He produced the 2002 film The Voices Of a Distant Star almost single-handedly, taking charge of everything from directing to scriptwriting, art direction, animation, editing, and voice acting. The film won numerous awards, and many animation fans were astonished at the unparalleled quality of his personal animation work.
In 2004, The Place Promised in Our Early Days won the Mainichi Film Concours for Best Animated Film, beating out Howl’s Moving Castle, which was released the same year.
Makoto Shinkai’s reputation was firmly established with 5 Centimeters per Second, released in 2007.
The film, which vividly depicted nostalgia with sophisticated visual beauty, ran for six months and won the Best Animation Award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival and the Lancia Platinum Grand Prix at the Feature Film Festival in Italy.
In this article, we will introduce you 8 Makoto Shinkai films and explain how they are interconnected to each other!
- What is so special about Makoto Shinkai?
- 1. The Voices Of a Distant Star (2002)
- 2. The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
- 3. 5 Centimeter per Second (2007)
- 4. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
- 5. The Garden of Words (2013)
- 6. Your Name. (2013)
- 7. Weathering with You (2019)
- 8. Suzume no Tojimari (2022)
- Is the worldview of Makoto Shinkai’s works connected?
What is so special about Makoto Shinkai?
Makoto Shinkai’s works are full of moving films, and many people say that they can cry no matter how many times they watch them. The reason for this is because of their sad love stories. They cut through the sad days that everyone experiences at least once and end up with an ending that cannot be called a happy ending.
However, it is not a bad ending, which is also appealing. Makoto Shinkai himself said in an interview, “I have never made a film with a bad ending”.
There is an indescribable sadness that is both heartbreaking and warming throughout his various works. By delicately depicting such sadness, beauty and transparent imagery; it is a “tear-jerker” that moves the viewer’s heart.
Japanese Classics are the Theme
A graduate of Chuo University’s Faculty of Letters explained the background of Makoto Shinkai’s works has always been influenced by classical Japanese literature.
For example, Your Name., is a story about a man and a woman who switch sexes, and Ono no Komachi‘s waka poem, “Sagittsu nemba ya hito no mieru tsurumu yume to kanashimasenasho (“I fell asleep while thinking about that person, and I wondered if she appeared in my dream. If I had known it was a dream, I would not have woken up)”.
Other Japanese classics have also been incorporated into the film, such as the Kojiki in Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011) and the Manyoshu in The Garden of Words (2013).
According to Makoto Shinkai, there are hidden patterns and hints for entertaining stories in Japanese classics.
Animated films with an overwhelming worldview
All of Makoto Shinkai’s works share a common appeal, but of course, each work has its own unique charm. Each film features distinctive motifs, fascinating characters, and memorable dialogue, weaving a grand and delicate story.
Here we will introduce the synopsis and reputation of anime films directed by Makoto Shinkai.
1. The Voices Of a Distant Star (2002)
The Voices Of a Distant Star revolves around the relationship between this couple as they try to stay connected despite the growing distance between them.
It is the year 2046, Noboru Terao and Mikako Nagamine are close friends who will soon be graduating junior high school. But after an alien attack on humanity, Mikako is selected for the UN military space expedition set to retaliate against the aliens. Separated, Noboru and Mikako attempt to keep in touch by sending emails to each other with their cell phones. Yet as the expedition journeys farther from Earth, the time it takes for them to transmit and receive each other’s messages increases substantially.
If you’ve ever been separated from a loved one by time or distance, this movie will resonate very strongly with you. Prepare the Kleenex. You won’t really cry because the movie is sad, you’ll cry because of sheer longing and wishing and other emotions, please watch the movie and you’ll understand what I mean. It’s a Masterpiece.
- Shinkai said the film was inspired by Dracula and Laputa
- Voices of A Distant Star has received the Special Prize at the 6th Japan Media Arts Festival
- It has also won the Animation Kobe for packaged work in 2002 and the 2003 Seiun Award for best media
2. The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
Just like Voices in a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, this is a story about 2 people and their distances. Unlike Voices where their distance is that of time and space, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is about their distance across dimensions/dreams/reality.
Hiroki Fujisawa and Takuya Shirakawa harbour admiration for two things in their life: their classmate Sayuri Sawatari and the vast Ezo Tower that stands boundlessly across the Tsugaru Strait. Fascinated by the limitless structure beyond their reach, Hiroki and Takuya begin constructing an aeroplane from a fallen drone they discovered—naming it the Bella Ciela—to fulfill their dream of one day reaching the sky-scraping top of the tower. Later joined by the girl they love, Hiroki and Takuya promise Sayuri to fly with her to the seemingly otherworldly top together. However, Japan has suffered a North-South partitioning that has fueled conflict near the base of the tower, which marks the border between the America-controlled Southern islands and the Northern lands occupied by the Soviet Union.
In the end, I was entertained. A little depressed maybe, but I really liked it. I felt like I watched something I’ll always remember and will probably watch again and again. This is a movie every drama/romance anime fan should have in their “completed” section.
