Products featured in this Yahoo article are selected by our shopping writers. We will earn a commission from purchases made via links in this article. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Suzume, Your Name and the rise of Makoto Shinkai

The filmmaker is a prolific voice in the world of anime

Suzume, Makoto Shinkai's new film, is available to stream on Crunchyroll. (Alamy)
Suzume, Makoto Shinkai's new film, is available to stream on Crunchyroll. (Alamy)

Suzume is now available to stream on Crunchyroll, making Makoto Shinkai's moving epic widely available to anime fans around the globe.

The filmmaker is one of the most prolific voices in the animation industry and is often called the "new Hayao Miyazaki" because of his success — though the two are very different.

Since making his debut in the movie industry in 1998, Shinkai has continued to evolve as both a storyteller and animator so that his work has garnered critical acclaim around the world.

But how did he begin and why are his films so impactful? We take a look at all you need to know.

Makoto Shinkai's origins and his early days in film

5 Centimeters Per Second Byosoku 5 senchimetoru Year : 2007 Japan Director : Makoto Shinkai Animation
Shinkai began his career in the gaming industry, first coming to prominence with films like 5 Centimeters Per Second (Alamy)

Shinkai first began his career in the gaming industry, he worked as a video game animator for several years which helped hone his skills in creating stunning background art and visuals — something that continues to be notable in his movies.

Read more: What to watch on Crunchyroll: The best anime to watch as streamer lands on Prime Video

After five years working on video games, Shinkai began to takes steps towards becoming a director by making short films, the most notable of which is his 1999 short She and Her Cat which has since been adapted into a manga and a novella in recent years.

Following She and Her Cat, Shinkai became a rising star with his 2002 short film Voices From a Distant Star which he wrote, produced, directed and animated. It tells the story of childhood friends, a boy and girl, who become separated when one is sent to space to fight aliens.

BANGKOK, THAILAND - 2023/04/11: Director Makoto Shinkai seen during the event. Japanese director, Makoto Shinkai visited Thailand to attend the premiere of his animation movie
Makoto Shinkai made films like The Place Promised in Our Early Days and The Garden of Words in his early days (Getty Images)

The movie led to the director making his feature film debut in 2004 with The Place Promised in Our Early Days, a sci-fi film set in an alternate universe where the Soviet Union occupies half of Japan and the impact it has on the friendship between two childhood friends.

Shinkai continued to explore the idea of lost love and loneliness in his follow-up 5 Centimetres Per Second in 2007, which follows teen Takaki Tōno and the relationships he shares over the course of his life.

The director continued to perfect his craft in 2011 drama Children Who Chase Lost Voices and his 2013 film The Garden of Words, the latter of which saw the filmmaker focus on making films with romantic themes though they often featured star-crossed lovers or doomed romances.

That is, until his breakout hit Your Name.

Your Name and global success

Your Name Kimi no na wa Year : 2016 Japan Director : Makoto Shinkai Animation
The director came to global attention with Your Name (CoMix Wave Films)

Shinkai shot to global stardom with his fifth feature film Your Name, which was released in 2016 and followed a teen boy and girl who wake up one day to find they have swapped bodies with one another.

The charming characters, stunning animation and its moving narrative that dipped into elements of the sci-fi tropes helped give the film a universal appeal, and led to the film becoming the third highest-grossing Japanese film of all time.

Read more: The highest-grossing anime films of all time

Your Name marked the director's first collaboration with producer Genki Kawamura, who has gone on to work with the filmmaker on all of his films since, and who Shinkai has credited for helping him improve his storytelling and narrative structure to make them appeal to a wider audience.

Your Name Kimi no na wa Year : 2016 Japan Director : Makoto Shinkai Animation
Your Name was a global hit, becoming the third highest-grossing Japanese film of all time (CoMix Wave Films)

The film put Shinkai well and truly on the map and drew audience's attention to his unique voice in the industry as well as the stylish animation that he and animators at his company CoMix Wave Films were capable of creating.

Your Name was so beloved it has since led to an English live-action adaptation to go into production, with JJ Abrams and Shadow and Bone showrunner Eric Heisserer attached to produce and write the new version.

The 'new Miyazaki'

SUZUME SUZUME NO TOJIMARI 2022 de Makoto Shinkai Prod DB © Toho Company - Aniplex - CoMix Wave Films - East Japan Marketing & Communications Inc. - Ka
The director's latest film is Suzume, which also was a hit in cinemas (CoMix Wave Films)

Subscribe to Crunchyroll

Off the back of Shinkai's global success came inevitable comparisons between him and Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli whose work includes classics like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.

As titans of the industry it seemed reasonable to link the two, or at least for critics to call Shinkai the "new Miyazaki", but in reality their work is quite different to each other even if they sometimes explore similar themes in their work.

Where Miyazaki often focuses on stories highlighting the horrors of war and environmentalism through the fantastical, Shinkai prefers intimate narratives that, more often than not, have some element of romance to them.

WEATHERING WITH YOU (2019) -Original title: TENKI NO KO-, directed by MAKOTO SHINKAI. Credit: COMIX WAVE FILMS / Album
Your Name, his 2019 follow-up Weathering With You (pictured) and Suzume act as a trilogy of sorts for Shinkai (CoMix Wave Films)

That is not to say he doesn't examine bigger issues in his films, though. Your Name, his 2019 follow-up Weathering With You and Suzume act as a trilogy of sorts as they provided an outlet for the filmmaker to examine his feelings over the impact natural disasters have had on him, and Japan itself.

Read more: The best anime to live-action adaptations ranked

Suzume, for example, follows a young girl as she travels around Japan closing portals that have opened up in abandoned locations because they will bring untold disaster if not shut — the story is inspired by the events of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake that led to the deaths of almost 20,000 people.

SUZUME (2022) -Original title: SUZUME NO TOJIMARI-, directed by MAKOTO SHINKAI. Credit: COMIX WAVE FILMS / Album
Suzume follows a girl who goes around Japan closing portals that, if not shut, will cause untold disaster (CoMix Wave Films)

Your Name and Weathering With You also touches on the impact of natural disasters within a larger romantic plot.

The term "new Miyazaki" is often attributed to those in the anime industry whose work has gained critical acclaim from a wider audience, and is no doubt meant as a compliment, or at least as a means to give people who are less familiar with anime a recognisable comparison.

Shinkai, of course, is his own filmmaker whose work stands on its own merit without needing to be likened to the films of Miyazaki.

There can be only one Miyazaki, just like there can only be one Shinkai.

Suzume is available to stream on Crunchyroll now.

Watch the trailer for Suzume: