Suzume – Review

Cert – PG, Run-time – 2 hours 2 minutes, Director – Makoto Shinkai

After following a stranger (Hokuto Matsumura) to an abandoned building, teenager Suzume (Nanoka Hara) finds herself travelling across Japan to stop otherworldly forces from causing disastrous earthquakes.

Bear in mind that we’re still to see Across The Spider-Verse and Pixar’s Elemental, but Suzume may very well be the most visually stunning animated film of the year. The way its settings shine off the screen and truly get across the almost unbelievable fantastical nature leaves you in awe of the animation on plenty of occasions from the opening stages. It’s also thanks to the animation that tone is so easily established in so many settings. We see two different occasions where a chair chases a cat through the streets of Japan. both very different. One leads to plenty of chuckles, the other a good deal of effective tension. All thanks to the style of the animation, the shots that are used and the way in which both scenarios are generally presented; alongside the inviting score from Kazuma Jinnouchi and band Radwimps.

Throughout the journey we follow teenager Suzume (Nanoka Hara) who after following stranger Souta (Hokuto Matsumura) to an abandoned building in her town discovers a door to another world. From this world escapes a giant red worm, sprawling with multiple strands across the sky of her town, only being stopped if the door to its world is closed and locked in time. Otherwise it will fall and destroy her home in a disastrous earthquake. Its for this reason that she ends up travelling across the country with Souta, although racing against time trying to find where the forces will meet to stop these events being risked for another generation.

Along the way they’re taunted by a small cat ridiculing their attempts, and seemingly trying to stop them from progressing. Perhaps not quite an antagonist, there’s an amusing yet eerie sense to the character, helped by the childlike voice (Ann Yamane) and just where and how it appears throughout the story. Soon it almost seems to Suzume and Souta that they’re following the cat rather than the events. With such appearances, and the unknown nature of if and where worms may emerge (when found a number of locations are rather cleverly dealt with and built in), there’s a well-structured narrative taking place. One which moves along quickly and makes the most of your engagement, knowing how to increase it and keep the viewer in place.

It therefore seems somewhat strange when the third act comes along and there’s something of a tonal shift. The course of the narrative changes and it takes a few minutes to adjust and almost re-engage with the film as a whole. While some original footing is regained, particularly when it comes to the action sequences, with some of the character interactions there’s a different tone and style to the proceedings which almost feels separate to the tight, well-flowing events that have taken place over the previous 80-85 minutes. Things gradually rise back up during the aforementioned moments of action, but it takes some time to get there before things are quickly wrapped up. The animation may still be spectacular, and there’s plenty to enjoy, including patches of appreciated humour (it shouldn’t be understated just how funny Suzume is) and the strength of the fantastical elements, just for a while in a slightly different tone and style.

Visually stunning, contributing to both humour and fantastical tension, there’s a lot to like about Suzume and the world it transports you to. The latter stages may feel like a tonal and stylistic shift, but it gradually climbs back for an enjoyable ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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