SUZUME (すずめの戸締まり)

Suzume Iwato is your typical 17-year-old Japanese girl, which means it’s up to her to save the world. 

One morning while on break between classes, Suzume and her friends’ cell phones all light up with earthquake warning messages. It’s not a big one, just a small tremor, but only Suzume can see what’s causing it: A massive maroon and brown worm-like creature jutting into the sky and crashing into the earth.

That worm is entering Suzume’s world through a portal, a door connecting this world and the ever-after, a place where the past, present, and future exist simultaneously. Suzume has walked through that door twice: Once as a child looking for her mother, and once this morning when she stumbled upon it while looking for Sota, a handsome college kid also searching for the door. Sota wasn’t there when Suzume found the door this morning, but after seeing the worm in the sky, Suzume runs back to the decaying bath resort and discovers not only is Sota there, but he’s the one trying to close the door and cut off the worm’s access. Suzume races to help Sota, fatefully inserting herself into a world of worms, portals, talking cats, an animated chair, and keystones.

If that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, don’t worry: I skipped over a lot. Suzume, the latest from animation extraordinaire Makoto Shinkai, is a fantasy anime chocked full of emotion and exposition. And, like the best fantasy writing, the exposition comes with a lot of momentum. As Sota explains to Suzume, the worms in the ever-after are supernatural beings capable of creating massive havoc should they enter this world. In 1923, one did and caused the 7.9 Kanto earthquake and the ensuing firestorm that laid ruin to Tokyo and caused an estimated 142,000 deaths. Following the quake, two keystones were placed near portals on Japan’s western and eastern sides to protect the country from another worm entering this world. But Suzume inadvertently released one of the keystones, so it’s up to her and Sota to track it down before a another worm enters and reduces Japan to rubble.

Suzume doesn’t take this threat of real-world destruction lightly. What Suzume and Sota are trying to prevent—annihilation, loss, and the collateral damage that ripples across generations—carries a personal cost.

Shinaki deftly plots Suzume so that action and chase sequences happen when you want them, backstories are revealed when you need them, and emotional gut punches arrive when you least expect them. And those moments, a virtuosic combination of image, music, and emotion, are so powerful they suck the breath out of you. That’s what made Shinaki’s previous movies, Your Name and Weathering With You, worldwide hits. And with Suzume, Shinaki strikes once more with heart, action, and a solid story about a girl trying to recover the one thing she lost.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Suzume / すずめの戸締まり (2022)
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai
Produced by Kôichirô Itô, Genki Kawamura
Vocal performances by Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu, Shôta Sometani, Ann Yamane
Crunchyroll, Rated PG, Running time 122, Opens April 14, 2023