Someone’s Gaze by Makoto Shinkai is for Father’s Day, which is tomorrow, if you’re not remembering. So go hug your father and tell him that you love him. Maybe even watch this film with him. These seven minutes might just bring you closer, if you’ve grown apart. It’ll remind you of all the places you’ve gone together and apart. It’ll remind you why you celebrate today.
This is the second anime we’re covering and it’s by another master of the genre. Last time we dug into the past to discuss Hayao Miyazaki’s music video for a pop song, and this time we’re looking at the man who many consider to be the true successor of Miyazaki. There are very good reasons for that.
Miyazaki’s the kind of animator that everyone loves. Even those who talk incessantly about how much they hate anime will still turn on Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle and fall in love with my favorite mode of storytelling. He transcended anime and animation in general to become an internationally acclaimed filmmaker.
Makoto Shinkai falls into that same arena. He hasn’t achieved Miyazaki’s level of acclaim or notoriety, but he makes absolutely brilliant films. From 5 Centimeters Per Second to The Place Promised in our Early Days to Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai has created an impressive catalogue. He has that same whimsical and fairytale style as Miyazaki, and his obsessions, like Miyazaki, fall into the realm of childhood and the adventures and wonders of that time. However, Shinkai’s more willing to dive into the darkness of existence. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is especially dark and Orpheic.
But Someone’s Gaze is a bit different. It’s much more sentimental, but it captures so perfectly what it means to be a daughter, to be a father.
Or, I mean, what I imagine it’s like to be those things. I’ve yet to be a daughter or father, so I can’t really say, but it feels true to me. It feels like the life I’ve known. Everything feels true, and it reminds me especially of how animals tie us to our home and family.
How our pets are our family.
I don’t think I’d be this sad if any other human had died. Is that weird?
It’s not weird. Mii-san was part of our family, after all.
Those words are so deep inside me. It’s how I’ve always felt. I used to say that I’d be more sad when my dog died than I would be if my parents died.
Don’t tell anyone, but I still don’t know if I’ll ever be as broken and depressed as the day Lily Belle died. It shattered me for months.
And this feels that same way. Lily Belle came into my family when I was only nine. She quickly became mine and she’s the best friend I’ve ever had. The best friend I probably ever will have. But I remember the sadness I felt at leaving for college.
Every time I came home, she’d rush to me and we’d remember what love meant.
And then I went to Ireland.
And then I went to Korea.
And then I returned just a month before she died.
I think she held on for me, so we could have a month of fond memories before I had to be forever without her.
And I think it brought my family much closer, in ways we never were before. My family is a strange one, and I still don’t know if we’re even comfortable with each other, but Lily’s life was a thread that tied us all together, and her passing created knots to bind us tighter.
The fact is that happiness will continue.
And I think that’s what Shinkai captures best here: that Death is not the end. Even when it feels like it.
But I’ve spent a long time talking about animals when I meant to talk about fathers. But, I mean, animals are more than just something we own. They become a part of us. We love them, endlessly. We grow attached to them in ways that we’ll never become attached to other humans.
It’s not a joke or overstatement when I say Lily was the best friend I’ve ever had. She did for me so many things no human has ever done, and I’ll always love her dearly for her kindness, for the love she shared.
And it’s funny for me to think of how Lily transformed my father.
He never had pets growing up. His childhood didn’t allow for extra expenses, and so it was clear he never saw the reason for having a pet.
And then Lily came into our lives.
One of the first rules my father made was that she was never to sleep in his bed.
After about six months, if she wasn’t already in his bed, he’d search the house to find her.
It’s that kind of love that softened him. She softened all of us, and she taught us what love was, maybe even for the first time.
And this feels fitting for Father’s Day because it shows how our father’s care for us, even when we don’t know. Even when we’re not looking. Even when we don’t care.
So remember to say something kind to your father tomorrow. Not just because today’s meant to celebrate his existence and sell cards, but because he probably loves you in a thousand ways he’ll never be able to properly express.
Happy Father’s Day, everyone.