The Complete Guide to Makoto Shinkai's Best Movies

One of the most critically acclaimed anime directors of all time, Makoto Shinkai made his name known around the world with the blockbuster hit Your Name, released in 2016. Three years later, his follow-up film, Weathering With You, also captured the hearts of many anime fans. However, Shinkai has been writing and directing long before Your Name and he has many amazing films that a lot of people haven’t heard of. This complete guide to Makoto Shinkai’s movies will only include the films which he has both written and directed.

 

Apart from these titles, he has also directed films written by other writers, as well as worked on a few video games and commercials. The films below are listed in order of release date.

 

Important Note: When buying anime DVDs online, please be sure to research region information and language options to make sure you are able to play these films on your country’s devices and in your desired language.

 

The Complete List of Makoto Shinkai's Movies


INDEX

 


She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points (1999)

She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points

If you fancy yourself a crazy cat person, or just a regular cat person, then this Makoto Shinkai anime movie should be on your watch list. Just under five minutes long, this short film was one of Shinkai’s earliest works and the first film he wrote, directed, and released for public viewing. She and Her Cat is a simple story about a cat who is in love with his owner. It is a short and sweet film told from the cat’s perspective.

Interestingly, at Anime Expo 2013, Shinkai told fans that he’d written the film for a girl that he once loved and was seeing at the time. She was going through some rough days and he created the film to encourage her.

She and Her Cat: Everything Flows

Despite being a short five-minute film, it was widely praised and has even spawned a manga adaptation and a four-episode anime series titled She and Her Cat: Everything Flows (which was not written by Shinkai).

 

Japanese Title Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko
Genres Drama
Audience Cat lovers. People looking for more artistic, non-mainstream work
Available Never released on DVD or Blu-ray

 

Voices of a Distant Star (2002)

Voices of a Distant Star

Perhaps one of the biggest hidden gems of his career, Voices of a Distant Star is one of the best Makoto Shinkai movies. If I had to describe the film in one sentence, I’d say it is 5 Centimeters Per Second, but set in outer space. Since it is one of Shinkai’s earlier films, the art style has definitely aged a bit, especially the 3D graphics and battle scenes. However, there are some timeless beautiful images of the sky and space, which are very important plot devices of the film.

Voices of a Distant Star is about two junior high school students, Mikako and Nogoro, who like each other but, haven’t had the courage to say it out loud. In this world, humans have advanced enough to live on Mars, but were attacked by an alien race called the Tarsians. Humanity is forced to pursue and defeat the Tarsians, and Mikako is chosen as a member of the UN Space Army. In space, Mikako pilots a Gundam-like mech suit to fight the Tarsians. Amidst interstellar travel and space-opera battle scenes, Shinkai still manages to keep the story about a lonely girl at the edge of the solar system who just wishes her words will reach the boy she loves.

The film is just under 30 minutes long and it is amazing how much beauty, story, and emotion Shinkai is able to create within such a short runtime.

 

Japanese Title Hoshi no Koe
Genres Action, Mecha, Romance, Sci-Fi,
Audience People who like 5 CM Per Second or sad romance anime
Available Buy Now

 

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

The Place Promised in Our Early Days

Since The Placed Promised in Our Early Days is one of Shinkai’s earliest films, it is definitely a bit rough around the edges. However, it has a great sci-fi storyline, beautiful soundtrack, and mesmerizing visuals.

The Place Promised in Our Early Days is set in an alternative universe where Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido is occupied by the Soviet Union. The Union has erected a large mysterious tower in Hokkaido and has not explained its true purpose. The rest of Japan has an alliance with the United States. The film follows two junior high school boys, Hiroki and Takuya, in their pursuit to build a small airplane to visit the tower. The two boys both seem to have a crush on the same girl, Sayuri, which leads them to some minor conflicts.

