On heartbreak and everyday life: 4 films from Makoto Shinkai

Everyone’s pretty amped up for Makoto Shinkai’s latest film “Weathering With You.” It’s 100 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and Japan’s official Oscars entry. After 20 years of an anime dry spell in the Academy Awards, Shinkai’s film will be the one to end it. This is one of the few reasons why he’s been dubbed the next “Miyazaki.”

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But like all of us young creatives, he didn’t get accolades overnight. In this case, it all began with his animated shorts. 

We all love his scenic animated landscapes and moving tales of everyday life. We see it in his full-lengths like “Your Name” or the classic “5 Centimeters per Second.” But through his animated shorts, we see how he developed this skill to tell amazing slice-of-life tales. They’re sometimes otherworldly, sometimes heartbreaking, but always impactful.

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Here are some of Shinkai’s shorts you can watch online. Fair warning: some of them are tearjerkers, so try not to watch it in public, or in the office as I did.

“Other Worlds” (1998)

This is one of his earliest works we can find online. In this one-minute short, we can see his love for supercuts and simple moments in time. The short tells the story of a couple realizing their relationship is not for keeps. His focus on these seemingly unimportant moments makes its narration all the more painful. Although, it’s not his best animation, it’s nice to see where his storytelling roots started.

“She and Her Cat” (1999)

This simple five-minute animation jumpstarted Shinkai’s animator career. In this black-and-white short, we follow a relationship of a depressed young woman and her cat told from the cat’s perspective. It occurs over the span of the year, from their meeting to surviving winter together. Fair warning: it’s a tearjerker.

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“Voices of a Distant Star” (2002)

In this sci-fi short, two close childhood friends, a boy and a girl, get separated when the girl was recruited to fight space aliens. Their only means of communication was through text messages. When the girl turned 15 in space, her messages took longer to reach Earth. We follow their struggle to connect with each other as he receives messages from her over the years.

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“Someone’s Gaze” (2013)

Love for Shinkai is not cemented on romance. For him, love is more than that: it’s a bond between a pet and his caretaker, childhood friends, and in this short film, a family. This short explores a father and a daughter growing seemingly distant from one another, which changed when a death within the family brought them back together.

Still from Someone’s Gaze

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Rogin Losa
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