Warning: Your Name movie spoilers and 5 Centimeters Per Second flashbacks ahead, this (shit)post is intended for readers who have already seen the film.
Walking around the immense dry heat in Akihabara and various other places in Tokyo this summer (That’s right, I went to Japan! Blog posts coming soon…) I noticed the persistent promotion of Makoto Shinkai’s upcoming film “Kimi no Na wa.” (titled the English counterpart Your Name from here on) both in-stores and outdoors. In-store promotions would typically take up a respectable amount of aisle space reinforced with flashy sign boards advertising the film. Laid out throughout the aisle featured of promotional leaflets, reservation slips to go see the film and a bunch of related Shinkai goods including the novel edition of the film. Japanese stores seem to have an endless supply of portable DVD players I’d notice as there would always have one blaring out the PV on an endless loop on its tinny speakers (which is why I had the song Zen Zen Zense ingrained to the back of my mind throughout my trip in Japan).
As a long-time admirer of Shinkai’s stuff ever since Crunchyroll decided to make Global Shinkai Day a thing back in the day, I was already pretty curious and looking forward to the film ever since I saw the initial announcement and the constant reminder of it every day in Tokyo only threw more oil into the flames of hype. Oh man, Japanese marketing is aggressive. The film came out of Shinkai’s factory on the 26th August in Japan. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go see it as it was coincidentally my last day in Japan, although even if I did go to see it I probably wouldn’t have understood much, and after seeing Accel World: Infinite Burst and Kizumonogatari Part II on its release day I already had my fill on the Japanese cinema experience anyway, uwu.
And thus ensued the post-release buzz; with my desire to walk into this film with fresh eyes I went on a “Your Name abstinence”; avoiding any unsolicited spoilers both online and in real life. The wave of reports flooding in soon after release hailing its critical success as well as social media talk from peeps who have seen it at film festivals (or through the potato DVD rip making the rounds) made my abstinence dreadful experience. Thankfully this all came to an end 90 days later (yes, I counted) once I had the privilege to go see the film in the UK premiere on the 24th November at Norwich’s Picturehouse.
So to summarise, the combination of the stupid sexy advertising I was exposed to (as much as the casual erotic material in Tokyo) and the post-release buzz made me extremely hyped and overly excited to see this movie. Fortunately I am glad to say the movie successfully fulfilled my expectations and went above and beyond.
Ignoring the potential plot similarities to the Keit-ai story from 4chan’s /a/ board, Your Name adheres to the identical central themes Shinkai has presented in his past work; contrast, connection, communication and youth. The film centres around the contrasting lives of Taki; who lives in metropolitan Tokyo and Mitsuha; who lives in the boonies as well as the people around the two main pair. Both characters desire for change in their young lives and through the powers of celestial fate were connected through this rhetoric.
Film makers tend to have their personal array of ‘signatures’ to mark their films their own, and Shinkai is no exception. Your Name checks most if not all of Shinkai’s trademark signature tropes; the beautiful eye-popping backgrounds, the scenic skies and clouds, cherry blossoms, buzzing phones, messy interiors, and metropolitan Tokyo life. More recent ‘signatures’ include the way Shinkai expressively animate rain and the delicious macro pencil drawing shots along with the ASMR-inducing friction noises shamelessly borrowed from Garden of Words (hell even the teacher from Garden of Words appears in this film!).
What revolutionised my initial impressions of this film is how Your Name masterfully subverted from its initial plot-line in the second act into something I would have never expected from the director, even Shinkai himself subverted his style of film-making. What sets Your Name apart from the rest of Shinkai’s films is the detachment from reality (ignoring Journey to Agartha). Shinkai’s past work were always at its core down-to-earth plain human drama with the touch of tragedy that comes as a unfortunate bonus feature in life. So for Shinkai to utilise aspects of the supernatural, time-travel, and even the mainstream realm of gag comedy, rom-com and fanservice into Your Name came as a huge surprise to me; despite sounding like a huge cluster-fuck of an adventure on paper. Your Name is the most Makoto Shinkai film yet by being the least Makoto Shinkai film ever.
