Thursday 27 September 2012

Makoto Shinkai, 'the new Miyazaki'

I couldn't tell you how long ago I saw Voices of a Distant Star, which was the first Makoto Shinkai film to really register with me in my little corner of the pop-culture swamp that I play in.

Voices does this thing where it gives you all the toys for which Japanese animation has become famous, and then makes you play a different kind of game. Maybe it is the same kind of game, but played differently. I'm not sure.

It was years later when I came into possession of The Place Promised in Our Early Days, which struck me as a similar sort of experience. The product of the same mind and the same hands. Then I realised only recently that 2007's 5 Centimetres Per Second even existed, in which Shinkai wove something far simpler and far more engaging while sitting at the very same loom.

There is something intimate in every aspect of the way he made all three of these films. Something that makes you feel as though you're rifling through other people's private photos as they themselves read excerpts from their own diaries. He has made something truly exquisite out of loneliness where each thread has been specifically chosen with such extraordinary care.

Shinkai often frames shots to be empty of characters, instead focusing on their shadows as they move across those strange geometries that we find when we stare across a familiar setting from a different angle for the first time. The same place we see every day now existing as somewhere else.

For this reason it came as a shock to me when Shinkai was recently hailed as 'the new Miyazaki'. It made no sense to me. The Shinkai with which I was familiar made films that were distinct from anything else I had ever seen in the entirety of my life. Films that told deeply relatable stories amongst the familiar set pieces of Japanese animation. Miyazaki tells amazing fantasy stories. Stories that are as wondrous as it comes.

All I could see between the two were oceans.

Until I saw Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

Shinkai's latest film is heavily reminiscent of some of Miyazaki's more adventure driven films, but this is superficial. While his influences are definitely clear, Shinkai's weave is still visible in the characters and the themes.

Shinkai has stepped out of the style that he established as his trademark in order tell a story that might be told by a different director, but not in the way it would be told by a different director. In the end though, I would recommend this film to Miyazaki fans before I recommended it to Shinkai fans.

I would also recommend that you seek out his earlier work.

I haven't seen his stuff with the cats.

No comments :