As we eagerly await the release of Suzume no Tojimari, let’s look back at the rest of Makoto Shinkai’s work and rank them. While we already listed some must-watch films from the director, we’ve yet to actually rank them from worst to best.
This proved to be one difficult task; we had lots of trouble with the rankings, especially as all of his movies are worth seeing. But of course, only one work from Shinkai can be considered the best (so far at least). So after much thought, we finally have our definitive ranking of Makoto Shinkai’s films.
For the purposes of this ranking, we selected Shinkai’s six feature films along with his first OVA (given its significance in his filmography). We also omitted Shinkai’s short films such as Egao and Someone’s Gaze. So without further ado, let’s get on with the list:
7. Children Who Chase Lost Voices
A majority of Shinkai’s work feature fantasy or sci-fi elements, but it’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices which is the most fantastical. In fact, it’s described as the director’s most “Ghibli-like” work. While the fantasy setting is a joy to watch visually, and the film’s world was well thought-of, the film overall still falls flat at times. Children’s pace is fairly uneven, and it’s main “romance” is lacking in terms of development. Still, Children is still worth a watch for its great animation and poignant story.
6. The Place Promised in Our Early Days
The Place Promised in Our Early Days is Shinkai’s first feature-length film, but you’d be hard-pressed to figure this out given how polished the animation is. As with nearly every film of his, Place is stunning visually, but, you can’t say the same for it story. Place suffers from an unfocused plot that could’ve used a bit more editing. What it does better than Children, though, is its main romance — which develops more naturally. Couple this with its unique and interesting alternate history setting, The Place Promised in Our Early Days is still a commendable anime film.
5. The Garden of Words
For all intents and purposes, The Garden of Words is a fantastic film! It features a beautifully rendered setting of a rainy Shinjuku Gyoen, and has a moving tale with themes of loneliness and romance across generations. It’s no surprise then that The Garden of Words was a massive hit when it released back in 2013.
So why is it only his fifth best work? Well, it’s mostly because of its running time. At only 46 minutes long, Garden could’ve used at least 15 more minutes to better explore the budding relationship and loneliness that the two main characters go through. A longer running time would also help as the film’s climax felt a bit rushed. In spite of this, The Garden of Words is a stand-out in Shinkai’s filmography; it’s just that some of his other films are even better.
4. Voices of a Distant Star
Objectively, Voices of a Distant Star is the least “good-looking” of Shinkai’s major works but there’s a reason for that. Voices was written, directed, and produced solely by Shinkai himself on his Power Mac G4. The two characters are even voiced by Shinkai and his then girlfriend, Mika Shinohara.
Voices‘ fairly high ranking isn’t just because it was made entirely by Shinkai. Even at only 25 minutes long, this OVA managed to fully encapsulate Shinkai’s style — both in terms of visuals and themes of loneliness, isolation, and romance. How the director managed to make the film’s themes shine through in spite of the unique story which features mechas and intergalactic warfare is also laudable.
3. 5 Centimeters per Second
While only his third best (for us, at least), 5 Centimeters Per Second is easily Shinkai’s most hard-hitting work. Eschewing fantasy and sci-fi elements, 5 cm tells a realistic, heart-wrenching tale of love and loss. If you have yet to watch this film, we guarantee that tears will flow; doubly so if you recently went through a break-up.
Compared to almost all of his films, 5 cm has a more unusual structure, but Shinkai manages to make it work. Even if it’s a slow burn, 5 cm is perfectly paced, delivering heartbreaking emotions and gorgeous visuals in spades. Best of all, it’s hard to pinpoint anything wrong with the film without resorting to nitpicking. 5 cm would easily be Shinkai’s best work, if not for the release of his two latest movies.
2. Weathering With You
While 5 cm delivers a heavy dose of melancholy, Shinkai’s latest film has it all. Weathering With You brings laughs, tears, and a whole bunch of emotions. All of this on top of a layered story, lovable characters, and the best visuals of any Shinkai movie ever.
In many ways, Weathering is Shinkai’s most ambitious film, all while being an accessible watch for almost any viewer. Because of its ambition though, it does stumble a bit in some parts; specifically, we felt that the first two acts didn’t flow as well as we wanted. Overall, Weathering With You still deserves the #2 spot thanks to the strength of its theme, visuals, and characters.
1. Your Name
Shinkai’s 2016 mega-hit is most commercially successful, and for us, his best. Out of all his films, Your Name still stands out as having the best romance; how natural Taki and Mitsuha’s relationship developed just cannot be matched. The film also has the tightest story, taking an overused body-switching trope, and using it to deliver a romantic tale that’s just a joy to watch. Finally, Your Name’s animation is amazing in almost every aspect.
Sure, it might not be as hard-hitting as 5 cm or as unique as Weathering With You, but Your Name still stands as Shinkai’s most complete film. And while Shinkai himself said that “the film is not at all perfect,” we think Your Name comes pretty damn close to perfection.
Do you agree with our rankings? Tell us what you think on the comments below!