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Suzume | Ending Explained

In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Suzume, we will explain the film’s ending.

Cast

  • Suzume Iwato – Nanoka Hara
  • Sōta Munakata – Hokuto Matsumura
  • Tamaki Iwato – Eri Fukatsu
  • Minoru Okabe – Shota Sometani
  • Rumi Ninomiya – Sairi Ito
  • Chika Amabe – Kotone Hanase
  • Tsubame Iwato – Kana Hanazawa
  • Hitsujirō Munakata – Matsumoto Hakuō II
  • Tomoya Serizawa – Ryūnosuke Kamiki
  • Daijin – Ann Yamane
  • Miki – Aimi
  • Young Suzume – Akari Miura
  • Makoto Shinkai – Writer and director

The end of Suzume explained

Recap

A girl stands at a door surrounded by water as the wind blows

After Sōta is turned into a keystone, Suzume visits Sōta’s grandfather at the hospital. The grandfather explains that Suzume had unknowingly entered the realm of the Ever-After before, given her ability to see the worm and the Ever-After through the doors. Desperate to save Sōta, despite the grandfather’s urging to go home and forget everything, Suzume forces the grandfather to reluctantly reveal that the doorway she entered as a child is the only path for reentering the Ever-After and saving Sōta.

Suzume then piles into a car with her aunt, Tamaki, and Sōta’s friend, to travel to her childhood hometown in Tōhoku, which was destroyed in the 2011 Great Earthquake. At a rest stop along the way, Suzume and Tamaki fight about Suzume’s rebellion and Tamaki’s inability to live her own life because she had to care for Suzume at a young age. Suzume then discovers that Tamaki is possessed by Sadaijin, the eastern keystone (Daijin is the western keystone). They make up and continue their journey.

Suzume finds the ruins of her old house where she lived with her mother before she died in the earthquake. With Sadaijin, Suzume enters the door Sōta’s grandfather told her about. She walks into the Ever-After, which manifest as her town following the earthquake. While Sadaijin distracts the worm, Suzume awakens Sōta, changing him from the chair to human form. Daijin once again becomes the western keystone. With the keystones in hand, Suzume and Sōta reseal the worm, preventing it from leaving the Ever-After and causing mass destruction.

Sōta then notices a child in the Ever-After—a child that turns out to be Suzume from 12 years ago. Suzume then knows what to do. With her childhood chair in hand, she confronts her younger self and tells her about her future. The younger version of herself then exits the Ever-After with the chair, which then allows Tamaki to find her.

Suzume and Sōta then leave the Ever-After. Sōta returns to Tokyo while Suzume and Tamaki return to Kyushu. After an unknown amount of time has passed—perhaps months, perhaps years—Suzume once again runs into Sōta while riding her bike to school.

Meaning

Makoto Shinkai’s relationship with natural disasters

A white cat sits on a boat

In order to understand the ending of Suzume, it’s important to understand how the Great Earthquake of 2011 reshaped Makoto Shinkai’s life and defined his journey as an artist. The natural disaster, also known as the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, was a catastrophic event that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. It was one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, and it triggered a devastating tsunami that caused widespread destruction and loss of life.

During Suzume‘s premiere at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival, Shinkai discussed in detail how the earthquake shaped his life and his journey as an artist. The event had a profound impact on him, as it did on many Japanese people. The disaster served as a reminder of the fragility of life and the power of nature, themes that are often present in Shinkai’s works.

For instance, Shinkai’s 2016 film Your Name contains elements that resonate with the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In the movie, a comet impact causes a devastating disaster, which the protagonists try to avert by changing the past. The idea of a community coming together to overcome a catastrophic event parallels the real-life response to the Tohoku Earthquake. Moreover, the themes of loss, separation, and the desire for connection found in Shinkai’s works, such as 5 Centimeters per Second and Weathering with You, could be seen as reflecting the emotional impact of the 2011 disaster on the Japanese psyche.

Essentially, when you view Shinkai’s filmography as a whole, you see a common theme of shared trauma between people and other people, between people and their land. The environments of his films reverberate with pain and loss, but also community and connection. All in all, Shinkai’s films form an emotional network that binds the present, past, and future as people collectively attempt to move past their mental suffering and find catharsis.

You can see how that struggle is recreated with Suzume, who is still dealing with the trauma of losing her mother years after. Suzume may be a well-adjusted girl who’s on a promising path, but the grief from which she suffers is palpable and undeniable. And whether she knows it or not, she won’t be ready to become her own woman, to forge a deeper connection with the world, to find true love until she addresses her past. Her memory of the day her mother died is hazy and hangs over her like a dark cloud. And until she travels into the Ever-After to confront her younger self, she can’t be ready to pave her own life’s path.

As we discussed in our explanation of Your Name, this underlying struggle is what makes Shinkai’s films so powerful. Understanding the ending of Suzume means understanding the relationship between Suzume and Sōta, between Suzume and Kyushu, between Suzume and every person she meets, between Suzume and her homeland of Japan.

The connection between Your Name and Suzume

Mitsuha and Taki finally meet and touch hands in Your Name

As an example, let’s look specifically at Your Name. The 2016 film tells the story of Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the rural town of Itomori, and Taki, a high school boy living in bustling Tokyo. The two characters mysteriously start switching bodies and, as they try to navigate each other’s lives, they form a deep emotional bond.

