Here comes yet another article on anime. This time, it’s a review on the critically acclaimed anime film Kimi no Na wa or Your Name. Your Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai, was released in 2016, however it is only recently that it started showing in theatres here in the Netherlands, which is what I’ve been waiting for since it came out in Japan. Your Name is ranked #2 on MyAnimeList and has a rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has surpassed Spirited Away as highest grossing anime, won sixteen awards, and is nominated for many more since its release.
As a big fan of not only bad anime, but also really great anime (read: anything by Hayao Miyazaki), I was stoked to hear that it was going to show on the big screen here. As acclaimed as it is, I wanted to do the film justice by not watching it curled up in the dark in my bedroom with my cat yelling at me for food. And boy, did I make the right choice.
Disclaimer: if you haven’t seen Your Name yet, I strongly discourage reading this review. The movie is best enjoyed if you know little to nothing about it. There will be many spoilers and possibly an emotional break-down in this article. You have been warned.
I think the best way to sum up Your Name is that it’s an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you think it’s going to be a happy ending, and the next you think everything is doomed, and then you’re back at the happy ending, and repeat. As a self-proclaimed anime veteran, one of the things I look out for in critically acclaimed anime are the clichés and tiresome tropes that make many anime series and films predictable. However, Makoto Shinkai has done a magnificent job at throwing you for a loop, inserting plot-twists–no matter how small–in just the right and unexpected places.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. TURN BACK NOW.
Two high schoolers, Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana, two complete strangers, switch places in their dreams, waking up in each other’s bodies at irregular intervals. They have to learn to lead each other’s life, having to adjust not only to each other’s routines (for example, Mitsuha must adjust to the fast-paced Tokyo lifestyle, whereas Taki must adjust to the more quiet and rural town of Itomori, a fictional town based on real-life Gifu Prefecture), but also gender norms. There is a brilliant scene where Mitsuha-in-Taki’s-body has to try four times to get the right pronoun, as in Japanese there are multiple ways to refer to oneself. They learn about each other by leaving notes in journals, writing on their body, and keeping a diary in an app on their phones.
The overall story seems safe, however your feelings will not be spared. At one point Taki stops swapping with Mitsuha. He cannot contact her in any way, so in a desperate attempt to find her, he goes on a wild goose chase, not knowing where Mitsuha lives. All he has is a drawing he made of the town of Itomori to guide him there. By chance, someone in a ramen shop along the way recognizes it as his hometown. He drives Taki and his travel companions, one of his friends and a colleague he has a crush on, to the town–or rather the remnants of the town. Here comes the painful plot twist: Itomori was destroyed by a fragment of a comet crashing into it, killing almost all of its inhabitants. This is when you whip out your tissues and realise that not only have Taki and Mitsuha been swapping bodies, but their timelines do not run parallel to each other.
Not only is the story heart-wrenching, but the art is spectacular. The animation is so beautiful, I actually wanted to cry. It not only included spectacular panning shots of characters, but also breath-taking scenery of both Tokyo and the fictional small town of Itomori. Just the opening animation of comets flying through the sky is enough to make you think: “damn, how do the Japanese come up with this shit?”. I don’t think I could ever process how a group of people can create something so gosh darn pretty. They even had time-lapses. Animated time-lapses. Please take a look at the gif below and be astonished. Yeah. They did that. No gif or computer screen could ever do this film justice. Which is why it’s a must to see it in theaters as soon as possible. Bring tissues.
Besides the art and the story, I really appreciate the nuanced way that Shinkai includes snippets of Japanese culture into the story. Mitsuha’s grandmother is the head of the family shrine in Itomori, and is a master at kumihimo, a Japanese form of braid-making. This braid-making, as her grandmother explains, represents time itself, with past, present, and future weaving together as a whole. The metaphor of kumihimo is literally the red thread throughout the film, as Mitsuha and Taki share a red braided cord as an amulet.
Besides the art of kumihimo, Mitsuha must perform a ritual at the shrine to make kuchikamizake, which will later be left as an offering on a mountaintop where the god they honour resides. Kuchikamizake, also known as mouth-chew sake is one of the earliest types of sake, which is a kind of rice-based alcohol produced by a process involving human saliva as a fermentation starter. Thus, Mitsuha mus chew the rice before spitting it back out. The reason this is done is because one must leave the most important part of themselves as an offering, and kuchikamizake includes a piece of the person who made it.
Another recurring metaphor is kataware-doki, which means twilight in the Hida-dialect of Japanese. In old Japan, people believed that supernatural occurrences were possible at twilight, which is also the only time that Taki and Mitsuha could meet one another.
The only qualm I have about the film is the soundtrack. All of the songs used in the film have lyrics in them, which at times adds to the film, such as the introduction sequence, but it definitely takes away from the more emotional parts of the film. Adding lyrics to these scenes did not do them justice, and it would have benefited the film had the soundtrack been more focused on instrumentals, taking hints from Joe Hisaishi’s work with Miyazaki films.
There are many more little things that I haven’t included. I could probably go on for days. I’m going to round up my review by saying: go watch this film. I cannot recommend it any more highly. It is definitely not just some cutesy rom-com anime about two high school kids. It will reach into your soul and rip a chunk right out of your chest while simultaneously filling up that empty hole in your heart. The animation is beautiful. The characters are likeable. There is comic relief. There will be tears. It’s not just a movie, it’s an experience.