- The film won the Best Animation Film award at the Mainichi Film Awards in 2004
- The film includes several references to other literary works and themes, such as separation and dreams
- Silver Prize on Best Animated Film Section (by audience choice) of Public Prize – Canada Fantasia Film Festival
3. 5 Centimeter per Second (2007)
5 Centimeter per Second is a romantic drama that focuses on the mundane and harsh reality of long-distance relationships. Stuck in the past and unable to make any new memories, Takaki and Akari cling to the hope of seeing each other again. They live their everyday lives half-heartedly, both hurting themselves and the people around them.
What happens when two people love each other but just aren’t meant to be together? Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara are childhood friends, but circumstances beyond their control tear them apart. They promise to stay in contact, and although the progression of time widens the distance between them, the chain of memories remains ever-present.
5 Centimeter per Second is a movie that takes a story of growing up and makes it into something that cannot be described as anything less than a masterpiece, with astounding themes, storytelling, art and sound. If someone told me I could watch one movie before I died, I’d undoubtedly choose this one.
- 5 Centimeter per Second was completed on January 22, 2007. The first of three parts was available for streaming on Yahoo! Japan exclusively for its premium users between February 16 and 19. The complete film was released on March 3, 2007
- The film won the 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film
- Natsuki Imai, a Japanese television and film director known for her 2007 film Koizora, views 5 Centimeters per Second as a film “completely for adults even though it is an anime”
4. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is one of the most “Gibli-like” animations from acclaimed creator and director Makoto Shinkai. The story centres on a small town in the countryside, where a young girl called Asuna spends her time after school listening to the strange music that comes from the crystal radio that her father left to her before he passed away.
Between being an exceptional student and taking care of the house alone during her mother’s absence, Asuna Watase’s only distraction is listening to her old crystal radio in her secret mountain hideout. One day, she accidentally tunes to a mysterious and melancholic melody, different from anything she has ever heard before. Soon after, an enigmatic boy named Shun saves her from a dangerous creature, unknowingly dragging Asuna on a long journey to a long-lost land bound to surpass her very imagination, turning her once melodic life into an intricate requiem.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a fairly easy movie to watch as long as the viewer doesn’t delve too deeply, and it has a much lighter and more adventurous tone than Shinkai’s previous offerings. In addition to this, if one considers it an experiment with a new type of story then it doesn’t just become a reasonably entertaining feature, but also a glimpse into the mind of Makoto Shinkai, and that is a much more rewarding experience than the movie itself.
- Winner of the Platinum Grand Prize during the 2012 Future Film Festival, held in Italy
- The film’s English adaptation was broadcast on Adult Swim’s Toonami programming block in the United States on November 5, 2016
- Luke Halliday from Capsule Computers gave the film a perfect score, heralding the film as Shinkai’s finest
5. The Garden of Words (2013)
The Garden of Words is a short film depicting the romance and relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 27-year-old woman. Takao, the high school boy, feels lost and alienated by his uncertain future and passion for shoemaking. Concurrently, Yukino feels lost in an adult society where she feels she does not belong.
On a rainy morning in Tokyo, Takao Akizuki, an aspiring shoemaker, decides to skip class to sketch designs in a beautiful garden. This is where he meets Yukari Yukino, a beautiful yet mysterious woman, for the very first time. Offering to make her new shoes, Takao continues to meet with Yukari throughout the rainy season, and without even realizing it, the two are able to alleviate the worries hidden in their hearts just by being with each other. However, their personal struggles have not disappeared completely, and as the end of the rainy season approaches, their relationship will be put to the test.
The Garden of Words is a magnificent movie that adopts a more nuanced and authentic approach to exploring human relationships. As stated initially, this is not simply a bittersweet romance that many condemn it to be but a subtle journey into the solitude and desires humans hold, within a prominent and relevant modern-day social context.
- In 2013, The Garden of Words won the Kobe Theatrical Film Award, shared the Satoshi Kon Award for Achievement in Animation with Berserk: Ougon Jidaihen III – Kourin
- In 2014, the movie won the AniMovie Award for the best feature film
- It ranked highly on iTunes Store in 2013 and was selected as the Year’s Best Animation in iTunes’ Best of 2013
6. Your Name. (2013)
Your Name., revolves around Mitsuha and Taki’s actions, which begin to have a dramatic impact on each other’s lives, weaving them into a fabric held together by fate and circumstance.
Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high school girl, yearns to live the life of a boy in the bustling city of Tokyo—a dream that stands in stark contrast to her present life in the countryside. Meanwhile, in the city, Taki Tachibana lives a busy life as a high school student while juggling his part-time job and hopes for a future in architecture.
One day, Mitsuha awakens in a room that is not her own and suddenly finds herself living the dream life in Tokyo—but in Taki’s body! Elsewhere, Taki finds himself living Mitsuha’s life in the humble countryside. In pursuit of an answer to this strange phenomenon, they begin to search for one another.
Though some might be repelled or jaded by segments that feel like emotional manipulation – especially when considering Shinkai’s past filmography – Your Name., succeeds in delivering an engrossing experience, complete with magnificent set pieces, laughs, and heart-wrenching, gripping drama.
