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Suzume (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “Suzume”. Makoto Shinkai has become a legend in anime movies, with previous smash hits “Your Name” and “Weathering with You”. “Suzume” promises a similar epic story, but with far more magic cats, evil worms and chair-based romance.

What is Suzume about?

It’s actually a super simple plotline. A 17-year-old girl must go on an adventure with a talking chair (who she is in love with), to stop a cat from opening magical doors across Japan. Opening these doors would allow a giant worm to escape from another realm – which would lead to natural disasters killing millions. Perhaps, it isn’t so simple.

At it’s core, Suzume is a road-trip movie about Suzume and Sōta (a mystery man that she meets on her way to school) travelling across Japan, in search of a cat. They meet all sorts of interesting people and get up to all sorts of hijinks. There are a few more fantasy elements to the movie, particularly in the latter third, and a romantic plot – but let’s keep things grounded for now. Oh, I should mention that Sōta is a talking chair for most of the movie.

Suzume (2023) Review

This movie is trying to be a lot of things and for the most part, it works. I really enjoyed the road-trip aspect of the movie and found the supporting cast of characters really entertaining. It definitely helped add stakes to the threat, knowing that these people were in danger. The emotional core of the movie worked really well. A lot of the movie draws themes from 3.11 (when Japan was victim to a terrible earthquake and tsunami) – with a focus on the long-lasting damage that these tragedies cause to families and societies. Suzume lost her mother in 3.11 and you will cry about that, mostly because you know that this was a true story for thousands of children.

Where the movie works less well for me is the supernatural aspect. At first, the concepts of the movie seemed to be quite simple – find doors and close doors, to stop the evil worm from escaping. However, as the movie goes on; this becomes a lot more layered, with keystones and mystical realms and certain gateways and whatnot. For lack of a better word, it becomes very “anime”. I’m not a huge anime-lover and there is an element of this movie not really being for me – but I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this movie does get quite silly with how convoluted it becomes at times.

The age gap in Suzume

The other aspect of this movie that I have briefly mentioned is the romantic element. Suzume falls in love with Sōta and it becomes one of her core driving forces towards the end of the movie. There is a slightly problematic age gap here, with Suzume being 17 and Sōta being an undisclosed age (but we know he’s a grad student, training to be a teacher). This made me feel a little bit uneasy at first, but in retrospect – the “romance” is very one-sided. Beyond a cringe kiss, there’s no real reciprocation from Sōta and the two hardly end in each other’s arms. It could, very easily, be interpreted an unrequited crush.

I think that this movie would’ve been a lot stronger without it, but it’s there and it’s fine. The two have great chemistry, but it would’ve been preferable to have seen them as strictly platonic.

Is it a good movie?

The visuals are stunning. For that alone, I would call this a good movie and encourage you to see it on the big screen.

This movie has a lot of parts to it and I think it executes all of them on a scale of good to exceedingly good. Yet, the result feels a little bit disappointing. It almost feels like it struggles to tie everything together and explain what the point of everything was. It’s easy to walk out of this and feel like you watched three separate movies. A fun, romantic romp through Japan; a heart-breaking tale of Japan recovering from tragedy; and a fantasy about sky worms. I loved all three, but I don’t really know what the point of it all was.

The only other criticism I have is that it does feel like it overstays its welcome. At one point, I thought we were witnessing the climax and then it kept going. We had a whole other half hour of comedy, action and emotion waiting. This final half-hour is arguably the best part of the movie, but I was almost ready to zip up my coat based on what had come before it. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it was strange.

Regardless, I had a good time and I would recommend it. The characters are loveable and entertaining. I laughed out loud on more occasions than I expected to. I cried.

Will Suzume (2023) get a sequel?

While Suzume is set to be a success at the box office, I don’t think it’s likely that we see a return to this universe. I would say that I’d enjoy a series of Suzume and Sōta travelling around, closing doors around Japan – but in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t watch it. I wouldn’t expect there to be an on-screen follow-up to this, though it’s possible that the story could be continued in a manga – if there was demand.

There are rumours floating around that this movie was originally supposed to be a lesbian road-trip movie. However, the studio allegedly thought that the time wasn’t quite right for this. Therefore, it’s possible that we may see a spiritual successor from Shinkai in the not so distant future.

Who is this film for?

I think one of the main advantages this movie has is that it does so much. There were aspects of this movie that I liked, and aspects that I didn’t – but I suspect others will have an opposite reaction. If you can put up with anime fare, you’ll probably find something that you enjoy here. If you find anime a massive block for you, that you can’t get over, I wouldn’t waste your time here.

However, if you want stunning visuals and an engaging story; this is for you. I’d highly recommend seeing it on the big screen too.

This was a review for the 2023 movie “Suzume”. Did you enjoy this movie or did you find it disappointing compared to Shinkai’s previous work? Let us know in the comments below.

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