About Shinkai Makoto

This reviewer seems to be falling over himself to praise Shinkai Makoto’s latest film 5 Centimeters Per Second (秒速5センチメートル — Byousoku 5 Senchimetoru) (see pic on left).

Review: A budding talent’s delicate vision | The Japan Times Online

For one thing, Miyazaki has been making far richer worlds than the laughable 300 for decades.

I suspect people like to seize on “next Miyazaki” soundbite just because it sounds nice. Where did it come from anyway? To his credit, Shinkai denies he’s in Miyazaki’s league.

Are some reporters just setting him up for some kind of fall from a hyped-up grace?. Then again, maybe they think their readers can’t tell the difference (and who knows? Maybe they can’t).

I do admire Shinkai for his perseverance — he pretty much made Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ – Hoshi no Koe) on his own without studio backing — and he’s developed his own distinct graphic style (although the character designs and animation still suffer imho).

My main complaint with his work so far is that it’s mostly based on a certain over-idealised concept of romantic love. From the first short Oukashou, 5 Centimeters just rolls out the same cliches about Japanese teenage romantic love. This is attractive precisely because it appears purer, somehow untainted in its embodiment via the invariably adolescent characters that populate Shinkai’s pretty worlds.

Think about it a little longer however, and you’ll realise how safely bland and hollow it all is. The characters think they are in love with each other, write letters and SMSes and angst and… that’s it.

His style hasn’t seem to have improved much either. Like Anno Hideaki before him, Shinkai uses off-camera dialogue and scenes to evoke an atmosphere that sympathises and reinforces the emotions of his characters (I assuming it’s not because it saves him the trouble of animating talking mouths). However, when those emotions aren’t very interesting to begin with, the effect is weakened. And it’s starting to be over-used.

To me, Shinkai’s best work was his first short: She and Her Cat (彼女と彼女の猫 — Kanojyou to Kanojyou no neko). Monochrome look worked really well with his narrative style and with the story he was telling. Since then, he’s still been finding his way I think.


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