Anime Film Review: Your Name

English Title: Your Name

Japanese Title: 君の名は。[lit. Your name + topic ptcl.]

Director(s): Shinkai Makoto

Writer(s): Shinkai Makoto

Studio: CoMix Wave

Released: 2016

Runtime: 1h 47m

Starring: Kamiki Ryunosuke, Kamishiraishi Mone


Miyamizu Mitsuha is a high school girl who lives in the rural town of Itomori. She lives with her young sister and maternal grandmother. The family has looked after the local shrine for generations, responsible for its maintenance, making braids and cords, and fulfilling the rituals. The local guardian deity is one of time, human connections and destiny.


Your Name

Dissatisfied with her uneventful life, Mitsuha wishes to be a cool Tokyo boy in her next life. She then has what is to her a very realistic dream in which she is a high school boy in Tokyo named Tachibana Taki. Soon, the two students realize that they are actually swapping bodies one day at a time. This is basically the first act with all the associated awkwardness and comedy.


One day, the body-swapping stops and Taki tries to call Mitsuha but no one picks up. The second act follows Taki trying to solve the mystery and obviously discovers a big problem that he tries to resolve in the third and final act.


As expected, the film looks good. It’s as if Shinkai and his team, including Art Director Tanji Takumi, have got the “slice of life” visuals down pat. The film never comes across as something too arty and pretentious even though it pushes it in that direction. The scenes alternating between Tokyo and the rural town of Itomori are basically Shinkai going from strength to strength.


Like Shinkai’s other works, the story explores friendship and romance with the two leads forced to deal with the “distance” between them. Although the fantasy of body-swapping may initially seem a little obscure thematically, it is a device that explores how one literally relates to the self (identity) and to the other. In this respect, there is some vague similarity to the anime series Kokoro Connect (2012). Of course, a film with two leads is more focused and condensed than a series that involves a group of five friends.


Since Itomori’s deity is responsible for time and destiny, and Mitsuha at one stage gives to Taki her red ribbon (an obvious reference to the “red string of fate”), destiny is obviously one of the central themes. To discuss it here would be a spoiler but the plot is sufficiently clear with the expositions quite explicit. I will make one comment: despite the emphasis on destiny and the characters having no control of their circumstances, they are thankfully not locked in some fatalistic world. They can still choose how to act and react and therefore still drive the story.


Given the film’s commercial success, this is probably Shinkai’s most popular work. As good as it is, it is in my opinion not his best work. I suspect, in terms of storytelling, one of the reasons that Your Name is popular is because he takes a more “balanced” approach than his earlier works. Without completely taking away the bittersweet aspects of the story, he injects enough comedy and optimism into it, thereby making it more palatable without compromising the work.

 

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