To journey out of nostalgia and amnesia, we need to pay attention to God’s presence in our present.
There’s something irresistible about viewing an empty, abandoned building on the big screen. The camera often pans slowly from left to right or zooms in menacingly while we watch with bated breath, unable to tear our eyes away as a sense of impending doom grows.
I felt this visual tension viscerally while watching Suzume no Tojimari (literally “Suzume’s Locking Up”), the fourth-highest-grossing anime film of all time, even before its North American release on April 14. Written and directed by Japanese auteur Makoto Shinkai (of the award-winning 2016 film Your Name), Suzume is a coming-of-age movie where deserted places like a hot spring, an amusement park, and a school become breeding grounds for end-of-the-world-type … stuff (spoilers ahead).
In some ways, the apocalypse has already arrived for the film’s protagonist, 17-year-old high-schooler Suzume (voiced by Nichole Sakura in English). She lost her mother in the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which killed 20,000 people and activated the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown.
On her way to school one day, she encounters Souta (Josh Keaton), a traveler on a mission who is mysteriously turned into a three-legged chair. The duo traipse across Japan locking otherworldly doors popping up in various abandoned places in a bid to prevent a ghastly wormlike creature from wreaking destruction.
Reviewers have praised Suzume as a unique story of hope amid grief and loss. While I agree with their assessment, what enthralls me most about the film is in how it probes Japan’s collective experience of nostalgia and amnesia—a desire for what once was and could have been, alongside a creeping erosion of treasured memories …