Note: Originally published on my other blog Wonder | Wander.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you: if you haven’t watched this movie, please stop reading right now. Spoilers ahead.
A lot has already been said and written about Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) since its release during the third quarter of 2016. Critics have expressed their praise for Makoto Shinkai’s latest opus, many of them naming him as the successor to Hayao Miyazaki. Thus, it was only expected of me to search out this movie, albeit a bit late (typical me), to see what it’s all about. And I’m glad I did. Your Name is an absolute joy to watch, a beautiful melding of the carefree pleasures of adolescence, and the compelling power of love that endures distance, time and catastrophes.
The plot starts innocently enough with a silly dilemma – a boy and a girl switching bodies. Mitsuha, a girl living in the rural town of Itomori in Gifu prefecture, and Taki, a boy residing in Tokyo, were just ordinary teenagers who discover, to their horror, that they inhabit the body of the other at random days. After finally accepting the strange phenomenon happening to them, the two decide to just make the best out of the situation at hand: they left notes to let the other know what happened during the time they were out of their bodies, and they gave tips on how to go about their respective lives. Hilarity ensues while each occupy the other: Taki can’t help touching Mitsuha’s breasts, while Mitsuha dreads going to the bathroom; Mitsuha suddenly has to contend with girl admirers, while Taki has to endure stories of his ‘feminine side’ coming from his long time crush, Okudera-senpai.
The light-hearted banter soon segues into more melancholy territory as Taki and Mitsuha’s switch finally comes to an end. Armed with only fleeting memories, Taki desperately searches for the girl whom his heart yearns for only to discover that Itomori has been obliterated by a comet three years ago and she was one of the more than 500 people who died in the disaster. Taki refuses to give up, though; he knows there is something mysterious lying underneath the surface of what was in front of him. Through his strong desire to find Mitsuha, he fights the wave of time and circumstance for one last chance to save her and the people of Itomori as well.
The third part of the film takes on the action of an epic disaster movie. Earlier, Taki who managed to engage the switch after drinking the kuchikamisake that Mitsuha made, initiates a plan to evacuate the residents of Itomori but they remain indifferent to his warnings. Taki is on the brink of feeling defeated, but the magic moment of kataware-doki at twilight, a time when the old world and the new world collide, finally allows them to be together despite existing three years apart and for him to warn Mitsuha of the impending destruction of Itomori. They also promise not to forget each other and to seek one another once their timelines meet. Mitsuha returns to her body and, believing his warnings, takes a shot at saving the town again if only for the promise of being with Taki once more.
Finally, the film ends on a somber but hopeful point with Taki not knowing whether Mitsuha survived the disaster. As soon as the switch ended, his memories of Mitsuha quickly fades away; he doesn’t even remember her name. He moves on with his life but he knew his heart is searching for something. Musubi – the intricate knotting of time – works in mysterious ways and, in what could be one of the sweetest endings ever, Mitsuha and Taki meet once again – and though they could not explain why at the moment, they know they finally found the missing piece they were searching for.
Despite the disparate, postmodern elements that build it up, the film transitions seamlessly from one part to the next. There is no dissonance in its complexities; rather, the pieces fit right together, making the story richer. And while the circumstances may seem problematic in terms of the general rules of the time-space continuum, I forgot all about it because Shinkai treats his magical realist elements with subtlety; the mystery of the swap – why they were chosen of all people or why it even happens in the first place – was never fully explained, yet the audience does not demand it because they get that it is not the point. The fantastical elements do not distract from the overall theme of the power of love over distance, fate, and memory – something that my sentimental heart definitely likes. Underneath all the spectacle, at its heart, it is a simple tale of young people coming-of-age and learning the intricacies of love.
If that is too sappy for you, the film’s visuals is a reason enough to watch it. The animation is top-notch and the realistic renderings of locations – from the city of Tokyo to the lush Japanese countryside to represent the fictional town of Itomori – is certainly awe-inspiring. It has definitely set the bar for future animation.
Your Name is an animated work of art and is deserving of every praise heaped upon it. Certainly worth anybody’s time. Makoto Shinkai is fast becoming one of my favorite animators (next to Miyazaki, of course) and I hope that with the worldwide success of Your Name, he gets to make more quality animation for all of us.