Home Makoto Shinkai: Suzume Originally Intended As a Lesbian Romance

Makoto Shinkai: Suzume Originally Intended As a Lesbian Romance

Japanese filmmaker and director Makoto Shinkai confirmed in an exclusive interview with Looper that his recent anime film Suzume was originally intended to be a romantic tale between two women. This was changed after the producers said that one of the romantic leads must be a man.

In the interview, Shinkai said that he originally intended to go with the lesbian romance because he was tired of the traditional romance tropes between a man and a woman. He also points out that such a traditional romance element is the reason why these movies click with the audiences, just like Your Name did.

Why I even wanted to go in that direction in the first place was because I personally felt a little bit tired of telling the very traditional romance story. I felt that in “Your Name,” I [did] everything that I possibly could in terms of “boy meets girl” and “will they, won’t they, will they meet.” That element of romance is very relatable to the masses, which is why it was a subject matter that resonated with a large audience. 

Suzume – Official Trailer

The change from a supposed lesbian romantic tale to a traditional boy-meets-girl is the reason why Makoto Shinkai decided to make the male love interest in Suzume a chair. For him, this helped the story veer away from the typical romance movie.

Personally, because I’ve done that so many times, I pivoted. I wanted to pivot to a more sisterhood type of romantic story, but I had to change that because my producer said, “You may be tired of these romantic stories, but your audience loves it.” So in order to not make it too much of a romance, I decided to make her primary interest a chair.

“Suzume” by Makoto Shinkai – Key Visual

Shinkai said that this movie focuses on Suzume and that it would also work regardless of her gender.

In terms of the LGBTQ commentary, it’s not something that I’m actively trying to write or not write or [is] a conscious decision. But with this film, Suzume as the main character, it works. But I think it would also work had she been a boy or had she been non-binary. It’s not necessarily the context of male/female; it’s about a human overcoming something. In my future films as well, I want to focus on that human story as opposed to too much commentary on gender or sex.

Critics have previously pointed out that Shinkai’s 2016 film Your Name can be seen as a gender-positive movie as it features a gender swap. But the director pointed out in a 2016 interview with Complex that while it is an interesting opinion, he hasn’t thought deeply about it. He also added that the gender swap trope has been fairly common in Japanese media.

When I was making the film, I didn’t really want to make this a gender issue at all. The body swap is a quite common theme in Japanese cinema and books. There’s a movie called New Students from the 1980s, and its pretty much {the same as} this — boy becomes the girl, girl becomes the boy — and it was comedy about the social roles. But I don’t think it would work now. What I wanted to say was yeah the boy might be a little bit girly, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And vice versa. So no, it’s not about a gender issue.

Makoto Shinkai (via Complex)

The movie, known by its full name Suzume no Tojimari, was first announced in December 2021. A visual and a teaser trailer were announced in April 2022. The film then premiered in Japan on November 11, 2022. Masayoshi Tanaka did the character designs, with Takumi Tanji was the art director. CoMix Wave Films animated the film. The movie is currently showing internationally.

Suzume (Suzume no Tojimari) plot is described as:
17-year-old Suzume’s journey begins in a quiet town in Kyushu when she encounters a young man who tells her, “I’m looking for a door.” What Suzume finds is a single weathered door standing upright in the midst of ruins as though it was shielded from whatever catastrophe struck. Seemingly drawn by its power, Suzume reaches for the knob…
Doors begin to open one after another all across Japan, unleashing destruction upon any who are near. Souta is known as a “Closer” who travels across Japan locking these doors shut.
As the door opens, however, the mysterious white cat nicknamed “AristoCat” appears before them. “I love Suzume, but you [Souta] are in the way” as it uttered those words, Souta becomes Suzume’s childhood chair, she has cherished since she was little.
Souta chases the cat as a 3-legged chair, and Suzume sprints after Souta in a panic. Eventually, they will travel together from Kyushu to Shikoku, Kansai and Tokyo on their journey to close doors.
On her travels, Suzume encounters several people who help her as she helps them. But what awaited her at the end of her journey was a certain truth that has been long forgotten.

Guided by these mysterious doors, Suzume’s journey is about to begin.

Source: Looper
©Suzume no Tojimari Production Committee

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