- Your Name., won the LAFCA Animation Award in 2016 and the Best Animated Film in 2017 by Mainichi Film Awards
- It also won the Grand Prize Award on the 20th Japan Media Arts Festival
- The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 98% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 116 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10
7. Weathering with You (2019)
While Your Name. felt like Makoto Shinkai proving himself to the world, Weathering with You feels like the author simply being himself– because it’s time for the world to get to know him. Weathering with You, in its essence, is an urban story.
Tokyo is currently experiencing rain showers that seem to disrupt the usual pace of everyone living there to no end. Amidst this seemingly eternal downpour arrives the runaway high school student Hodaka Morishima, who struggles to financially support himself—ending up with a job at a small-time publisher. At the same time, the orphaned Hina Amano also strives to find work to sustain herself and her younger brother.
Both fates intertwine when Hodaka attempts to rescue Hina from shady men, deciding to run away together. Subsequently, Hodaka discovers that Hina has a strange yet astounding power: the ability to call out the sun whenever she prays for it. With Tokyo’s unusual weather in mind, Hodaka sees the potential of this ability. He suggests that Hina should become a “sunshine girl”—someone who will clear the sky for people when they need it the most.
Should you watch it? Yes, absolutely. Bring your whole family, your new date, and your children along. It’s fantastically friendly for all situations and ages, and a complete film if you don’t mind the details. But if you really think about the film at a more in-depth level, you will be bugged by its many shortcomings.
- The film ranked #1 in its opening weekend and is currently the #7 highest-earning domestic film of all time in Japan and the highest-grossing film in Japan in 2019
- Weathering with You is also Japan’s submission for the Best International Feature Film category at the 92nd Academy Awards—the first anime that Japan has submitted in the category since Princess Mononoke in 1998
- It won the prize for Animation of the Year award at the 43rd annual Japan Academy Prize ceremony. It also won the Social Impact Award on the 23rd Japan Media Arts Festival
8. Suzume no Tojimari (2022)
Suzume no Tojimari is a soothing yet mysterious story. A young country girl is on an adventure of self-discovery, exploring urban cities of Japan for the first time to lock these so-called ‘doors’ – a journey that tests her bravery, love and willpower in order to achieve her goal.
Suzume, a 17-year-old girl who lives in a quiet town in Kyushu, encounters a travelling young man who tells her “I’m looking for a door.” She follows after him and discovers a weathered door in the ruins in the mountains as if it were the only thing left standing from a collapse. As if drawn by something, Suzume reaches for the door…Before long, doors begin to open one after another in various parts of Japan. As disasters come from the far side of the doors, the open doors must be closed.
The stars, the setting sun, and the morning sky—in that place she wandered into, there was a sky that seemingly blended all of the time together. Guided by the mysterious doors, Suzume’s “door-locking journey” begins.
If you liked the previous movies from Makoto Shinkai, then you’ll most likely like this one, it’s in my opinion his best work. He has perfected what his previous works couldn’t do.
- Crunchyroll, Sony Pictures, and Wild Bunch International have acquired the film’s global distribution rights
- A novel adaptation written by Shinkai was released on August 24, 2022, under the Kadokawa Bunko imprint
- A manga adaptation illustrated by Denki Amashima began serialization in Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine on October 25, 2022
Is the worldview of Makoto Shinkai’s works connected?
Since many characters from previous Makoto Shinkai films appear in the next film, it is often considered that the films are connected or that the world lines are the same.
For example, the movie Your Name. and Weathering with You has Tachibana Taki, the heroine of the previous film Your Name. The main character Tachibana Taki, the heroine Mitsuba, Mitsuba’s classmates and even her younger sister appear in Weathering with You.
In Weathering with You, Tachibana Taki’s grandmother Tomimi appears, and on Tomimi’s right hand is a bracelet with a braided cord. Director Makoto Shinkai said that this bracelet may have been made by Miho.
In this way, the characters who were not depicted in Your Name. In this way, we can see a little bit of what happened to the characters that were not depicted in Your Name.
However, there are often inconsistencies in the worldlines between the works, and if Weathering with You and Your Name. are connected, there is a possibility that Taki and Mitsuba cannot meet again at the Yotsuya staircase considering the timeline, and the weather in Tokyo in April 2022 is inconsistent.
Maybe they are connected, or maybe it is Makoto Shinkai’s sense of fun and service to his fans. The Shinkaiverse is infinite!
We can all agree that Makoto Shinkai is a top animator and film producer. From his early beginnings of creating a hit movie on his laptop to selling out movie theatres, Makoto Shinkai holds the status of the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) with the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka.
Shinkai’s works will tug at your heartstrings in ways other films won’t. His films are truly a spectacle and are enjoyed by all no matter their circumstances. With Shinkai’s easter eggs becoming more and more prevalent, it will be interesting to see previous characters make more appearances in his future films.
Be sure to keep checking back on our site for more great anime recommendations.