Tag: Makoto Shinkai

Review: Your Name

Review: Your Name

The newest film from acclaimed director Makoto Shinkai, Your Name, follows two teenagers on the edge of adulthood. A boy from Tokyo, Taki, wakes up in the body of country girl Mitsuha and back in Tokyo Mitsuha has taken over the body of Taki. The changes occurs randomly and last one day, forcing the teenagers not only to deal with their own problems but also the issues of their counterpart across the country.

Shinkai enjoys taking his time in a film. He wants to give the audience a complete picture of the world, show them scenes from that world so the audience gets a vivid sense of how the character lives. In Your Name he employs this by the time he takes with each character the day of and after their first possession. But his use of photo realistic art also grounds the film in the reality of the characters and situation. Shinkai establishes time and place through the art, taking time to show elements of each character’s lives to ground them in their respective world.

We see Mitsuha’s world revealed slowly. Her relationship with her friends and their your-namefeelings towards the town, her dreams of going someplace bigger where there are cafes and good jobs. Her life as a shrine maiden, the rituals she has to perform, and the way her classmates react to the ancient display of Japanese religion and culture.

Shinkai’s world view about rural Japan and Mitsuha’s role in the world is laid bare by a story that the Shrine Priestess, Mitsuha’s grandmother, tells the young girls. At some point in the past a fire destroyed all records about the shrines role in the town. No documents of the rituals exist any longer. So while the actions of the rituals have been past down what their origin is and what they mean is lost.

This idea of meaninglessness in the rituals of the shrine is reflects how Mitsuha sees them. While she commits to them in order to make her Grandmother happy she has no interest in the shrine. She wants to leave this small town and go into the world. The small town represents a dying worldview, a place in Japan that still retains some of the isolationist mindset of the past. The people there aren’t advancing, aren’t changing with the rest of the world, the town isn’t attempting to draw young people in by changing to adapt to modern culture. It’s a dying world with people who are stuck, unmoving, as the rest of the country advances. They no longer know what their role in the world is, they just keep living the life they’ve lead for hundreds of years without thinking.

Continue reading “Review: Your Name”

Review: Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below


Makoto Shinkai has been called the next Hayao Miyazaki, for good reason. In his newest work he creates an adventure narrative in the vain of the greatest of Miyazaki’s films, a departure from his extremely emotional love stories. By making a Ghibli-esuq film he is making a direct challenge to the master of Japanese animation but is it too early for him to be making such bold declarations or is this Shinkai clearly declaring his rightful place in the animation world? Asuna is a young girl who has been forced to mature early due to the loss of her father and the hectic schedule of her mother. She spends her time on the mountain listening to strange music from her crystal radio. One day a mysterious boy saves her from a beast, this starts her on a journey that brings her to the underworld Agartha and will lead her to a power capable of resurrecting the dead.


The film is gorgeous. Known for his fantastic art and attention to detail, Shinkai again creates some beautiful landscapes. There are dozens of frames in the film that deserve to be framed and hung on a wall, moments where I audibly gasped at the landscapes that Shinkai creates. Shinkai is probably the best artist currently working in Japan and he has poured all of his talent into crafting this film. When Asuna descends into Agartha we’re treated to the remnants of a once great civilization, here Shinkai builds magnificent ruins and gives them an unbelievable sense of scale. It can’t be understated how a meticulous use of background detail aids world and character building. Being able to see shelves and books, various containers, and other elements of life make the people of Agartha come alive. The creation of a lived in look to the villages and cities is comparable to Miyazaki’s towns in Nausccia and Princess Mononoke. The audience is immersed in this world completely. It feels alive.

One of the most exceptional images of the film is when Asuna reaches the edge of Agartha and sees a massive crater, the center of which is the gateway of life and death. Clouds hang over the crater and past it lies a flat desert. As the clouds hang above the crater the sun starts to peak over and the light transforms the entire horizon into a brilliant orange. The images shapes itself and one beautiful image transforms into a magnificent image as you watch. This is one of the best visual treats that Shinkai employs and it’s always stunning. He allows the subtle change in nature to tell a piece of the story, to define a bit of his theme, and to imbue the audience with a slight emotion. Again, Shinkai’s genius comes in attention to detail.


