Makoto Shinkai is a director, writer, and voice actor in anime that is known for some of the best tragic love stories not named Clannad. He has helped produce film after film that captures your heart and because I love and admire his work, I have decided to do a string of reviews focusing on his best works. This is the first part of what I am calling, “The Makoto Shinkai Series.”
The first “film” I’m reviewing isn’t even a film. In fact, it’s a six minute short story. I wanted to start with this because I wanted to show that you can pour profoundness and a complete cycle of emotions into such a short amount of time… a feat that is very hard to do, yet, Makoto Shinkai does this flawlessly.
This is Dareka no Manazashi, also known by its English title, Someone to Watch Over Me.
You could figure that with it only being six minutes, there isn’t much of a story to Dareka no Manazashi, but there is. It is a slice of life story that looks to be taking a dark turn until a certain event happens that serves as an important reminder of what the priorities in your life should be.
Okamura Aya has moved out on her own after high school and her mother, who is a doctor, is away on an overseas assignment. This leaves her father and her cat alone in an apartment. There seems to be a rift between Aya-san and her father as he tries to reach out to her on numerous occasions, only to get the cold shoulder each and every time. They don’t really go into detail about what that rift is, though. Instead, it’s left up to the viewer for their own interpretation, but you can easily sense that there is an apparent awkwardness there.
This is where you think Dareka no Manazashi will turn into a dark slice-of-life story. You’re expecting them to unveil what caused the rift, but instead, Aya-san finally listens to a message her father sends her about Mio, who is their cat. Mio doesn’t have much time left so Aya-san rushes back home to be by her father’s side. There, they reminisce about the past and the fun they had with the cat. Mio ends up passing away and it was the cat’s death that taught the value of family to Aya-san and her father. Whatever differences they had between each other were now gone.
The overall message this short teaches us is that no matter how much life throws at you, there is nothing more important than family. One of the quotes from the movie is “An ounce of blood is worth more than a pound of friendship.” That quote serves as a nice symbol for what this short is all about.
Normally, I would go into the character section here with my review, but the characters themselves are not really fleshed out. It is almost impossible to do so in a six minute window. Calling the characters the daughter, the father, and the cat, is pretty much all you get from this movie. Sure they have names, but they don’t really tell of their full histories or give enough information to give them a proper biography. In fact, on MyAnimeList, Mio’s entire biography consists of three words: The family cat.
Art & Animation
Makoto Shinkai’s works are nothing short of jaw dropping and this is no exception. The artwork and scenery here are top notch and have a high budget movie atmosphere to it. The animation is fluid and makes you wish all anime on television had this kind of budget. Everything from the cityscape to the sky to the overall lighting of each scene is masterfully done. CoMix Wave Films is the company responsible for the artwork and animation and they did a superb job.
The characters are also well-drawn and even though there are only three major characters, they were portrayed as human as possible. They’re not going to stand out like a main character in a shounen anime, but they manage to accentuate the story through their expressions, their looks, and their attitude. Through all of that you get a feeling for their individual personalities which goes a long way with such a short time span.
This is one of those times that I really wish Dareka no Manazashi were longer. This could have been adapted into a full-length movie, but it seems that Makoto Shinkai is interested in producing shorts and commercial spots these days rather than full-length films. He’s kind of falling into the Hayao Miyazaki role of just producing one-off niche productions, but that’s not a bad thing. If they look as gorgeous as this, I’ll keep watching them!
While short, it was impactful. As I said earlier, it serves a profound reminder of what is important in life and where your priorities should lie. All of that was accomplished through a simple house pet and an unfortunate event that we will all one day experience. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but more or less a pleasant six minute humbling that I would recommend anyone to check out.
The next part in the Makoto Shinkai series will deal with The Garden of Words. Another short of Shinkai’s, but definitely longer than six minutes.
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Until next time,
Dareka no Manazashi
It serves a profound reminder of what is important in life and where your priorities should lie