Cert - PG, Run-time - 2 hours 2 minutes
Director - Makoto Shinkai
Teenager Suzume (Nanoka Hara) finds herself travelling across Japan with young stranger Souta (Hokuto Matsumura) to stop otherworldly forces from causing devastating earthquakes.
Bear in mind that Across The Spider-Verse and Pixar’s Elemental are yet to be released, but Suzume may be the most visually stunning animated film of the year. The way the various settings shine off the screen get across the almost unbelievable fantastical nature from the very start. Whilst creating plenty of awe-inspiring images the animation of Suzume is also key to establishing tone throughout.
On two different occasions we see a chair chase a cat through two very different Japanese settings. One leads to plenty of chuckles, the other a good deal of effective tension. All thanks to the style, shots and general presentation; alongside the inviting score from Kazuma Jinnouchi and band Radwimps.
The cat in question follows the titular figure (Nanoka Hara) and ‘closer’ Souta (Hokuto Matsumura) across the country, taunting them as they attempt to close doors to another world. If not closed and locked, then giant worms tower across towns and cities spreading far with various strands causing increasingly worse earthquakes if they fall. The strangers - meeting when Suzume follows Souta to an abandoned building in her town - believe they are heading towards a door which if locked will keep another generation safe.
While not quite an antagonist the filmmakers clearly know what they’re doing with Daijin (Ann Yamane). A humorous yet eerie highlight, mocking with a childlike voice and various sightings, throughout the road trip journey of the narrative. Much of which is tightly tracked with locations and events clearly wound in, particularly when it comes to when and how threats are spawned, leading to plenty of tension during such action sequences.
Yet, amongst the fantasy and drama that’s on display it shouldn’t be understated just how funny Suzume is. Part of its appeal is down to its various comedic sequences which manage to produce plenty of chuckles. Moments which show the light fun that there is to be had with this film amongst the rest of the adventure. It therefore seems somewhat strange when a tonal shift appears in the third act.
The style and direction of the film appears to change with it taking a few minutes to properly re-engage with the events. While some original footing is regained, particularly in action sequences, there’s a different tone and style to the character interactions and course taken. A step aside from the tight, well-flowing nature of the previous 80-85 minutes. Things gradually rise back but it certainly takes some time to get there before a quick wrap up. The animation is still spectacular, and there’s still plenty to enjoy, just for a while in a slightly different tone.
However, there’s no denying that what comes beforehand is hugely enjoyable. A well-constructed road trip without the standard conventions breaking in thanks to the style and fantasy elements at play. Making the most of the big screen there’s a lot to enjoy and escape into within Suzume.
Jamie Skinner, four stars