What if you were tired of your life and yearned for something else? What if you made a wish on a comet and woke up in someone else's body? What if, in the process, you developed romantic feelings for someone living far, far away?
In his latest film Kimi no Na wa. (Translated: Your Name), Makoto Shinkai explores the emotional struggles and growths of Mitsuha, a small town girl, and Taki, a Tokyo city boy, as they adapt to life switching back and forth between each others' lives.
I admit. I felt a great deal of trepidation entering this film. Going on six years ago, I watched 5 Centimeters (another animated film by the same director), and the story gave me a lot of grief. I remember the ending credits rolling as my friend and I turned to each other and asked, "What just happened?"
As an adult (or at least more of one), I can better appreciate Shinkai's talent for storytelling. Looking back, 5 Centimeters is a poignant story about how life doesn't answer all of our youthful hopes and dreams. We grow up, and some dreams fade with the passing of time until they become nothing more than a beautiful memory. Likewise, Your Name explores how, even if time passes and we forget many things that were once important to us, events of our youth influence the people that we become.
I wouldn't recommend watching on the basis of the themes alone. Many elements come together to create a beautiful story that is more than body switching, teen angst, and first love.
In this post, I will discuss the following six reasons to watch Your Name:
- Stunning visuals
- Teen angst and humor
- The character development
- Intertwining of space and time in the narrative
- Themes of life and the flow of time
- Open ending
I'm not an expert on art styles, so it's difficult for me to put to words the experience of watching this film. However, I do want to acknowledge the breathtaking visuals in this film. I especially love scenes with the comet and where the camera pans out to let us take in the scenery (such as the mountains surrounding Itomori, Mitsuha's town).
Teen Angst & Humor
Your Name portrays the teen angst of growing pains. Not only do Mitsuha and Taki have to deal with conflicts in their own lives (such as being quick-tempered or desiring to move far, far away), they have to deal with switching bodies with a member of the opposite sex. This results in conflict within themselves and with each others. The film handles this with grace and humor. While I certainly wouldn't want to be in their position, I laughed quite a bit at their antics (and reactions to the other's interference with their personal lives).
The Characters' Emotional Growth & Development
Though there is certainly humor to the body switching, the focus of this film is on the emotional aspects of body switching. For example, Mitsuha and Taki form emotional attachments to figures in the other's life. (Whether being in the other's body influences their feelings remains for the audience to decide.)
The characters' emotional growth and development is apparent. It is certainly arguable that this is a story with magical realism; the body switching has no immediate explanation. However, it can also be seen as a metaphor for a significant life-changing event through which the characters mature.
The Narrative: A Journey Through Space and Time
The story switches frequently between Mitsuha and Taki's lives, and you need to be quickly discerning of who is in the body at the time as the film doesn't always explain. In addition, the film cuts to different times in their lives occasionally—especially at the beginning and end of the film. I'm not generally fond of narratives that switch perspectives too frequently (much less jumping around through time); however, it works for this film. I love how the film hints at the nature of Mitsuha and Taki's connection leading up to the climax without making it too obvious.
Themes of Life and the Flow of Time
The story features themes of teen angst, first love, and growing up. Mitsuha and Taki deal with their own issues at home, at school, and in their dreams for the future. As they learn, we need to be careful with what we wish for; life elsewhere isn't always better than what we have. And just as what we have will change with the flow of time, so our dreams will fade until only nostalgia remains.
While there is romance and adventure in this film, these are but elements of life that happen to be in the film. More than a story about body switching, teen angst, and first love, Your Name is a story about working through life's challenges—such as body switching, teen angst, and first love—and growing up.
Frankly, I wondered entering this film if the two would fall in love and end up together. It's a common theme in such stories. Am I going to spoil the ending for you? No, that'll ruin the fun. What I will say is that the ending is open, possibly more open than many of us like to see as it leaves much up to the imagination.
That is also the beauty of it. As Your Name is a story about growing up, the open ending is appropriate as it reflects the real-life dilemma of writing your own ending. We all go through challenges in our teenage years, but we don't have a script writer to fill in the ending for us. People grow up and change. One person's ending will not be another person's ending. As much as I would love a clear-cut ending that tells me what happens to everyone, I love the open ending that allows us to imagine how everything will play out. The open ending that leaves us to question our own life choices and where they will take us.
Your Name is a beautiful, poignant story about the magic of growing up with all its teen angst and humor. Those who have already passed through the growing pains of adolescence can appreciate the nostalgia of tackling the issues that Mitsuha and Taki experience (minus the body switching—unless you're keeping this secret from the rest of us. Yes, this is where you laugh). Those who are going through adolescence can relate all the more strongly to the emotional conflicts the two go through. Regardless of where you are in life, there is something with which you can relate in this coming-of-age story. Overall, I really enjoyed this film and would definitely recommend it!
The story is set one month after a comet that has fallen for the first time in a thousand years in Japan. Mitsuba, a high school girl living in the countryside, wants to live in the city because she is tired of life in the country. Then, there's Taki. He's a high school student living in Tokyo with his friends while working as a part-timer at an Italian restaurant. He also has a strong interest for fine arts involving architecture. One day, Mitsuba dreams of herself as a young man. On the other hand, Taki also has a dream where he is a female student attending high school in the countryside. What’s the secret behind their dreams?
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If you were to spend a day in someone else's life, what kind of life would you like to experience?