With the recent release of Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no Na ha (Your Name), his exposure in America is slowly coming to light. Taking the top spot for highest grossing Anime film from Miyazaki’s Spirited away, the spotlights finally shine on the genius Makoto Shinkai.
Shinkai’s first piece, Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Bashou (The Place Promised in Our Early Days), debuted in 2004. Ever since then Shinkai has continued to improve and received accolades accordingly. Truly breaking out with Byousoku Go Centimeter (5 Centimeters Per Second), everyone seemed to know that he was something special. Not quite yet comparable to Miyazaki but well on his way.
If you have seen a Shinkai film, it is unmistakable as to what he delivers in comparison to others. The breathtaking scenery with a focus on details that the naked eye might miss. Being able to take the simplistic and turn it into picture-perfect settings has become the Shinkai trademark. In some respects, it feels as though Miyazaki and Shinkai stand at polar opposites when it comes to production. While Miyazaki is recognized for his characters and story, Shinkai has taken the artwork route as his claim to fame.
Is Shinkai the next Miyazaki?
With the onset of the Shinkai wave already upon us, will Makoto Shinkai take the role of the next great anime film producer? To some extent he already is, but where Miyazaki had shown is what Shinkai currently lacks. To date, Makoto Shinkai has produced either Slice of Life or Romance based films, limiting his current repertoire. While it has aided him in drawing lifelike images due to extensive research of said areas, it makes the most memorable thing about the movies its realism. Maybe that is why his storytelling avoids fantasy to focus on the relatable. Miyazaki, on the other hand, was heralded for his storytelling in combination with characters. This was only personified further with an animation style fitting the times.
It seems almost fitting since Miyazaki will eventually retire even though his actions seem to say different. Shinkai, now 44 years old, still has many more years before retirement and we can expect more masterpieces to emerge. With the modern appeal that Makoto Shinkai has produced, it begs the question if his stories will always reflect his realistic animation values. Will he continue to write on more relatable topics set in the overused high school setting or take a risk and create outside of his comfort zone? Either way, it seems that Shinkai has set the table to become the modern Hayao Miyazaki for the anime industry.