The depth of Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship is built upon the unique way they experience each other’s lives. Through the body-switching, they develop a profound understanding of one another, and they learn to appreciate the differences and similarities in their lifestyles, values, and environments. This connection transcends time and space, as they ultimately work together to save Mitsuha’s town from a catastrophic disaster.

The relationship between Mitsuha and Taki can be seen as a metaphor for the Japanese people’s connection with their land. Japan is a country of contrasts, where modern cities like Tokyo coexist with rural towns like Itomori. The film showcases these contrasts through the characters’ experiences, highlighting the beauty and challenges inherent in both urban and rural lifestyles. Mitsuha’s connection to her hometown and its traditions, such as the ritual of making kuchikamizake (a type of rice wine), reflects the deep cultural roots that many Japanese people have with their land. The film emphasizes the importance of preserving and valuing these traditions, as they provide a sense of identity and continuity.

At the same time, the film explores the idea of change and adaptation. Taki’s life in Tokyo represents the dynamic and fast-paced nature of urban life, which is attractive to Mitsuha, who yearns for something more than her quiet hometown. The film suggests that a balance can be struck between preserving tradition and embracing modernity. The connection between Mitsuha and Taki also serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of the Japanese people, despite the differences in their lifestyles and environments. The characters’ determination to save Itomori symbolizes the collective effort that is often necessary to overcome challenges, much like how Japan united in the aftermath of the 2011 Great Earthquake.

You can see similar parallels in Shinkai’s latest film. In Suzume, Suzume’s quest to prevent disasters from striking Japan coincides with her personal journey to overcome the trauma of losing her mother, with the struggle to become her own person in the wake of personal destruction. As we saw in the Ever-After, young Suzume was absolutely debilitated by the loss of her mother. And only a wisened Suzume who had gone on a cathartic journey could point her in the right direction. Which means the entire journey represents that journey for Suzume.

How people are bound by trauma

A girl screams as wind gushes past her

I love the moment where Tamaki confronts Suzume about stealing away years from her life, because this fight illuminates the movie’s core themes and speaks to much larger truths about humanity. While she is being possessed by Sadaijin, Tamaki is speaking words of truth in that moment, as well is Suzume. They are scarred by the loss of Suzume’s mother, of Tamaki’s sister. They grief has left them emotional bruised, and the scars persist years after. This is a moment that reveals how grief, pain, and trauma persists not only in the individual, but in the collective. When one person hurts, they transfer that hurt onto others in order to deal with their own pain. Tamaki isn’t necessarily expressing her own trauma, but expressing how Suzume perceives her trauma. Deep down, Suzume understands not only how her mother’s death affected the people around her, but also how her own grief affected those around her. After her mother died, Suzume was emotionally fragile and physically inept, which meant Tamaki had to make sacrifices to help her niece. On some level, Suzume recognizes this and feels guilty.

You can transfer that traumatic connection shared between Suzume and Tamaki to the rest of the characters in the film, to the rest of Japanese society. When disaster strikes, people die and people hurt. And those people are bound by their deaths, by their shared pain. The living must go on trying to live their lives, and the dead must forever exist in the ethereal plain that lies beyond—the Ever-After. Whether or not you believe in a Heaven, in any sort of Ever-After, you can’t deny that the spirit and presence of those we loved and lost loom over us all. They are an undeniable part of society, of our collective journey here on planet Earth. We are all collectively trying to march forward and figure life out. It’s grueling, it’s tough, and often times it’s unfair. But the only way to find fulfillment and make the most of our time on this Earth is to have compassion for each other and help each other through our darkest moments.

Suzume slowly makes this realization throughout the course of Suzume. She starts to care for those around her and their struggles. She’s desperate to save Sōta, she strives to mend the relationship with her aunt, and she even comes to understand and respect Daijin. But above all, she learns to care for herself. Suzume can’t properly cope from her grief and grow from the experience until she confronts herself and her trauma. This is why she visits her younger self in the Ever-After and presents the chair, to remind herself that while her mother’s mortal body may be gone, her spirit and energy will live on forever. Once Suzume makes this realization, she’ll be ready to go out into the world and help the millions of others who suffer from grief and loss. This is why we see a montage of people saying goodbye to their loved ones before the earthquake strikes—a montage that ends with Suzume saying goodbye to her own mother. In this moment, Suzume is bound to Japan and its people.

A man stands as win and shadowy figures bustle about him

This explains Sōta’s quote just before he and Suzume strike the keystones into the worm:

“Oh divine gods who dwell beneath this land. You have protected us, sheltered us for generations. Your mountains and rivers that we have long called our own—we claim them no longer, and respectfully return them to you. Life is a fleeting, fragile thing. We traverse it with death ever by our side. But we still fight with everything we have. We fight and we hope to live just one moment more. And so divine gods, please, I beg of you, allow us this chance.”

This quote reflects the greater connection Suzume comes to share with her people, with her country. Her journey of self-reflection and mental recovery coincides with a greater understanding of the world, of humanity. She intimately recognizes the trauma that reverberates across Japan as natural disasters unflinchingly steal the lives of those around her. It’s a painful confrontation—but one that must happen. Ultimately, the movie becomes a reflection of Shinkai’s own grief and struggle to deal with the Great Earthquake of 2011. That’s the power of art: it allows artists to deal with their pain, and allows others to forge connections with that pain and grow.

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