ANN Makoto Shinkai page

My average ranking: 6.38

Director Pantheon: Makoto Shinkai Rating
5 Centimeters Per Second (movie) Good

Although the plot is fairly straight-forward compared with Makoto Shinkai's earlier efforts, this is his best film to date, narrowly better than The Place Promised in Our Early Days or Voices of a Distant Star. It's not only that the character artwork is improving with the extra resources available to him, but the characters themselves are becoming more interesting as Shinkai's craft develops. At last, the female characters show signs of independent motivation. Both Akari, the object of Takoko's frustrated desire, and Kanae, the ignored woman, move on with their lives. Full marks to them for abandoning the morose and, ulitmately, pathetic Takoko. Shinkai is, still too often, self-consciously sentimental but there is just enough irony to keep things on the right side of the tracks. Highlight of the movie is Takako's train journey from hell. This sequence alone is worth the purchase price.
Ani-Kuri 15 (special) Decent

From an anthology of fifteen one minute segments shown on Japan's NHK network. Individual rating: Good. A Gathering of Cats, Makoto Shinkai's feline fantasy of revenge upon cloddish humans, may only be one minute long but it's possibly the bit of Shinkai I enjoy the most.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices (movie) Decent

On a technical level and in terms of creative ambition, Children Who Chase Lost Voices shows Makoto Shinkai continuing to develop his craft. The results, however, aren't always positive. He remains a master of the landscape or the domestic view, has created probably his best female character yet (though not without shortcomings), and given us his first adventure story, rather than a romance. Yet, beyond the beautiful backgrounds the film seemed mundane and, worse, lacked the emotional impact of his three previous films.

Extended review

(The) Garden of Words (movie) Excellent

After the worthy failure that was Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Makoto Shinkai has returned to his stock in trade and directed a more characteristic tale of unrequited love. Good thing too because this is his best effort yet along those lines, giving us visuals more stunning than ever before (especially they play of leaf upon water), and his best character designs yet. He keeps the sentimentalism to a minimum (by his standards), and creates one of the most tender sexual moments I've ever seen in an anime - when protagonist Takao finally touches Yukino's feet so he can measure them for the shoes he plans to give her. That's a new element for Shinkai, introducing a physicality not previously apparent in his works. I only hope he continues his explorations in that direction. His approach to more carnal scenes could be fascinating.

Another plus is that the film is only 46 minutes long. Short Shinkai is good Shinkai: he can be drearily self-indulgent at times. The Garden of Words is poignant, to the point and never overstays its welcome. Although, when we finally learn Yukino's actual profession and how it connects to Takao, the film's lyricism is suddenly replaced by a rather more everyday prose but all is forgiven when the two lovers finally embrace – another first for Shinkai. That said, he still can't give us a decent female character. As she herself admits, Yukino is "saved" by Takao. That's right. Once again the Shinkai woman is the object of the male's protection. He is developing his craft and pushing his boundaries but this is one boundary he really needs to crash through before his films can be genuinely counted as great.

Extended review

Other Worlds (movie) Weak

Although very rough it displays Shinkai's characteristic themes of longing and separation. It also demonstrates that his talent for creating highly expressive images of objects exceeds his animation ability - there's a very odd, wobbly train at one point.
(The) Place Promised in Our Early Days (movie) Good

Like She and Her Cat and Voices of a Distant Star, Makoto Shinkai has once again given us a self-conscious, overanxious, piteous female protagonist. The woman as victim, perhaps damaged by the male or perhaps to be saved by the male. Come on, give us a strong, independent female character who charts her own course. Miyazaki can do it. So could Satoshi Kon. The two main male characters are more interesting, even though it's hard to tell them apart at times. Thank goodness one of them wears glasses. Further evidence that Makoto Shinkai is not the best character artist in the business. They even walk oddly. In contrast, he's sensational with landscapes, skyscapes and, especially objects. He frames objects in ways that imbue them with significance way beyond their everyday worth. And the plot's not half bad. This was almost a great film.
She and Her Cat (OAV) So-so

Yes, it's kinda sweet and, as with Shinkai, the sense of place nicely mirrors the mental state of the cat's owner, but, it's just a five minute, low budget anime from someone learning their trade.
Voices of a Distant Star (OAV) Good

Being only 25 minutes long doesn't hurt Voices of a Distant Star. I would contend that Makoto Shinkai is an author with only one message - the pain of separation - so keeping it brief also keeps him disciplined. And the notion that interstellar distance equates to temporal distance is such a simple one that it's a wonder it hasn't already become an anime cliche. If the story is much more focussed than either of his two subsequent movies, it loses out through its less ambitious graphics and inferior character designs, especially when comparing it with 5 Centimetres Per Second.