Asuna is a fantastic character and Shinkai spends the first part of the movie showing her daily life. Her relationship with her pet squirrel, how she takes care of the household chores, and prepares her own meals. Shinkai’s subtle use of visual narrative gives the audience a ton of information through quick visuals or background noise. Her mother isn’t around and a line is dropped that she’s working at a hospital, which conjures a host of images in the viewers head. During an early scene Asuna is seen praying at her Father’s shrine, so without beating the audience over the head with her circumstances the audience understands and is immediately sympathetic. The same can’t be said about most of the other characters of the film. Mr. Morisaki, who becomes the driving force of the journey into Agartha, has a rushed development and little is known about him before a twist has him on his way to the gate of life and death. Years of research and this life threatening journey are the result of the loss of his wife, who we never see and recieve no information about. We’re supposed to take it at face value that Morisaki would endanger a young girl, recruit a group of commandos, and recklessly journey across a dying world on foot in order to bring her back to life. His obsession is the driving force of the film, he is introduced by teaching the myth of Agartha to Asuna’s class long before we learn that he lost his wife. He also never speaks personally about his wife during the film, even after he becomes close to Asuna. This lack of any sympathetic qualities turns what should be a rich, sympathetic character into a flat obsessive villain.

Makoto Shinkai’s films are traditionally slow, which allows the characters and imagery to take center stage. “5 Centimeters per second” used imagery, narration, and dialogue to tell its story. “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below,” being an action/adventure film can’t relay on those tropes that Shinkai has mastered. The first ten minutes of the movie do follow that pattern, as I wrote above much of

children_who_chase_lost_voices_from_deep_below_3.jpegAsuna’s characterization comes from Shinkai’s brilliant use of imagery. Once the action starts is where some of the problems begin. The pacing is extremely start-stop, never finding a consistent middle ground. Characters felt less that they were traveling in the epic world of Agartha and more that they were fulfilling plot points as they came along. This is where comparing Shinkai to Miyazaki breaks down. Most Miyazaki films stick to a strict structure which leaves room for great action while winding the pace down smoothly to explore the characters and insert humor. Shinkai hasn’t developed that ability yet, but the shortcomings in the plot and pacing aren’t large enough to ruin the film, it’s one of the failings that arises when attempting to compare Shinkai to the mastery of Miyazaki.

Shinakai’s themes are always fantastic and “Children” is no different. The film is an extended metaphor for grief, the process of overcoming the death of a love one and what happens when someone isn’t able to let go. It’s a beautiful theme and well executed, the characters all come to a point where they have to make a difficult emotional decision and some fail that test. Even with the problems in characterization the desire that Morisaki had to bring a loved one back to life carries an emotional wight which is executed with profound skill.

Shinkai also adds a single sword fight to the movie, a quick minute long sword fight that happens near the end. It is perhaps the greatest action scene ever animated, comparable to the best action scenes from Princess Mononoke. Character movements are extremely fast and fluid, the choreography is exciting, and it feels like there is something serious at stake. Where most anime’s action scenes can come off as flashy Shinkai favors realism, as with his backgrounds, and captures the complex nature of humans in a physical struggle with the same profound skill he uses to craft his stunning landscapes.


Shinkai achieves near greatness with this newest film but by switching from his traditional style to a formula that strongly resembles that of Hayao Miyazaki he now enters an area where he is overshadowed by giants. However, the most exciting part about Makoto Shinkai is his age. When Miyazaki constructed his first “masterpiece” in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” he was forty-three years old. Makoto Shinkai is currently only thirty-eight. The exciting part about Shinkai is that his art is still developing. He already is one of the best animators working in Japan at this time and plenty of time to work on characterization, plotting, and other narrative failings of this film. So while some elements hold “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below” back the career that this film foreshadows has me more extremely excited about the future of animation.

I recommend “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below” as an enjoyable adventure story despite some of it’s narrative failings. However, the artistry in the film and the sheer beauty that scenes are animated make it an incredible visual experience. Even if the narrative doesn’t win you over the few scenes that make you gasp in delight will be well worth the investment.

Convention Report: New York Comic Con 2011


It’s hard to say anything about New York Comic Con that hasn’t already been said, or that isn’t a repeat from what I talked about last year’s show. The event was definitely bigger than last year and the space was far better utilized than last year with them opening up the North Hall for the autograph area. Of course, this being Comic Con, even with the large show space the crowding was horrible. Building a multi-genre show has its positives and negatives but I fear that Comic Con may have finally crossed the line into being more of swap meet with a theater showing clips from upcoming pop culture hits rather than a space to celebrate any type of fandom.

