Makoto Shinkai is a director that in his short time in anime has captured a generation and this particular anime fan’s heart. Often heralded as the next Hayao Miyazaki, Shinkai pushes the praise aside and focuses on creating gorgeous scenery containing earnest, relatable, and often heartbreaking character pieces. Dareka no Manazashi is his second shortest piece yet, clocking in at just less than eight minutes. But don’t be discouraged, in those scant eight minutes Shinkai tells a tale that’s utterly enrapturing and instantly significant.
Set in a ‘near future’ stylized version of Japan, Aya Okamura reminisces about her youth, her family, and how she’s gotten to where she is in life. As she weeps on her bed, looking back, she receives a call from her father who’s longing for any sort of companionship as his wife is away on business, and Aya’s moved out for her job. Making it worse for her father, Aya’s childhood cat has gotten on in age and is mostly confined to her bed. Aya begrudgingly turns his request down, and the next morning receives a call that changes everything.
So as not to spoil the entire short, we’ll move on and discuss why you should take the eight minutes out of your day to experience Dareka no Manazashi. Shinkai’s art and illustrations are as vibrant and meticulous as ever, and his storytelling is still exceptional. There’s never a wasted shot, never a gratuitous amount of detail put in to every scene. Dareka no Manazahshi is so brilliantly executed it’s a shame it’s so brief, but in that briefness, that’s where it shines. It can impact and nail anyone in (or ever has been in) Aya’s situation in such a short time that’s it eerie. I’d be lying if I said that during Aya’s monologue about her growing up, I didn’t feel anything. Aya’s journey is applicable to nearly everyone reading this. She’s in her 20’s, not truly happy with her place in life, and just wants to know what it’s all about. Of course, add in her father’s ‘want’ to be in her life, and you’ve got a double sad sandwich ready to punch you in the gut with emotions.
There’s an almost satisfying conclusion by the time the credits roll, but I would have loved to explore Dareka no Manazashi’s world and characters just a little bit more. Did Aya and her father remiss more? Does she ever see her mother often? Would she do a better job of keeping in touch with both of them in the future? Several questions I’d like answered from a critiquing standpoint, but nothing that really distracts from the short’s message. Dareka no Manazashi continues Shinkai’s spectacular art direction and character development with such grace, it’s very unlikely you’ll mind that it’s so brisk. The entire short has been uploaded legally to Youtube, with subs, so you really have no excuse to not check it out.
If you like what you saw here, I urge you all to follow up Dareka no Manazashi with a lot of his other works. More specifically: Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimeters Per Second, and The Places Promised in Our Early Days. Even though Makoto Shinkai’s been working in the industry for a relatively short time, he’s inarguably my favorite anime director going at the moment in terms of consistently great content. I eagerly await what the future holds for him, and for us, his loyal fans.