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Creator / Makoto Shinkai

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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.

In 2016, Shinkai's 6th film, Your Name, became the highest-grossing anime film of all time worldwide, as well as the second-highest grossing anime film in Japan (behind only Spirited Away) at the time.

Makoto Shinkai productions to date

Major Productions


  • 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:
    • Bosphorus Tunnel (2011)
    • Sri Lanka Highway (2013)
    • Vietnam Noi Bai Airport (2014)
    • Z-Kai: Cross Road (2014)
    • Thomson–East Coast MRT Line (2018)
    • New Yangon Specialist Hospital (2020)

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.
  • A Wizard Did It: Most of the time the supernatural elements in his movies are largely unexplained, often not at all, relying on the audiences suspending their disbelief.
  • 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.
  • Canon Welding: The films The Garden of Words, Your Name, and Weathering With You all exist in the same timeline. Yukari Yukino shows up as the English teacher at Itomori High School in Your Name while Taki, Mitsuha, Saya, Teshi, and Yotsuha have cameos in Weathering With You.
  • Central Theme: All his films are about distant romances.
    • His movies almost always deal with a theme of loss, though going into detail would lead to spoilers.
  • 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.
    • Extensive use of subtle Show, Don't Tell to convey information, some more vital than others, that serves as Rewatch Bonus.
    • Most of his movies feature some supernatural element that is only vaguely explained, if explained at all, instead relying on audiences to suspend their disbelief and accept the premise without thinking about it too much.
  • Depth of Field: His Creator Thumbprint is to closely emulate real camera tricks such as depth of field so he can create a sense of intimacy and nostalgia. It also makes his animes' visuals feel more grounded.
  • 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.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Likes using the NTT DoCoMo Yoyogi Building as a significant landmark of Shinjuku.
  • 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.
  • Food Porn: Like with the scenery, a lot of the food and food preparation in his films is depicted in lush, loving detail.
  • 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 voicing the female lead during the initial run, which was done by his then-future 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.
  • 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 stream of consciousness 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 featuring sci-fi or even Magic Realism elements 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. For years, Steven Foster was the go-to ADR director for the English dubs of all of his works, including Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second (original dub), Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and Garden of Words. In addition, all of these were recorded by either ADV or Sentai. Even after this, your name. and Weathering With You were both co-directed by Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh for NYAV Post. The only Shinkai dubs to use different ADR directors are the redub of 5CpS and Suzume, directed by Alex Von David and Bill Millsap respectively for Bang Zoom.
  • 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.
  • Self-Adaptation: He wrote novelizations to the movies he directed; 5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You.
  • 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.
  • What Could Have Been: Shows up frequently for his work
    • The Place Promised in Our Early Days
    • 5 Centimeters per Second
      • According to the preface to the novel, Shinkai wrote 10 draft short stories while in pre-production of this film and picked three for the final production. One of those rejected pieces, The Sky Outside the Window, is included both in the limited edition DVD in Japan and the novel.
      • He had briefly entertained the idea of giving Akari and Takaki a happy ending, but ultimately didn't, mainly because it would have wrapped the story up nicely like a fairy tale.
    • Your Name
      • Things had to be cut due to budget shortage, but details are scarce.
      • If the official music video for Sparkle is any indication, the ending could have instead been present day 17/18 year old Taki reuniting with a 20/21 year old Mitsuha. Age explanation .
      • RADWIMPS has indicated in various interviews that there were various tweaks to the soundtrack and songs that were cut from it.
      • According to this article, Mitsuha rather than Taki was originally supposed to be the one with an unrequited crush.
      • Initial concept sketches tweeted by Shinkai, also included in the special edition Blu-Rays, indicate that the original title was going to be Yume to Shiriseba or If I’d Known It Was a Dream. While some elements like the braided cord, city-country divide, comet, "Freaky Friday" Flip and lake were always there, Taki and Mitsuha's prototypes looked quite different, and the muted palette and presence of what might be a gun in proto-Taki's hands suggests it was going to have a darker tone than what we eventually got.
      • Shinkai stated in this tweet that Greg Egan's The Safe-Deposit Box was an inspiration and the earliest plot would have had the heroine in different bodies every time she woke.
    • Weathering With You
      • The exhibition first held at Matsuya Ginza in Tokyo from September 25 to October 7 2019, before traveling around Japan, revealed several ways in which the concept differed from what hit the big screen, and much of this information also made its way into the collector's edition materials:
      • The working title was going to be Tenki Yohou no Kimi, which can be translated as Your Weathering Report.
      • Suga was going to be bespectacled and also a weather forecasting AI researcher. He was also present in the concept key visual.
      • The weather girl was going to be called Hinata and have two sisters rather than the one brother.
      • As shown in the Making of feature, the skydive scene was originally set to "Is There Still Anything Love Can Do?"
    • Suzume
      • According to Shinkai, Suzume no Tojimari was initially pitched as a road trip centered around two women. However his producer, shot this down and persuaded him to retool the film into a romance in line with his precious films, citing that it was "too early" for there to be a theatrical anime film centered around what could have been seen as a sapphic romance in the Japanese market.
      • Shinkai himself felt he had done almost everything with romantic themes in his previous films and decided to downplay it by making the girl's companion a chair. Before settling on making a chair the companion, he toyed with idea of having a companion who turned into a monster or an inanimate object such as a milk carton.
  • 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 can’t draw anything with a sense of reality if it doesn’t come from a place I’m connected to with my own two feet."