Suzume: Behind Closed Doors

Sometimes, we close doors to keep people out. Other times, it can be to keep darkness within.

Suzume transports the viewer to a quiet town in Kyushu, Japan. One day, while heading to school, 17-year-old Suzume comes across a young man named Sota who is looking for a door to close. Curious about his work, Suzume follows Sota and finds a single, weathered door in the midst of a shallow pool. When she turns the knob, Suzume inadvertently unleashes an otherworldly power that threatens to destroy Japan. Now, Suzume and Sota must work together to close more doors and capture the mysterious Daijin in an effort to prevent further disaster.

Directed by Makoto Shinkai, Suzume is a stunning and whimsical anime that uses its fantasy elements to speak to deeper issues. Since his breakthrough with his 2016 feature, Your Name, Shinkai has demonstrated an ability to use eye-popping visuals to create visual treats for the senses and Suzume is no different. This is a film that sparkles with colour and keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish. Whether it’s the shadowy realm of the Ever-After or the shattered ruins of abandoned cities, each scene is intricately designed with its own unique characteristics and properties. (The scene where Suzume is chasing Daijin on the roller coaster through the fairground is particularly impressive.) 

Admittedly though, Suzume is most fascinating due to the fact that it sparks multiple conversations. First and foremost, this is a coming-of-age story about a young woman who is learning how to navigate adulthood. Living with her Aunt Tamaki, Suzume is at a place in her life when she wishes to spread her wings of independence. By stepping out to help Sota, Suzume risks her life without asking for permission, leaving Tamaki in fear for her niece. To Tamaki, Suzume remains the young woman who came under her care as a child and her disappearance can only mean trouble.

At the same time though, the film also speaks to the experience of those who are dealing with traumatic childhoods. Grieving the loss of her mother, Suzume’s adventure seems become a metaphor for her own restrained emotions. Like the emotions that swirl within Suzume, the worm threatens to destroy the serenity that is enjoyed by those on surface. (In fact, it’s also worth noting that Suzume also compares the terror of the worm to the damage done by the disastrous earthquake that destroyed Kanto in 1923.) With each door that they attempt to close, Suzume and Sota do their best to prevent their demonic antagonist from escaping. However, as the attacks become more violent, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so. As a result, just as Suzume must do battle with the growing threat of the worm, so too must she confront her own emotional crises as well. 

In essence, what begins as a battle for Japan becomes a battle for her soul.

Featuring spectacular animation, Shinkai has created yet another world worth exploring. But it’s his ability to offer multiple levels to the film’s conversation that makes Suzume something special. Underneath its often playful tone, Suzume’s journey of self-discovery is also one of healing as she learns that not all doors need to remain closed.

Suzume is available in theatres on Friday, April 14th, 2023.

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