Film Review: Your Name (2016)
“The dream I must have had I can never recall. But the sensation that I’ve lost something lingers for a long time after I wake up.”
Your Name is an animated fantasy/sci-fi, romantic dramedy, written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Films. It has been a runaway, international blockbuster, surpassing the heretofore highest grossing anime film of all time, Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.
Your Name tells the story of two star-crossed teens, a rural girl, Mitsuha, and a city boy, Taki, who begin, quite suddenly, inexplicably, and disturbingly so, to swap bodies. They initially have no memories of the swaps other than foggy recollections of rather realistic dreams. But as people around them begin commenting on how weird they were acting the day before, it begins to dawn on Taki and Mitsuha that these dreams are not dreams at all.
In accepting the reality of it all, they begin to communicate with one another, keeping diaries of their doings, writing messages on their respective phones, in notebooks, on their very skins. And they begin to remember these other lives, these other bodies, feeling an increasing kinship to one another.
What Dreams May Come
Mitsuha is the estranged daughter of a lapsed Shinto priest, now turned politician. Her mother is dead, and she and her little sister, Yotsuha, are being raised by their grandmother, Hitoha. Hitoha is a faithful adherent and practitioner of Shinto, maintaining the ancient rituals and traditions, and raising her granddaughters to do likewise. She is a master weaver, teaching her granddaughters the ancient familial craft.
“Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian god. This word has profound meaning. Typing thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi. The flow of time is Musubi. These are all the god’s power. So the braided cords that we make are the god’s art and represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, and then connect again. Musubi – knotting. That’s time.”
Mitsuha’s family live in a small town in the mountainous central region of Japan. She wants out, is perennially bored with her life and wanting more. She wishes she had been born a boy in Tokyo.
Taki is a teenage boy in Tokyo, surly, irascible, secretly crushing on a workmate, Miki Okudera. He lives in an apartment high-rise with his father. We never see any siblings or a mother. He works hard at his afterschool job as a waiter at an Italian restaurant. He hangs out with his friends and draws and draws and draws.
The body switching changes both of them. Miki begins to take notice of the considerate and helpful Taki (aka Mitsuha). The wallflower Mitsuha (aka Taki) is suddenly earning respect and notice for her prowess on the basketball court. They tease one another in these bodies, sometimes setting up little traps for the next day. Mitsuha, as Taki, lands him a date with Miki. Taki, as Mitsuha, is entrusted with enacting holy Shinto rituals.
“Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up.”
And then, one day, it all just stops. As suddenly and inexplicably as it began, the body swapping stops. But both Mitsuha and Taki have come to care deeply for one another, so much so that they attempt to make contact in real life. And it fails. Again and again, it fails.
And it’s not just that they cannot come in contact with one another, but also that the memories are beginning to fade, and the messages are disappearing. Perhaps the distance between our two, would-be lovers is far more complex than first thought. They are not just spatially separate, but something more cosmically inexplicable is at play. And maybe saving the love has the consequence of forgetting the love.
“Once in a while when I wake up. I find myself crying.”
Stunning Animation and Strangely Compelling
Your Name is a highly entertaining film. The animation is beautiful. There are scenes and sequences of such cinematic beauty that it is nothing less than art. The story is strange and compelling, and the connection between our two leads is so intense, that we are rooting for them find a way through time and space and dreams and forgetfulness to find one another. It is all highly satisfying. So much so that Hollywood’s taken notice. It’s been recently announced that J.J. Abrams is spearheading a live-action remake of the film with Paramount Pictures. I would go see that movie. And until it comes out, you can still enjoy the original, can still see Your Name in all its stunningly animated and strangely compelling glory.
“There’s no way we could meet. But one thing is certain. If we see each other, we’ll know. That you were the one who was inside me. That I was the one who was inside you.”
Content Note: Rated PG.
Where to Watch: DVD.
Photo Credits: CoMix Wave Films.
“You had me at hello.”
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”