 


In the background, things aren’t what they seem. Civil unrest threatens to break out into a war between North and South Japan. With a deep and somewhat complicated sci-fi story involving quantum physics and parallel worlds, the story was told a bit too quickly, even with its 90-minute runtime. Despite being a huge sci-fi fan, I had to replay certain scenes to catch what was going on. There is also a bit of an overreliance on title frames to shift between locations and time periods.

With that said, the film has its strong points and there is definitely more good than bad. You’ll see strong parallels to the romance between Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name, and there are certain scenes in The Place Promised in Our Early Days that inspired scenes in Your Name. Furthermore, Shinkai’s attention to detail is impeccable. There is a part in the film where Takuya and Hiroki get into a serious fight and Takuya hits Hiroki out of anger. Takuya expresses disgust for Hiroki and leaves, wanting nothing more to do with him.

Takuya (left), Hiroki (right)

However, if you catch that 0.5 second glimpse of Takuya’s facial expression, you’ll see that he is emotionally distraught and feels bad about how he left things. These small details are what separate the good anime writers from the exceptional ones.

 

Japanese Title Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho
Genres Alternative History, Romance, Sci-Fi
Audience People looking for non-mainstream anime and those who like sci-fi 
Available Buy Now

 

5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

5 Centimeters Per Second

“Did you know that Cherry Blossoms fall at a speed of five centimeters per second?”

 

It has often been said that Makoto Shinkai has a “one that got away” problem and this amazing, yet heartbreaking film, is a large reason for that rumour. 5 Centimeters Per Second is about a young boy named Takaki who befriends the shy new girl in the class named Akari. Sharing a common interest in novels, the two hit it off and become close friends. Unfortunately, due to their parents’ jobs the two find themselves being pulled apart. The anime is set in a time before smartphones and emails, a time where keeping in touch wasn’t that easy. Takaki and Akari find themselves longing for each other, yet drifting apart in a battle against distance and time.

The anime film is told in four parts and follows Takaki from elementary school all the way into adulthood. For those looking for a more realistic romance anime,  5 Centimeters Per Second is almost painfully realistic. The film keeps you aching for a happy ending that always seems just a little out of reach.

 

Japanese Title Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru
Genres Drama, Romance
Audience Those who want a more mature romance story
Available Buy Now

 

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

Children Who Chase Lost Voices

When you look at the entirety of Shinkai’s work, Children Who Chase Lost Voices seems to come out of nowhere. The film is very different from all his other works in terms of story, genre, and themes. In a way, the film is similar to numerous Studio Ghibli films, in its orthodox narrative arc and fantasy story elements. In fact, past critics and reviewers have even said that Children Who Chase Lost Voices is Shinkai trying to emulate Miyazaki.

On the contrary, I don’t believe Shinkai was trying to copy Miyazaki in any way, and he was able to create a solid fantasy anime film in its own right.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices is about a young girl who is swept up into a mysterious parallel world called Agartha. She travels to this world with her teacher, who believes Agartha has the power to bring back his dead wife. The film has a  more mature fantasy story, with themes about death and letting go of loved ones.

 

Japanese Title Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo
Genres Adventure, Coming-of-age, Drama, Fantasy
Audience Those who enjoy fantasy stories about parallel worlds
Available Buy Now

 

Someone’s Gaze (2013)

Someone’s Gaze

Someone’s Gaze is a short seven-minute anime film that was released alongside Shinkai’s Garden of Words. It is a small film with a strong emotional impact, especially amongst older audiences. Someone’s Gaze is set in the near future and is about Aya, a woman in her twenties who lives alone and is experiencing what it’s like to support yourself and live away from your family.

The film is told through the perspective of the family’s cat named Mii. Since the film is so short, I don’t want to give away too much of the story. However, it is about familial bonds and how families change over time. The beauty of the art and the masterful pacing of the story led to a beautiful film despite its short runtime. The ability to elicit such strong emotions in just seven minutes is a huge feat. Someone’s Gaze remains the shortest film to ever make me cry.

