Film Review: Your Name Directed by Makoto Shinkai
Visually stunning, the film is both uplifting and full of pathos!
Your Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimetres per Second, 2007, and Kotonoha Niwa – The Garden of Words, 2013), produced by Genki Kawamura (‘Kokuhako’, 2010, and ‘Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki’, 2012) with character design by
Masayoshi Tanaka (‘Toradora’, 2009, ‘Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day’, 2011, and ‘The Anthem of the Heart’, 2015) and animation by Masashi Ando (‘Princess Mononoke’, 1997, ‘Spirited Away’, 2001, ‘Paprika’, 2006, and ‘When Marnie Was There’, 2014) had its World Premiere on 3rd July 2016 at the Los Angeles ‘Anime Expo 2016’, on the 7th July 2016 in Japan at TOHO Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and then went on general release in Japan on 26th August 2016. It has to date grossed nearly ¥18 billion and was nominated for Best Film at the recent BFI London Film Festival and is on the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It is the fifth highest grossing film and the third biggest domestic film in Japan.
Inspired by ‘Torikaebaya Mongatari’ (The Changelings), a late Heian tale about two siblings whose behaviour imitates those of the opposite sex and based on Makoto Shinkai’s book ‘Kimi no na ha’ two versions for English speaking audiences are currently doing the rounds, one in the original Japanese with English subtitles and the other dubbed into English, though the dubbed version is getting severely criticised by filmgoers for the voice used for Mitsuha.
Given the success of ‘Your Name’ Makoto Shinkai has been compared to and touted as a successor to Hayao Miyazaki, though he is the first to say that his record cannot be compared to that of the Director of ‘Spirited Away’.
The tale revolves around the teenage characters Taki Tachibana (voiced by Ryunosuke Kamiki, and Michael Sinterniklaas in the English dubbed version), a down to earth teenage school student with an afterschool part time job in a restaurant and Mitsuha Miyamizu (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi, and Stephanie Sheh in the English dubbed version), an unhappy Shinto Shrine maiden who complains loudly that she “can’t stand living in the countryside anymore!” and, as she stands by the Torii gate to the shrine, based on Ketawakamiya Shrine in Gifu, where she carries out duties as a Shrine Maiden cries loudly “In my next life, let me be a handsome boy living in Tokyo!”
After seeing shooting stars accompanying a comet called Tiamat, that last passed within close proximity to the earth 1,200 years before, they begin waking up at regular intervals in each other’s bodies which leads to some comic moments mixed in with adolescent angst that seems, apparently, to be the lot of teenagers.
One instance of comedy intended primarily for Japanese audiences misses the mark in translation in the subtitled version when there is an intentional scripted Japanese language pronoun mix up for which the subtitles come and go on the screen so quickly that it is very easily missed, and anyway the comedic element would not be easily understood by viewers without at least some understanding of the Japanese language. Other amusing moments are provided by the combined fascination and repulsion towards the body parts that each character experiences when inhabiting the other’s body, more so with Taki’s fascination with Mitsuha’s breasts. An uplifting element to the body swap is when Mitsuha in Taki’s body manages to cosy up to Miki Okudera a much fancied female friend by showing Taki’s ‘feminine’ side.
Though their body swaps are loudly touted in the film’s advertising according to the Director the main theme isn’t about gender bending teenagers. Having established communications with each other by leaving messages there is a sense of excitement and a growing expectation that is shared by both characters as the comet’s closest pass to the earth approaches which is expected to occur at the same time as Mitsuha’s home town shrine festival and leads to the film’s main destructive theme. There are various clues, some early on in the film, that help to place the characters in context, some of which require a sharp eye, and perhaps more than one viewing, to spot.
Without giving too much of the plot away the characters, having opened lines of communication, attempt a rescue both hampered and, in turns, helped by their body swaps with a resulting conundrum that could have been straight out of an episode of Dr. Who.
The conclusion to the film leaves the tale partially resolved but leaves the story of the relationship between the two characters inconclusive, as happens in many Japanese fairy-tales.
The attention to detail in the way the cartoon locations are portrayed are second to none, the depictions of Tokyo locations particularly impressive. A couple of examples being where Taki meets Miki Okudera his co-worker at Yotsuya Station for what might be a date, and at the end of the film where a pivotal scene takes place on the stairway near Suka Shrine.
In the countryside the attention to plot detail is evidenced with the inclusion of kuchikamikaze, a sake that used to be made by chewing rice and spitting it out with the fermentation process initiated by saliva, and the Shrine maiden dance, based on a real dance called Miko Mai, which was choreographed by the Kabuki actor Nakamura Ichitaro and which according to the film’s Director references a legend about a comet. Mitsuha’s fictional home town of Itamori is based on the city of Hida in Gifu Prefecture, which as a result of the film’s success has seen an ¥18.5 billion in tourist windfall and which has also triggered ‘Your Name’ tours in Tōkyō around Yotsuya and Shinjuku.
The Yokohama band Radwimps’s rock themed sound tracks which include Zenzenzense (前前前世 “Previous Previous Previous Life”), Supākuru (スパークル “Sparkle”) and Nandemonaiya (なんでもないや “It’s Nothing”) were written specially for the film and themed around specific sections and in response to detailed requests from the film’s Director.
Visually stunning, the film is both uplifting and full of pathos. It’s portrayal of adolescent emotion, teenage angst and the exploration of what seems to be missing in life at that age and the start of the search for the other in life which makes us whole, against a backdrop of the uncertainties of life made even more uncertain by modern disasters makes this a modern fairy-tale for our time. All in all an excellent movie – bravo!
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Producer: Genki Kawamura
Production CoMix Wave Films
Character Design: Masayoshi Tanaka
Animation: Masashi Ando
Length: 107 minutes
H.I.S. ‘Kimi no na ha’ tour in Tōkyō
Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.