Quarter 1 of 2023 has closed, and what a rollercoaster ride it is for Malaysian movie goers. We started the year full of drama movies (as you do for the CNY & Valentine season), before the big names started to trickle in starting with the MCU in February. Then we had the Oscars, and all nominees, along with award-winner Everything Everywhere All At Once, returned to the cinemas at the same time. While this was happening, a big-name new movie was released each week of March!
As I said, a rollercoaster. However, every coaster has its climax moment, and for me it is Suzume (すずめの戸締まり, Suzume no Tojimari). Initial Japanese release of the movie was in November last year, the movie was nominated for best animation at Japan’s Film Award. It is a gorgeous film with beautiful visuals & sound design! If you like good animation this movie is a must watch!
But to further entice you to watch the movie, I want to talk about 3 aspects surrounding the film that I really like which people seldom talk about: the mysticism in the film, the theme of the movie & the experience I had in the cinema. I will attempt to only talk about scenes shown in promotional material & trailers, but there might be light spoilers for the movie.
A Grand Epic
Daijin, the cat of the movie
A feeling I got from the film was an epic tale, much like tales of myth from legend. The magical aspects of the world are not explained, as the main characters interact with gods and mythical creatures. It gives a sense of awe and wonder that no other form of story telling can replicate.
Suzume’s use of the magical is much the same, and while that may be plot holes for some, I think it lets the plot center on the characters of the movie. It is especially clear how exaggerated the expressions & the emotions of the mystical characters are, giving the movie a sense of scope that is much out of the control of our main cast.
If you look at the poster or other scenes from the show, you’d probably notice that quite a few scenes are set in ruins, abandoned buildings. I personally really like this aspect of the film, as it touches on 2 things simultaneously: abandonment & disasters.
Up till the 1990s, Japan was in an economic miracle, and rapid expansion was taking place as no one expected the economic crash to strike so suddenly. Businesses had to cut losses everywhere, and it led to some business premises being abandoned as the business can no longer maintain them.
Japan is also a country very exposed to natural disasters like earthquakes landslides & tsunamis due to its specific geographic make-up. The towns & cities struck by such disasters take years to recover from the damage, so some folks just move to new places instead of fixing up the disaster area, leaving the towns with few or no residents.
Both reasons combined makes a rather pressing social issue, as more and more buildings are abandoned or are forsaken for better places, it makes Japan’s countryside much more depressing, even before factoring in the aging population.
However, Suzume also asks us to consider how the place once was, through some magic stuff. It’s a depressing yet heartwarming feel which the movie balances splendidly.
My cinema going experience this time was super fun! I watched it on the premier day, and the cinema hall was full. When the movie made jokes, everyone laughed together; when it was tense, you could feel the emotion in the air; when the moment was triumphant, we cheered softly. At the end of the movie, some would clap and wait for the full credits to roll to let the movie sink in.
What I love about watching Japanese films in cinemas is this vibe from the audience. You could feel the genuine appreciation of the movie from parts of the audience, and it really sweetens the deal of the movie.
Of course, it’s not even sitting of the movie you get this experience, but if you are interested, try to catch the next big anime movie on debut week, you won’t be disappointed.