Makoto Shinkai, the Other Anime Master, Comes to AFS

The early works of Makoto Shinkai, the genius behind Your Name

5 Centimeters per Second (Courtesy of GKIDS)

The most important anime director working today is, without argument, Makoto Shinkai. Three of his films – Your Name, Weathering With You, and Suzume – stand in the list of the top 10 highest-grossing Japanese films of all time, a record only matched by Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. And, like Miyazaki, he's done this without depending on an existing megafranchise. But even before international success he was a prolific, critically acclaimed, and beloved director. Over the next month, AFS Cinema highlights three of his earlier works, each pivotal in the development of his astounding and deeply compassionate fantasies.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

Shinkai's feature debut, Kumo no Mukô, Yakusoku no Basho, owes a debt to technodramas like Appleseed and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Yet the director was prepared to make the story smaller and more intimate, even if the stakes were high. In an alternative timeline, one in which the Soviet Union has occupied the north of Japan, a mysterious tower that breaches the walls between dimensions is the shadow over the relationship between teens Hiroki and Sayuri, who must risk reality itself to be together.

Tue., June 6, 7:30pm
Sat., June 10, 2pm
Sun., June 11, 6pm

5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

That's the speed at which cherry blossoms fall, or so recent transfer student Akari tells Takaki in Byôsoku Go Senchimêtoru, a three-part romantic anthology that follows the young lovers across two decades. Drawn together as outsiders, their bond is always fractured, and in an hour Shinkai explores young love rendered impossible by miscommunication, awkwardness, and unlucky timing. Its central image – the sky split by a rocket – evokes the tower of Places, but with its own heartbreaking implications. Rarely has the pain of a pure heart broken been so accurately captured, in animation or live action.

Tue., June 13, 7:30pm
Sat., June 17, 2:30pm
Sun., June 18, 4:45pm

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

A turning point film for Shinkai, but one that also shows a path not taken. Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo is the closest the director has ever come to a Studio Ghibli-style anime, with a young girl exploring a fantastical world of mystical animals. It's reminiscent of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, both narratively and visually, but after this is when Shinkai truly finds his own style of the uncanny interwoven into our daily lives rather than siloed in parallel kingdoms. Yet its underlying theme of how we approach death and mourning is one he has revisited several times since.

Tue., June 20 & 27, 7:30pm
Thu., June 29, 8:15pm

The Early Works of Makoto Shinkai: June 6-29. AFS Cinema, 6259 Middle Fiskville.

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AFS Cinema, Makoto Shinkai, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, 5 Centimeters per Second, The Place Promised in Our Early Days

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