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Makoto Shinkai Says Suzume Was Almost A Lesbian Romance - Exclusive

Makoto Shinkai is widely associated with romantic movies, typically ones in which lovers are separated by time or distance. Though his new film "Suzume" doesn't break from those recurring archetypes, the romance is downplayed compared to other Shinkai films, in no small part thanks to the male lead, Souta, turning into a chair for most of the movie's runtime. 

Apparently turning Souta into a chair was in part a response to being forced to have a male lead at all. Originally, Shinkai envisioned "Suzume" as a love story between two women.

Shinkai previously spoke about this change with members of the Japanese press, claiming a producer thought it was "too early" for the Japanese market to accept a romance between two women. In his exclusive interview with Looper, Shinkai discussed this situation for the first time with the international press and whether or not future films of his will address more LGBTQ+ subject matter.

Shinkai feels he's exhausted boy meets girl stories

"At first, I wanted to turn this story into a movie about Suzume and another girl journeying. Why I even wanted to go in that direction in the first place is because I personally felt a little bit tired of telling the very traditional romance story," Makoto Shinkai said. "I felt that in 'Your Name,' I [did] everything that I possibly could in terms of 'boy meets girl' and 'will they, won't they, will they meet.' That element of romance is very relatable to the masses, which is why it was a subject matter that resonated with a large audience."

Characterizing his initial pitch for "Suzume" as a "sisterhood type of romantic story," Shinkai says his producer persuaded him to make another "Your Name"-style "boy meets girl" romance because of audience expectations. 

"In order to not make it too much of a romance," Shinkai said, "I decided to make her primary interest a chair."

Shinkai said he is not actively seeking out LGBTQ+ stories; however, the general narrative of "Suzume" would have worked had the titular character had a female love interest. 

"I think it would also work had [Suzume] been a boy or had she been non-binary," Shinkai said. "It's not necessarily the context of male/female; it's about a human overcoming something. In my future films as well, I want to focus on that human story as opposed to too much commentary on gender or sex."

"Suzume" is now in theaters.