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6 Japanese Animation Masterpieces by Makoto Shinkai

The director and former graphic designer Makoto Shinkai has created many successful movies over the years. With every movie, the wow factor is increased. The stories are touching and heartbreaking at the same time.

Makoto Shinkai is a famous film director and former graphic designer known as one of the successors of the magnificent animation directors Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda. Most of his works deal with love between teenagers and features a detailed overview of the whole landscape. Shinkai is particular about beautiful landscape, because when he is in trouble, he looks up at the sky and starts to believe he can make it through the difficult point in his life.


#1. The Voices of A Distant Star (2002)

The Voices of A Distant Star (2002)
Photo Credit: shinkaimakoto.jp

This Japanese animated science fiction film is approximately 25 minutes long. Before this was released in theaters, Shinkai had only released short films. It was directed, written, edited, and co-produced by Makoto Shinkai.

Set in 2046 after the discovering ruins of an alien civilization on Mars, Mikako joins the resistance, leaving behind the one young man she loves. As she goes deeper into space, Mikako’s only connection with her boyfriend is through cell phone text messages. The war rages on and years pass, but Mikako barely ages in the timelessness of space while Noboru grows old. How can the love of two people be torn apart by war?


#2. The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

The place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
Photo Credit: shinkaimakoto.jp

Unlike the previous film, this film is feature film and the quality, cleverness displayed in the animation, and the music was well reviewed by critics. The catch phrase for the movie was, “In a distant day, we made a promise that will never come true.”

In this fictional movie set in 1974, Japan underwent the Separation: the southern part and the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu were occupied by the United States, while the northern island, Hokkaido was occupied by the “Union” (referring to the Soviet Union). Also during the same year, the Union began the construction of a strange tower on Hokkaido designed by a scientist named Ekusun Tsukinoe. Hiroki, Takuya and Sayuri are three children living in Aomori. They become fascinated by the gigantic yet mysterious tower that they see across the Tsugaru Strait, promising that one day they will build and fly an aircraft to the tower to unravel its mystery. However, the project is abandoned after Sayuri’s sudden disappearance. Three years later, Hiroki finds out what happened to Sayuri.


#3. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)
Photo Credit: shinkaimakoto.jp

This Japanese animated romantic drama film is approximately an hour in length and consisted of three segments; “Cherry Blossom”, “Cosmonaut”, and “5 Centimeters Per Second”. This is a touching film about the beautiful but intangible emotions of love. The catch phrase is, “At what speed must I live, to be able to see you again?”

Unlike his past works, there is no fantasy or science fiction elements in this film. Instead, this film tries to express the real world from a different perspective. It gives a realistic view of the struggles many face against: time, space, people, and love. The title 5 Centimeters Per Second comes from the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall. The title describes the rate at which events happen in the movie, for example the trains, how long it takes to receive the letters, and how emotionally invested the characters are in each other.

The story is set in Japan in the early 1990’s up until present day of 2008, each act is focused on a boy named Takaki. The first act takes place during a time when cell phones are not commonly used. Takaki and Akari are two very close friends and classmates in elementary school. Their relationship is tested when Akari moves to another city because of her parents’ jobs. Despite the separation, they continue to keep in touch through handwritten letters since they have feelings for each other. However, both of them struggle to keep the friendship alive, as time and distance slowly pulls them apart. When Takaki finds out that he is moving even further away, he decides to visit Akari one last time.


#4. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
Photo Credit: shinkaimakoto.jp

This Japanese anime fantasy film is different from other works because it is described as a something more than fantasy. There are more actions scenes than usual and some Studio Ghibili elements are included making things distinctive. This is a story about adventure, courage, tragedy and growing up. The catch phrase is, “It’s a journey to say farewell.” This is considered a “lively” animated film with adventure, action, and romance centered on a cheerful and spirited girl on a journey. Most of his works in the past decade were stories about characters who have to part with those dear to them, but he wanted to take that theme even further and wanted to show how to overcome that loss.

One day, a young girl named Asuna hears a mysterious song coming from a crystal radio that belonged to her late father and couldn’t forget it. Then she meets a boy named Shun who says he has come from the underground land of Agartha, and although they develop a connection he suddenly disappears. She embarks on a journey to meet the boy again, and thus comes to know the cruelty and beauty of the world, as well as the after-world.


#5. The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words (2013)
Photo Credit: kotonohanoniwa.jp

This Japanese anime drama film is short, approximately 46 minutes in length, so Shinkai did not originally plan for the film to be played in theaters, but many individuals in the industry requested the film to be shown in theaters.

The story’s motif include rain, traditional Manyoshu poetry, and Japanese gardens. Rain plays an important part because about 80 percent of the movie is focused on rainy days and set the distinctive atmosphere. Shinkai wrote the story as a tale of “loneliness and sadness”, based on the meaning of the traditional Japanese word for “love”, and uses shoes as a metaphor for life.

When Takao, a 15-year-old high school student dreams of becoming a shoemaker, skips school one day to sketch shoes in a rainy garden, he has no idea how much his life will change when he encounters Yukino, a beautiful yet mysterious 27-year-old woman. Older but perhaps not much wiser, she seems adrift in the world. The two builds an unusual relationship through chance by meeting in the same garden on a rainy days, this eased the hidden worries in their hearts just by being with each other. However, their personal struggles have not completely disappeared, and since the end of the rainy season is coming their relationship will be tested.


#6. Your Name. (2016)

Photo Credit:kiminona.com

This new Japanese animated science fiction fantasy film was premiered in Japan on August 26th and it has been very popular among all age groups. The film is going to be released in 85 other countries, so it will surely become the biggest one of his filmography. The catch phrase is, “I am searching for you, whom I have never met yet.”

The story is set one month after a comet has fallen for the first time in a thousand years. Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the countryside wants to live in the city because she is unhappy with her life in a small town. Then there’s Taki, he’s a high school student living in Tokyo working part-time in an Italian restaurant, who also needs a break from everyday life. One day, Mitsuha dreams of herself as a young man. On the other hand, Taki also has a dream where he is a female student attending high school in the countryside. What’s the secret behind their dreams?

Also Check: Landmarks Used in the Movie “Your Name.” Directed by Makoto Shinkai


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