Makoto Niitsu, better known by his pen name Makoto Shinkai, is a Japanese film director, animator, and voice actor. A native of the Nagano prefecture in Japan, he studied Japanese literature at Chuo University. He traces his passion for creation to the manga, anime, and novels he was exposed to while in middle school. Considered one of the best animators in the world today, he is often called the "next Miyazaki." Shinkai developed his abilities as a video game designer for FalCon, where he worked on the cult-classic role-playing game Ys. Shinkai is unique as an animator, having cut his teeth producing almost all elements of many of his works - from animation to music composition to voice acting. He has won numerous awards: 12th DoGA CG Animation Award; 1st New Tokyo International Animation Festival Grand Prize; 7th Kobe Animation Prize; 6th Mainichi Films Animation Prize; 2007 Asia Pacific Film Award; and the Lancia Platinum Grand Prize (Italy).