Makoto Shinkai (born February 9, 1973), born Makoto Niitsu, is a Japanese animated movie director best known for creating productions possessing incredible artwork, each involving bittersweet plots about the distance between his romantic leads. After working at Falcom for five years and knowing composer Tenmon (who would later collaborate with him on many of his works), he left the company to independently create animated films, and has worked at the animation studio CoMix Wave Films (formerly the animation subdivision of CoMix Wave) since.
Shinkai is famous for drawing, producing, and even voicing Voices of a Distant Star himself and for the extreme success it had despite its humble creation. He has been referred to as "the new Miyazaki" by some, although he himself dislikes the nickname, citing it as an "overestimation" and asserting that their styles are quite different.
Makoto Shinkai productions to date
- She and Her Cat (1999, Short Film)
- Voices of a Distant Star (2002, Short Film)
- The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
- 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)
- Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
- The Garden of Words (2013)
- Your Name (2016)
- Weathering With You (2019)
- Other Worlds (1999, Short Film)
- Egao (2003, Music Video)
- A Gathering of Cats (2007, Short Film, a part of Ani*Kuri 15)
- Dareka no Manazashi (2013, Short Film, lit: Someone's Gaze)
- Animated openings for minori'snote visual novels Haru no Ashioto (2005), ef - a fairy tale of the two. (2006-2008), eden*: They were only two, on the planet. (2009) and Supipara (2011)
- Animated commercials made for different projects. Notable ones include:
- Z-Kai: Cross Road (2014)
Makoto Shinkai's works feature these elements:
- Art Evolution: His character artwork has become a lot cleaner and crisper over the years. Just compare those in Voices of a Distant Star to in Your Name. Having bigger budget and dedicated character designers in his later productions probably helped.
- Aspect Montage: Shinkai favours this scene setting technique over others, especially in The Place Promised In Our Early Days.
- Author Appeal: Trains are present in all of his works.
- Award-Bait Song: Voices Of A Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days apply these songs in their endings to great effect.
- Bittersweet Ending: These are prevalent in all of his works, with the exception of the novelizations, where the dénouement is explored in greater detail, and with Your Name.
- Central Theme: All his films are about distant romances.
- Creator Thumbprint: He has several marks that make his style distinct.
- Hyper-realistic yet at the same time surreally soft Scenery Porn. This is his most famous aspect and is very much the first thing people know about when hearing about him, being nigh-universally praised even amongst those who find the rest of his storytelling abilities wanting.
- The theme of human relationship. This theme is explored in all of his works, including the commercials.
- His obsession with trains. Trains are present in all of his works, sometimes playing major roles and other times just being there for the sake of being there.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: According to this interview, he was plagued with this throughout his student life, through early employment, and even after the release of The Place Promised In Our Early Days.
- False Camera Effects: As part of his Creator Thumbprint, his works tend to realistically simulate camera effects, including depth of field, Lens Flare and paying very close attention to lighting.
- I Will Wait for You: These elements are found in Voices Of A Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days, but subverted in Five Centimeters Per Second, where it contributes to the melancholy of the protagonist as the story reaches its end.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Shinkai himself is a real jack-of-all trades filmmaker. For Five Centimeters Per Second, he was responsible for writing, directing, storyboarding, directing the sound, animating, supervising and drawing the backgrounds, cinematographer, and editing. He also wrote the lyrics to the theme song to The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and as mentioned previously, did everything in the creation of Voices Of A Distant Star aside from voice the female lead during the initial run, which was provided by his wife.
- Lens Flare: Almost as much as Michael Bay or J. J. Abrams do it, to absolutely gorgeous effect.
- Lonely Piano Piece: Befitting his stories' focus on human relationships, beautiful yet lonely piano pieces appear in all of his movies.
- Long-Distance Relationship: Be it literal or figurative, the distance between people is one of the consistent themes explored in his films, even if the message doesn't stay consistent across works. Interestingly, this originally was not deliberate.
- She and Her Cat: People form and break relationships of an emotional nature, even with cats.
- Voices of a Distant Star: With endurance and time, people can be connected across even lightyears of physical distance.
- The Place Promised in Our Early Days: Time may pass and things may change, but the promises that formed our relationships will endure.
- 5 Centimeters per Second: Reality is relentless. People can be forced apart no matter how close they were. We will move on.
- Children Who Chase Lost Voices: Life and death is the longest distance between you and me.
- The Garden of Words: People are lonely. We have an emotional need for others, in spite of the social distances that separate us.
- Your Name: All of us are connected to each other, even if we do not remember so.
- Long Title: Most of the productions have rather long titles. In particular, Five Centimeters Per Second's proper title is 5 Centimeters Per Second: A Chain Of Short Stories About Their Distance. And Children Who Chase Lost Voices is only part of the Gratuitous English subtitle of Hoshi o Ou Kodomo: Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (the first part means "Children Who Chase Stars").
- Minimalism: The style of his early works (before Children Who Chase Lost Voices) is very minimalist, focusing heavily on the environment and the associated emotions instead of the plot, as if he is translating a prose into a visual form. These ones also often feature a Minimalist Cast with almost zero side characters.
- Mundane Fantastic: One interesting thing about Makoto Shinkai's stories is that they often blend together highly fantastic stories with down-to-earth emotions. She and Her Cat, 5 Centimeters per Second, and The Garden of Words are his only movies without anything supernatural.
- One-Man Army: Shinkai did everything save the music and the female lead's voice in Voices Of A Distant Star. In his subsequent works, he has had a production team helping him.
- Production Posse: Sort of. The English dubs for almost all of his works were directed by Steven Foster at ADV Films. 5 Centimeters Per Second got a second dub from Bang Zoom directed by Alex von David, and your name. went to NYAV Post instead, with Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh co-directing.
- Scenery Porn: This is a given in his works — consider that his art has a tendency to make Real Life appear dreary and low-resolution. In particular, the art in Five Centimeters Per Second surpasses those of his previous works: see the Scenery Porn trope image.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: A major theme of his works where two people are separated by long distance, be it physical space, age gap, time or death.
- Write What You Know: In this interview, he expresses the opinion that he's best at creating based on his own experiences. Or in his own (translated) words:"I cant draw anything with a sense of reality if it doesnt come from a place Im connected to with my own two feet."