Now here is the part of the review where I admit I cried babby tears during the film. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions for me once the film nailed down the core body-swapping mechanic in the first act of the film. Although Your Name wasn’t that big of a tear-jerking film as I had expected, there were a couple of touching moments that managed to bawl my eyes out but then attempting to hold back realising I was in public space. Moments such as the shocking revelation of the comet
and the town that once was which totally threw me off, Taki witnessing the flashback of Mitsuha’s strained past which legitimately touched my heart, the emotional scene when Taki and Mitsuha finally meet face to face for the first time in the twilight zone, and not to mention when Taki returned into Mitsuha’s body one last time after all the prior effort to save the village – only to be shortly interrupted with a burst of laughter from the audience thanks to Taki’s unwavering groping gag. I can imagine myself sweating my eyeballs out even more when I’ll eventually watch this again by myself while live-tweeting screenshots only to get bashed on by my followers.
There was one particular scene I’d to point out in the final act where it would have potentially make or break the entire movie for me. Due in part of Shinkai being a massive troll I was on the verge to fall into catastrophic panic mode when Taki and Mitsuha walked past each other on the bridge (and later on the flight of stairs) as the setting apologetically mirrored and triggered me flashbacks of the final scene from 5 Centimeters Per Second; which still haunts me to this day. You could not imagine my sigh of relief in the movie’s last seconds signifying a happy end when Taki and Mitsuha broke the formula and ultimately asked for each other’s name.
The animation was splendidly solid as ever. As an animator I appreciated the nuanced body language the characters expressed when they in each other’s bodies; the initially reserved, thoughtful and timid movements when Mitsuha assumed direct control of Taki’s body in contrast to Taki’s explosive movements while inside Mitsuha’s body; comedically making her the most popular girl in school. It’s also impressive to see Shinkai continuing to embrace 3D tools aiding panning shots from the main character’s bedrooms to the money shot of Mitsuha witnessing the chilling fall of the comet in the night sky while still using traditional methods to physically build the shots.
The soundtrack doesn’t slouch either playing the important role alongside the visuals of the film of conveying emotion, tone and atmosphere through our ear canals. Both soundtrack and theme songs were produced by Radwimps, which is rather uncommon for a single entity to be in charge of both. The soundtrack features an array of mostly classical tracks with a touch of rock to some as well as the full-on rock theme songs like Zen Zen Zense (which is still stuck in my head goddamn); playing into Shinkai’s supposed contrasting ethos and also expressing Rock’s youthful connotations. Nevertheless, the soundtrack finely captures and embellishes the emotive mood of the film very well such as one of the tracks titled Date while also appreciating the more essence-of-life moments with catchy and vivace tracks like School Road. This also made me feel inclined to sign up for a premium Spotify membership after hearing that the OST is available to listen on the platform.
The subtitles I watched as part of Anime Limited’s UK premiere were pretty on point. The subtitles were easy to follow and read and no major grammatical or spelling errors as far as I know. Typesetting was the standard san-serif white typeface with a black stroke (thankfully not yellow and black). One part of the movie where I found the subtitles working well within its boundaries was when Mitsuha (in Taki’s body) tries to say the correct Japanese personal pronoun in quick succession to Taki’s friends which Taki normally uses. For example one of the subtitles came up as “Watashi (feminine)” when Mitsuha said “watashi” which is regarded as a feminine pronoun and not what Taki uses. The pronouns were translated enough to a point people would roughly get the intention in the parenthesis without adding a tacky translator’s note as ubiquitously seen in 2007 anime fansubs. It’ll be interesting to see how this was handled in the English dub edition.
If I haven’t explicitly mentioned it already Your Name is an absolutely amazing film. While I have been hammering on the good points of the film so far, there are of course the downsides. Yeah, sure, why didn’t the main characters notice the three-year difference in their respective partner’s worlds to realise sooner the consequence, the pacing in the final act dragged on for a while, was Mitsuha’s grandmother really the all-knowing god all along and why didn’t Taki first masturbate upon realisation that he was in a female body? There were numerous moments in the film where I found myself extremely emotionally invested, however when looked back the whole ordeal isn’t critically anything more than a melancholic teenage romance drama. Even if I acknowledge the potential bad things of the film; they don’t take away from the film at all. Your Name sold me on emotional investment once the story diverted in a way I possibly would never had imagined
and totally did not end on a depressing 5 Centimeters Per Second ending which still makes me mad and sad to this day.
In conclusion, Your Name is a brilliant piece of film that deserves the critical acclaim it has been receiving since its release and I sincerely hope it goes all the way to bag an Oscar next year. While Your Name might have incorporated one too many elements into its story, Shinkai played to his strengths breaking the mould to his film-making practices resulting in his best and most definitive work to date. Your Name is now proudly one of my all-time personal anime favourites and I am looking forward to seeing what the man with ink scribbled on his hands has in store in the future.