 

Japanese Title Dareka no Manazashi
Genres Drama, Coming of age
Audience Audiences over 20 and those who enjoy a good tear-jerker
Available Never released on DVD or Blu-ray

 

Garden of Words (2013)

Garden of Words

By far one of Makoto Shinkai’s most visually breathtaking movies, Garden of Words is a true work of art, with hyper-realistic depictions of rain and nature. However, unlike his two most recent blockbuster hits, Weathering With You and Your Name, Garden of Words is far from mainstream. It is a slower-paced film with a more subtle storyline.

The anime is about the relationship between a troubled high school teacher and a male student who dreams of becoming a shoemaker. The two meet by chance in a garden, while both are skipping school due to personal reasons. Garden of Words is a tale of love and companionship that most people probably won’t connect with immediately. However, I really applaud Shinkai for trying to illustrate a form of love that differs from the young love and happily-ever-after relationships found in Your Name and Weathering With You.

The film has a beautiful and soothing soundtrack, and even if you are not sold on the story's plotline, anime fans should watch this film just to witness the amazing visuals they were able to produce.

 

Japanese Title Kotonoha no Niwa
Genres Drama, Romance
Audience

Those who enjoy stories about forbidden love, those looking for a more mature romance anime.

Available Buy Now

 

Your Name (2016)

Your Name

Perhaps the one title on this list that needs no introduction, Your Name is the box office hit that made Shinkai known to both hardcore and casual anime fans all over the world. It made headlines in entertainment blogs around the world as the highest-grossing anime film of all time, knocking Miyazaki’s Spirited Away down to 2nd place.

Your Name is about two high school students, Mitsuha and Taki, who find themselves unexplainably switching bodies when they sleep. At first, the two of them can’t stand one another and feel that they are ruining each other’s lives. However, by living in the other’s shoes the two form an unbreakable bond that transcends the distance and time between them. Featuring amazing music by the Japanese pop-rock band Radwimps, Your Name has a breathtaking soundtrack, beautiful art, and a mesmerizing story. If you still haven’t watched Your Name, stop what you’re doing and watch it immediately.

 

Japanese Title Kimi No Na Wa
Genres Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Audience Those who like time travel or body switching stories
Available Buy Now

 

Weathering With You (2019)

Weathering With You

Since Your Name made Shinkai known around the world, many people were highly anticipating the release of his follow-up film. With all the hype around Weathering With You, fans and critics were quick to compare the film with Your Name. While Weathering With You did not surpass Your Name in box office numbers, it did manage to make it to number five in the list of highest-grossing anime of all time and is without a doubt one of the best Makoto Shinkai movies out there.

Weathering With You is a beautiful story about a boy named Hodaka, who runs away from home. He meets a girl named Hina who has the power to control the weather. The two work together as business partners to create a website selling Hina’s power to strangers. People who have a wedding, field trip, or important events all line up to pay for her services. However, the two quickly learn that controlling the weather has some serious consequences.

Shinkai’s films often feature beautiful imagery of the sky, natural light, and clouds. Weathering With You is the pinnacle of that imagery. Furthermore, those who loved the soundtrack of Your Name created by Radwimps, will be pleased to know that Shinkai collaborated with the band again for this film. The music is truly beautiful; the cinematography is perfect, and the story just may bring a tear to your eye.

 

Japanese Title Tenki No Ko
Genres Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Audience Those who enjoy magical realism and stories with deep allegories
Available Buy Now

We hope you enjoyed our guide to all of the movies Makoto Shinkai has both written and directed. What’s your favorite Shinkai film? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Please Note: Some of the titles listed above may not be available to buy in your country. If that is the case, you can use ZenMarket’s online shopping service to have Anime from Japan, or other Japanese goods for that matter, shipped from Japan to your doorstep!

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Article| 27/05/2020 | Animeblog