IMG_1777.jpgThe main component of New York Comic Con is undeniably the show floor. A massive space that serves as both a dealers room and a place where marketing professionals can attempting to push their new products on con-goers, a space for meeting your favorite artists and writers, or check out some fantastic indie art pieces. The show floor comes with all the spectacle that you’d expect from a geek event that takes place in one of the largest cities in the world. This is, unfortunately, a double edged sword. While the show floor is so large as to keep attendees busy for an entire weekend it is also the main place where the majority of people will be concentrated. Over all three days it was difficult to get from one end of the floor to the other. There is a constant fight against the raging mod to see anything and if you happen to be stuck behind someone who wants to take a photo the halls immediately get blocked with dozens of people fighting, not realizing that they’ve been halted by a guy with a camera phone and desire to get a third picture of Captain America. They’ll always be something to enjoy on the show floor, but be ready to fight in order to see it.


Surprisingly, this is an improvement over last year. The anime section of the show floor experienced a massive traffic jam making that entire area impassable. This year the anime booths were spread throughout the floor, making it hard to hit all of them but it ensured that they were actually approachable. Overall, space between booths was much improved and even though the crowds were difficult to move through there were no complete jams like last year. It seems they did everything possible to increase the flow of traffic, if only they could prevent people from stopping and gawking at



The biggest question hovering over the convention this year was if the anime section would be improved or continue to become a shrinking piece of the convention. Well, while anime artist alley was moved from the basement to the gallery at the very top of the convention center it was still a difficult place simply to stumble upon. One needed to go up two escalators, following large signs, even to get to the area. Once there the artist alley was spacious and easy to browse and at the end of the gallery was a massive space which contained dozens of tables, some snack vendors, and the dreaded anime stage. Last year New York Anime Festival had a decent assortment of fan panels in small rooms. This year the only anime fan panels excepted were forced to perform on a stage, which forced the presenter to speak to a massive room where the majority of people were just sitting and chatting, not even caring what was happening on the stage. This worked for some of the game shows, like cosplay dating game, but I cringed through Aaron Clark’s Evangelion Deconstructed panel as he attempted to present serious analysis over the low rumble of crowd noise and the shouting of memes.

It’s clear that the anime fans and the comics fan simply don’t mesh together. New York Comic Con is evolving to become closer and closer to San Diego, a direction that I dread. Instead of eagerly waiting for fans speaking to fans and building a sense of community San Diego Comic Con is about room sitting all day to hear actors talk about films and television shows that are due to be released in the next few months. That isn’t a convention to me, the same task can be accomplished by reading an interview or checking a Hollywood news site. I go to conventions for the community, to see people I only know online and to experience fans speaking about their passion.

There are two main reason for the divide between the anime and comics fans. The first is simply age. Anime convention attendees tend to be younger and are more focused on hanging out with their friends than browsing through rows of comics looking for a rare issue. The other, and more important, reason behind why these two groups can’t seem to coexist is a difference in philosophy when it comes to the art. Comics fans come to these conventions to see footage of upcoming movies and get exclusive comics from the big publishers, they come to these conventions as consumers of media. Anime fans have developed a culture where they get most of their content for free on the internet, be it through illegal fan subs or the many legal steaming services. There is no surprising an anime fan with new titles or “exclusive” content because of the delay, even with simulcasting, it takes to licenses and release media from Japan. Anime fans don’t come to conventions to consume anime, they come to participate in the fandom, hang out with their friends, and buy additional merchandise.

The unfortunate fact about New York Comic Con, to quote Christopher MacDonald from Anime News Network at Sunday’s ANN Q&A panel: “It’s really good for the industry, it kind of sucks for us. Well, it’s good for me as a business but it’s not so good for fans.” The sheer number of people walking through the show room floor is always going to be good for the licensing companies and allows them to expose their titles to fans outside the group that normally goes to anime conventions. That being the case the way New York Comic Con was this year will probably be the way it’s going to stay, and as much as I might not like the state of the convention if this draws more fans towards the medium than it is completely justified. We’ll always have Otakon.


Anime News Network

Anime News Network panels are always fun as they allow the people fans have come to know through their writing to interact and answer questions. In New York there were some extremely well thought out questions asked to the panel, as well as the normal awkward “how can I write for ANN” questions. For a group of writers they are surprisingly adept at handling their interesting fan base.

Evangelion, Deconstructed

As always Aaron Clark put on an excellent panel going over some of the visual, cultural, and narrative references used the Neon Genesis Evangelion. Clark seems to have an endless supply of knowledge on the subject and will always surprise even the longest Evangelion fans with some tiny tidbit. The anime stage wasn’t the ideal place for his panel to be held as he was being drowned out by the low rumble of the mass of fans sitting and going about their business. He handled the situation professionally, not even letting a minor technical glitch to get in his way. If you like Evangelion his panels, and his website are highly recommended.

