The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Someone’s Gaze- Reflection on a Makoto Shinkai short film

Someone’s Gaze (Dareka no Manazashi) is a short film that was shown back in February 2013 at the Nomura Real Estate Group’s “Proud Box Kanshasai” home living exposition. Sitting with a relatively short running time of six minutes, Someone’s Gaze focuses on a young girl who has moved out of her parents’ home and has begun living independently. While she and her father both struggle with loneliness, Makoto Shinkai makes certain to remind its viewers that family bonds are eternal and that it is never too late to reform them. Simple, concise and optimistic, Makoto Shinkai’s mastery of the short formatting allows him to tell a clean story about how a father and daughter live their lives; after the girls’ mother leaves to work in a foreign nation, leaving the two behind to fill in the void. The girls’ father buys a cat who keeps her company, and despite her eventually moving out, the father keeps Mii around as a reminder of the times they all had once shared together.

  • The characters don’t have any names, so I’ve only referred to them as mother, daughter and father. Throughout Someone’s Gaze, the mother provides the voice-overs.

  • Twenty screenshots for a six minute feature? Don’t look at me like that! I’ve done this before for Girls und Panzer OVAs before. I promise that I will caption all of the images.

  • Someone’s Gaze is set a short ways into the future, featuring the familiar sights of the contemporary world with the occasional bit of high tech equipment that is reminiscent of that found in Time of Eve. At our current rate of progression, I imagine that these “natural user interfaces”, or NUIs, will become quite prevalent in the near future.

  • Makoto Shinkai’s works look amazing, and surprisingly, have come quite a long way since he produced and animated She and Her Cat. In his older works, the aesthetics are cleaner and simpler, while his films since Five Centimetres per Second tend to give interiors far more detail, resulting in a more homely, cozy environment.

  • This image is a case in point: the daughter receives a telephone call from her father. Note the details in the holographic UI, indicating that it’s a standard call minus the video. It’s subtle details like these that make it so entertaining to watch a Makoto Shinkai film.

  • This is what a picturesque family looks like. I’ve read that families are taking longer to start, in part owing to the economic situation and the gradual shift in priorities for both men and women, with greater emphasis on careers pushing back marriage times and so on.

  • Airports are a places of departure and reunion: either way, much tears are shed at the airport in general, whether it be sadness as one is leaving, or joy at reunion.

  • Mii is a cat bought to assauge the daughter’s loneliness, and the two have much fun together when the daughter is still a child. This short 30-second span reminds me of a scene from Toy Story 2, depicting a girl named Emily and her cowboy doll, Jesse. Despite spending a lot of time together a child, Emily eventually outgrows her toys and Jesse is shelved. Fortunately, Mii is spared this fate, as the daughter’s father takes care of their cat afterwards.

  • Japanese school uniforms are modeled after European Naval uniforms and therefore, called “sailor uniforms”. These were introduced in the 1920s and are typically used by middle schools, whereas high schools have more Western-style uniforms.

  • Like my parents, I still prefer to read the newspaper over using my iPad for news. I included this image as juxtaposition between the new and old.

  • While I’m still a student aspiring for further education yet, either as a MSc or MD, I realise that the transition from one stage to the next is going to be brutally difficult. Of course, higher education is a beacon of hope I have. Once that’s done, well, I can cook and clean just fine, I know how to pay the bills and I’m capable with tools, but I still can’t sew worth a damn. I think I’ve got most of my bases covered.

  • Mii passes on at an old age, signifying the end of one life. Surprised, the daughter immediately goes to see her father.

  • By now, I’ve been driving for around two years. There is a certain degree of joy in driving, and I’ve found the best way to avoid road rage and being discourteous to other drivers is to ensure there’s plenty of time for one to get to their destinations. When I’m happy, I crack bad jokes about bad drivers. When I’m not, I’d wish life were more like FPS.

  • Close inspection of this screenshot finds that the mother is working in Ethiopia, bringing to mind one of the projects my colleague had been working on as part of her honours thesis. Said project was a Global Health initiative in Ethiopia, where she and a team were introducing biochemical wet-lab techniques to the locals so that they could conduct their own research.

  • I suppose I’ll now take a chance to shoot down some existing “reviews” out there, primarily for having no screenshots and for rating this poorly on the basis that “the flow of the story…felt random and too quick to bounce around”, with the film itself having “execution [that was] was only fair”. It’s a six minute short, so things flow in a slightly more hasty manner to fit into that time span. Granted, it is possible to make everything smooth (like in Paperman), but I argue that the execution in Someone’s Gaze isn’t bad and fits nicely altogether.

  • This is an obligatory image of food. I suddenly recall the lamb steak I had on Tuesday and think of how I prefer my steaks to be rare, seared well on the outside and still very pink on the inside.

  • Even after all this time, and all the challenges that the two face, father and daughter enjoy a meal together.

  • It’s taken me around an hour to gather the images, write the two short paragraphs to the review, insert said images into the post and caption all of them.

  • Believe it or not, but I absolutely love small animals like kittens and rabbits. I think this might be one of the few reviews out there with actual screenshots. The last review I read looked like a response for a creative writing class: I don’t particularly like reviews that tell people how they ought to live their lives. My statements won’t do anything of the sort, simply drawing out and summarising the core message in a particular work.

  • Standing in comparison to Makoto Shinkai’s more well known works, Someone’s Gaze ends on a decisively happy note, reminding its viewers that happiness is a cycle, much as life itself, and that its attainment is up to the individual’s initiative.

As is expected of something bearing Makoto Shinkai’s hand, Someone’s Gaze is beautifully animated, set in a world that appears only slightly over the horizon. Despite the advent of larger touch tables and holographic UIs, their world remains familiar. Despite being only six minutes in length, Shinkai weaves a tale of family, and how the most basic of human interactions, the family, is the most significant and meaningful. Despite the challenges the daughter and father face, they nonetheless spend time with one another and gain solace in the fact that regardless of how cold the outside world might be, the family will always be solidly there, dependable and reliable. Someone’s Gaze would show again at the theatrical release of The Garden of Words, reminding me of the Disney short Paperman. Shown right before Wreck-It Ralph, like Someone’s GazePaperman is concise, simple and heartwarming to watch, setting the stage for the featured presentation.

One response to “Someone’s Gaze- Reflection on a Makoto Shinkai short film

  1. artoria_pendragon September 14, 2016 at 13:06

    I actually posted a comment in 5cm per second about Dareka no Manazashi- I didn’t know you already had a post about it! Sorry about the mistake, and thank you for posting something about this beautiful story!

    Liked by 1 person

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