So, I thought my last piece was going to be it for my Japanese animation phase here. But I saw Your Name 3 weeks ago and I really want to talk about it.
Your Name is the new movie by Makoto Shinkai (actually it’s also based on his book, and he wrote the screen play). It is the first animated movie that wasn’t produced by Studio Ghibli to win back 10 billion yens in the first 28 days in Japan only. It is the highest-grossing movie of 2016 in Japan, and the 4th movie in the history of the country in term of entries and it won 16 awards between 2016 and 2017. It is an undeniable box-office and critical success, both in Japan and in the world. Yet this is what the director/writer has to say about it:
“There are things we could not do, Masashi Ando [Director of animation] wanted to keep working [on] but had to stop us for lack of money … For me it’s incomplete, unbalanced. The plot is fine but the film is not at all perfect. Two years was not enough.”
Don’t try. You can’t be more Japanese than him, because Your Name is great, really really great.
What is it about?
Well…here’s the IMDB synopsis:
“Two strangers find themselves linked in a bizarre way. When a connection forms, will distance be the only thing to keep them apart?”
Deal with it children, I guess.
The story centers around Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu, two 17-years-old teenagers. Taki is living in Tokyo with his father and Mitsuha is living in the Countryside™ with her grandmother and sister. Mitsuha’s family is the traditional keeper of the shintoist shrine of her city, which carries on the Musubi (thread weaving) tradition. She sometimes takes the role of Miko. One day they wake-up in each other’s body. The body-switch continues to happen with what seems to be a random frequency, but they start getting used to it. They learn about each other and bring positive changes to their lives, until the day where the switching stops and Taki doesn’t manage to reach Mitsuha anymore…
Why is it so good?
Story and Japanese tradition:
This type of story isn’t unknown to Japanese culture aficionados, but Your Name brings it to an all new level. It isn’t only a romantic story, but also a coming of age which occurs by the characters both learning to standing up for themselves (especially for Mitsuha), and finding true friends.
There is also the confrontation with the adult world with the ending (Taki you are going to find a job…we have all been here), as well as with the relationships that the heroes have with their parents. Taki father’s seems absent (sorry if it’s not entirely the case; I missed the first 10 minutes of the movie thanks to rain). Mitsuha’s father is a strait-up corrupt politician who has abandoned his two daughters. Speaking of which, it is great to see a mainstream Japanese film which is not a yakuza movie tackling the subject of corruption in Japan. Especially in the countryside.
Finally, one of the last things that make the story so good is the fact that the narrative relies a lot on Japanese tradition/legend. The movie makes us question ourselves on why things happen in life and on destiny. So it’s no surprise to see the red string of fate being such a important theme in the movie. It’s not the only one featured, either. The afterlife/underworld, kuchikamizake, and what is the soul made of, are present too. And none of these are hammered in. Everything feels quite natural to the story.
Characters and relationships:
The characters are really endearing too. The voice actors of Mitsuha and Taki did an incredible job. Even if you are barely capable of understanding Japanese, you really can hear the differences between their performances.
Mitsuha, while being unsure of herself and prone to melancholia, is also very energetic. Taki is maybe a bit less engaging, but still he is determined while being full of doubt. I really connected with the young man trying to find his way in life at the end.
The secondary characters are also multidimensional, and, at least for the other teenagers, really funny too. They are supporters or inhibitors of the heroes’s quest but you can see that there is more to them that their role for the heroes.
The friendship in this movie is very well done. We see teenagers truly caring for, and taking care of, each other. Extra points for the relationship between real Taki and Miki; having any relationship between a man and a woman that begins with infatuation, yet finishes in deep meaningful platonic friendship is great and refreshing. It deserves even more props when Mitsuha is actually way better at flirting with Miki that Taki is (I like to head-canon Miki as a bisexual or a repressed lesbian).
This movie will make you feel, for real. It is not going to toy with you—you are going to be straight up emotionally engaged. I have never said “Holy Fuck!” more genuinely while watching a movie before. When I said that this movie punched me in the face, I was as honest as you can be with figurative speech.
You will laugh because there are genuinely funny moments. You will worry about our heroes’ fate. Will they manage to do it? Will everything be for nothing? I was on the edge of my seat until the very last scene, completely unsure about the outcome.
And you will probably cry. I know that more than once I was really close to it, and I don’t cry easily. Speaking of crying, for those who have already seen the movie, let me just put this here to make you feel again:
Your Name is beautiful:
I kept this for the end because..Oh boy! Go watch this movie in the theater. It is worth it.
The animation is objectively very good, but it is more than that. It is beautiful and artistically ingenious. I caught myself on multiple time saying to myself, “yes, this is what animation is made for.” The movie gives you poetic scenes, and then gives you shots bigger than life. Shots that can only be done with animation.
I absolutely adore the scenes after Taki has been to the god’s heart. It is ingenious, beautiful, powerful and emotional. At the end of this moment, I wanted to cry, and I still don’t know if it’s because of the story it told or because of the beauty of how it was done.
The treatment of light is probably one of my favorite in recent years. And all of this was done through animation. I say yes, more of this please. More animation movies that tap into its incredibly potential rather than give a predictable product.
(This movie will also make you really hungry… Damn animated food, why must you look so good?!)
Your Name is one of the most beautiful, emotional roller-coasters of 2016. It is unpredictable and touching. The music might not be your jam, in fairness—I was a bit bothered by it at times. But it is definitively worth the money of a cinema ticket. Hopefully we will have more of this kind of animated movie in the years to come.
All Images Courtesy Of CoMix Wave Films.