Makoto Shinkai

The highlight of the convention of me was getting to meet Makoto Shinkai, sit down for an interview with him, get an autograph, and watch his newest film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.” I’ve been a huge fan of his for a few years and it was a great honor and opportunity. If Shinkai hadn’t been a guest at this convention this report would be a lot more negative. Read my interview with him, watch the excellent Makoto Shinkai spotlight panel with Roland Kelts, and I’ll have a review of “Children Who Chase…” up in the next few weeks.

Hiro Mashima Interview

I was able to sit down with Fairy Tail mangaka Hiro Mashima. It was an interesting talk especially since I was paired with two bloggers from South America who made the long trip to New York Comic Con!


Comic Con is a difficult place to take photos because I don’t want to be like the people I mentioned above. So I was reserved, far more reserved, than I usually am. I did get lots of very pretty photos of toys though!

My Loot

I didn’t pick up much at New York Comic Con because of the logical problem with bringing loot back on the train. But I did get a few really cool items.

This adorable Kagami figure who is looking her most Tsundere.

A wonderful Squid Girl art book complete with a flipbook printed onto the side of the pages.

Makoto Shinkai autographed copy of 5 Centimeters Per Second. Now the crown jewel of my Anime DVD collection.


More New York Comic Con 2011 Coverage

Interview: Makoto Shinkai

During New York Comic Con 2011 I had the privilege to sit down with Makoto Shinkai; director of Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimeters Per Second , and his newest work Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. This interview took place, unfortunately, before the screening of his new film so my questions focus on his previous work.

We start by talking about some of the influences and themes of Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, then I transition into some specifics about the creation of 5 Centimeters Per Second and the upcoming manga that Kodansha is bringing to the US market. We end the interview by asking about his attention to background detail, his thoughts on the state of the Anime industry, and his advice for upcoming Anime creators.

My questions are indicated with “Otaku in Review” and the other interviewers present are indicated simply by “Press.”

We began the interview by introducing ourselves to Shinkai-San. He then humbly introduced himself to us:

Makoto Shinkai: I’m Makoto Shinkai. I’m a director. 5 Centimeters per Second is, I think, my main title.

Otaku in Reivew: So you think 5 Centimeters Per Second is your greatest work?

MS: Many people say so but it’s been four years since its release and I’d like more people to pay more attention to Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. The two titles are completely separate they have different styles and topics so some like one over the other.

OiR: Unfortunately I haven’t seen the new film yet, I will be at the screening tomorrow. Reviewers have compared the styling to Studio Ghibli, is there any influence?

MS: There is no Japanese Animation creator who hasn’t been influenced by Studio Ghibli. That’s the atmosphere that we live in.

Press: What is your influence? Is there anything in your past that influences your work?

MS: During University days I was studying Modern Japanese Literature and I am a big Haruki Murakami fan. I think that influenced my storytelling a lot because I read his novels over and over again.

OiR: The theme of your first three works seems to be “relationships through distance and time,” why does this theme resonate with you?

MS: When I was making those three films I was thinking a lot about human relationships and at the same time new technology was coming into play. Human relationships and how people communicate was a theme I was thinking about a lot so when I made Voices of a Distant Star that was when people were just starting to use Cell Phones in Japan a lot and they were sending mail, short messages, and because of that technology sometimes a message would come five minutes later, two hours later, or maybe in a day or even, in the case of Voices, like a few years later. I was thinking of the way new technology effects the way relationships develop.

Press: I’d like to ask you to talk about Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. What was your underlying theme for this film? Was it also a study in human relationships and how people communicate?

MS: The biggest difference is that this is also about human relationships, how people relate to each other, but this time it’s about the relationship between a living person and a person who has already passed away. That’s the biggest difference. It’s still about human relationships but this one is about the relationship with someone who has already passed on.

OiR: I have a couple about 5 Centimeters because I have yet to see the new film. Masayoshi Yamazaki’s “One more time, one more chance” plays a prominent role in the ending of 5 Centimeters Per Second. How did it play in the creation of the film?

MS: We made 5 Centimeters I wasn’t planning on creating a new song to match with the story. I was telling a story that happened in the 90s so I looked at a bunch of pop songs that happened in that era. When I heard Masayoshi’s “One more time, One more chance” I thought it fit the story perfectly and it was extremely popular when it was released so everyone was familiar with it.

OiR: At the beginning of Episode 2 of 5 Centimeters Per Second there is a magnificent image of the sun rising behind the earth. (image above) Can you talk about creating that image?

MS: Takaki, the male character, had dreams of this girl he liked who was very far away. In the image they’re both on a distant planet that is far away, so he’s dreaming that he’s with her even though she’s in a far away place. That image came from something a bit different. When I was in High School I had a recurring dream where I became lost on a faraway star.

