some aspect.

Not only are Suzume, Sota, and Daijin easily likeable, but the film also serves as a showcase of the different types of people one might meet while on a road trip.

The people Suzume encounters during her adventure are fast to take her in, treating her like family or a long lost friend, which make the calmer moments of the film much more enjoyable.

Suzume Iwato (Nanoka Hara) explains the situation to Sota Munakata (Hokuto Masamura) in Suzume (2022), Toho Co. Ltd.

Suzume Iwato (Nanoka Hara) explains the situation to Sota Munakata (Hokuto Masamura) in Suzume (2022), Toho Co. Ltd.

In terms of visuals, Suzume is an overwhelmingly gorgeous film.

The film’s various shots of Japan are constantly juggling the a mix of green and blue color palettes, and because Kyushu is a town located near the ocean, you’re constantly seeing beautiful depictions of the sun glimmering off ocean waves and birds flying across an endless sky.

Water plays an important element throughout the film, seen not just in Kyushu’s geographical location, but also in how the worms exploded into short-lived bursts of rain whenever they’re defeated. This theme is further emphasized by how the grass and plant life are always radiating a lush and lively color of green wherever Suzume happens to be.

And thanks to the ‘road trip’ aspect of Suzume’s town-to-town search for doors, by the end of the film you’ll feel like you’ve seen a little slice of Japan in animated form.

The skies of Tokyo are overtaken by the worms in Suzume (2023), Toho Co. Ltd.

The skies of Tokyo are overtaken by the worms in Suzume (2023), Toho Co. Ltd.

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But what’s really exhilarating about the film is how it hits the ground running from the opening scene and rarely lets off the gas. The action picks up right away and it stays that way for almost a constant two hours.

Not many films can make a foot chase between a chair and a cat worthwhile, let alone multiple times, but Suzume accomplishes this easily.

Daijin in Makoto Shinkai’s anime film Suzume.

The one major flaw Suzume has is a common issue typically found in anime, which is that it occasionally leans a bit too heavily into its own melodrama.

Some character reactions are unrealistically over-the-top, while some dialogue ventures off into straight out exaggerate territory.

This mostly happens in the second half of the film when the story is attempting to add some emotional weight to its already captivating story so it’s mostly a minor thing, but it ultimately keeps an otherwise great and entertaining film from being absolutely perfect.

Sota in Makota Shinkai’s anime film Suzume.

With a compelling story, jaw-dropping animation and impressive action sequences, Suzume is a contender for Makoto Shinkai’s most thrilling and enjoyable film to date.

It’s an uninterrupted adventure with relentless twists and turns and no brakes. You’ll easily fall in love with the film’s rich and detailed animation, not to mention the jazzy and stylish score provided by rock band Radwimps and composer Kazuma Jinnouchi that would make even Yoko Kanno envious.

Suffice to say, Suzume is a dazzling rabbit hole of animation and charm.

Suzume relaxes with Chika in Makota Shinkai’s anime film Suzume.

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'Suzume' Review - A Dazzling Rabbit Hole Of Animation And Charm
PROS:
  • Gorgeous animation.
  • A fantastic story.
  • Fun, intriguing characters.
CONS:
  • Too overdramatic at times.
  • Emotion triumphs over logic during a few cringey moments.
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (13 Votes)
8.3