When I was in high school I was really into Science Fiction and I used to read a monthly magazine called “Newton,” a science magazine. Today the images in science magazines are computer generated but at that time they were hand drawn and I thought they were really cool. So I was thinking about those a lot and had those dreams.

OiR: The 5 Centimeters Per Second Manga will be coming to the US soon. How do the manga and the film pair with each other?

MS: Normally in Japan there is a manga first and it gets popular, sells millions of copies, and then they make the anime. The story behind the 5 Centimeter manga is like this: First when I came up with the story I made the anime. Then after I made an anime there were a lot of things I wanted to improve on so I wrote a short novel and in it I fixed the elements that I thought were weak in the anime. Shortly afterwards I was approached by Kodansha and they asked if they could make a manga out of the short novel. The manga is actually a culmination of both the anime and the short novel so I believe it’s the best representation of the work I wanted to make. It mixes the best elements of the anime with the best elements of the short novel together. I recommend people check it out.

Press: I’d like to ask your opinion on the Japanese animation industry in general. What’s your opinion on the recent trends and the thematic elements used in recent anime?

MS: Right now in Japan there is a lot of anime being made for lots of different tastes and that’s a good thing. There are new styles of anime, for example the noitamina slot on Fuji TV. Noitamina is animation spelled backwards so they take anime and they try new things all the time. I don’t know if this works economically and I don’t watch much anime myself, but I know what’s going on. In the old days the anime was very similar and everything was typical so I think the new varieties of anime is healthy for the industry. However, in the long term it’s a question mark as where 2D animation is going in Japan. As we see in the United States 3D is taking over and becoming more popular. I think that will eventually happen in Japan as well which means that what we know as anime today may go away because of 3D coming in and because there are less and less people who can actually make anime these days. That’s a little bit sad but it’s just evolution and it’s the way things should evolve in the future.

Otaku in Review: In the last ten or fifteen years the people who do background animation are retiring or leaving the industry. Yet you focus a lot on background detail and the tiny elements in a scene. Such as She and Her Cat which is compact and beautiful and yet is filled with vibrant detail, even small elements like the kitchen. Why are those backgrounds so important?

MS: When I made She and Her Cat I was working on a Fantasy Role Playing Game during the day. In a fantasy role playing game your surroundings are very rich and detailed. But I was living in a typical small Japanese apartment and around the apartment building were concrete telephone poles with lots of electric wires. That’s a typical kind of surroundings we have while living in a very small place. Even though the surroundings may be jumbled with ugly things I wanted to find the beauty in the things all around me. Even living in a small apartment surrounded by electrical lines I wanted to make it look detailed and beautiful to express that it was ok to live in such a situation. That’s why I believe I focus on all these background details.

OiR: Has your time in England inspired your work at all?

MS: I lived in London for a year and for the first six months I was going an English school, even though I was thirty-five years old I was going to school with a bunch of college kids. The next sixth months I spent working the script for Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. During that time I was able to visit all the museums, I especially enjoyed the British Museum of Art and the World History Museum where they had ancient artifacts. When you see the film you’ll see ruins of ancient societies so going to museums influenced me that way. But when you watch the film you won’t think it has a British influence, while I was in London I was able to explore some global things.

OiR: For upcoming animation directors do you recommend the independent route or should they go the classic route, start at Key Animation and climb up the ladder while working in the industry.

MS: It’s difficult to suggest the best way right now because there are no barriers to entry. If you’re an artist and want to create something and put it on the internet and everybody can see it. But there are some demerits for that because you feel like your job is done, you’ve shown everyone your work. It’s different from the old days where you’d make something and take it to a publisher to see if they’d publish it. They’d be a lot of back and forth and negotiations required to get your work out. In that sense it’s good so you can get your work out quickly but it’s also still good to work for a studio and climb the ladder that way because in the old days you’d have had to brush up your work before it went out into the public. You had to work hard before you could show it to the public. Now it’s so easy you don’t even have to work too hard.

Maybe the best was it to make the best possible thing by yourself and get it out there and then from there it’ll make it easier to talk with studios and then you can enter a professional studio and work on things. Maybe that’s the best way


I’d like to thank Makoto Shinkai for taking the time to sit down with me during his busy trip to New York. I’d also like to thank Crunchyroll’s Vincent Shortino for helping bring Shinkai-San to New York Comic Con and for help with translation.

Also check out video of Makoto Shinkai opening and closing the screening of Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below and the Makoto Shinkai panel


Screenshots from Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below taken from Manga Market.