I decided to spend this past Christmas back at home. So, I took the Shinkansen down to Tokyo and flew out from there. On my flight to (as well as from) New York, I perused the available movies. One of them happened to be Your Name., also known as Kimi no Na wa. (Japanese: 君の名は。) Considering it’s now the fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, I naturally wanted to check it out. Does it live up to that ranking?
The plot is pretty straight-forward. One day, Taki finds himself not in his own body, but that of a girl named Mitsuha. When she wakes up the next day, she has to deal with all of the trouble he caused while he was in there. She also finds her way into his body, and the two continue to mysteriously switch places and lead one another’s lives. My opinion on the story is split into three phases: the beginning of the film, the twist, and after the twist.
I found the first part of the film to be kind of charming. The two leads can’t directly talk to one another, so they leave notes both on their bodies as well as in a notebook (Mitsuha’s) and on a cellphone (Taki’s). During Radwimps’ “Zenzenzense,” the film shows how the two work out some ground rules along with some of the conflicts they get into. It’s a creative way of showing how they work around the body swapping issue while also speeding past the typical tropes associated with the idea (ex. “You’re embarrassing me!”). It feels fresh and moves along nicely. The rhythm of the song acts as a great, upbeat partner, too. This ends up being a bit of a double-edged sword, though (don’t worry, we’ll get to it).
There’s also a bit of clumsiness involving Mitsuha’s grandmother; she provides exposition regarding Mitsuha’s father, and one line in particular feels as if she’s only saying it to inform the viewers. Overall, though, it’s a pleasant start.
When the twist surrounding their connection is revealed, I immediately thought, “So this is why Your Name is so popular.” Admittedly, it is a pretty great one; the very beginning hints at it, but you don’t really think about it. There’s quite a bit of emotional meat for Taki to chew on, and it’s a very compelling mystery. There are, however, problems that arise alongside it; specifically, logic problems. If you don’t mind being spoiled. or you’ve already seen the film, click the spoiler box and read on.
After the Twist
The movie kind of settles into a standard formula once Taki reenters Mitsuha’s body. To keep it as vague as possible, it all boils down into a “gotta save the town and convince people there’s a threat” scenario. There really isn’t anything new explored with this concept, which is really disappointing. The thing is, despite creating a number of flaws, the twist is really interesting and further engrosses you in the story. The rest of the film doesn’t, especially if you recall the opening scene of the film where Taki is an adult. You already ready know whether or not they’re successful.
After that, the film returns to that opening scene with adult Taki. The ending is extremely reminiscent of one of Makoto Shinkai’s previous films, 5 Centimeters per Second. In fact, it’s almost like a slight rewriting of the ending scene: the only major difference plot-wise is the final moment. To be honest, it feels a little cheap, and the moment right before the ending is a tiny bit frustrating, considering their desire to see one another at that point. It’s not a horrible ending, but when the twist is so effective, the rest of the story just being “okay” is a letdown.
The two leads are pretty likeable characters. Mitsuha is on the reserved side, though not really shy. She’s self-conscious of her image and what others think of her, illustrated nicely in both an early scene with her father and a scene where she talks with her little sister after dancing. There are two instances in the first half of the film where thought bubbles appear over her head, and the camera pans down to her for her reaction. These are incredibly charming moments.
Taki is an apparent tough guy/slight hot-head. We hear that he’s gotten into fights in the past and has likely skipped school on numerous occasions. He has a part-time job and seems to be careful with his money, though, so he’s somewhat responsible. And yes, as seen in the trailer, he enjoys touching Mitsuha’s breasts while in her body, so you could add “slight pervert” to his list of qualities. You get to see a few different sides to each of them, both when they’re in their own bodies and when they’re in one another’s. I don’t know if I’d say they’re relatable (though you could), but I do find them to be relatively easy to sympathize with.
The side characters are all right. We don’t learn too much about most of them, though there are a few we get more time with. None of them are annoying or are pointless (though you could make a case for maybe a couple), but they don’t necessarily stand out, either. We learn about Mitsuha’s father in a kind of flashback, but he’s not in much of the movie, so you don’t get to see how their relationship plays out too much, or even if it grows towards the end.
We get a little insight into Mitsuha’s friend Tessie’s life, though it’s only a peek. Taki’s co-worker, Okudera, actually gets to show a few different sides of herself, due to her presence in a number of important scenes throughout the film. While I would have liked to see a little more from some of the others, particularly their relationships with the leads, what Your Name offers isn’t all that bad.
The Romance Problem
Remember when I said the “Zenzenzense” scene is a double-edged sword? Let’s discuss that. Wikipedia calls Your Name a “romance fantasy drama.” This, of course, indicates that at some point in the film, our leads will fall in love. The problem is that it’s the absolute quickest romance I’ve ever seen. You know how in most stories there’s a special moment two characters share right before they fall in love? The rowboat scene in The Little Mermaid, for example. Well, Your Name doesn’t really have one. All of a sudden, someone tells Taki that it seems like he’s fallen for someone (else), and Mitsuha cries without knowing why. It doesn’t necessarily need to have a scene like that.
What it does need, though, is something that really shows the chemistry between them. Since they haven’t directly interacted up to this point, it’s pretty hard to understand what triggered those romantic feelings. Sure, Mitsuha can be somewhat playful via her notes, but that’s not really enough.
I have a bit of a theory. If the production team went with fleshing out those body swapping moments instead of essentially making a music video out of them, more romantic chemistry could have been developed. Instead, you’re just left there thinking, “When the heck did that happen? Did I miss a scene?” The reason I think it’s a big issue is because most of their interactions with one another after that are with the understanding that they love one another. If you care about that, those interactions will resonate with you emotionally. If you don’t, then you won’t get all that much out of them.
At this point, you may be thinking, “Gee, Cindy, you’re so harsh! Do you really hate this movie so much?” No. While I don’t care for the story progression after the twist or the leads’ romance, Your Name has its strong points. Undoubtedly it’s strongest is in its art and animation. This film is GORGEOUS. From the first scene where Shinkai shows off his always beautiful sky compositions, you know your eyes are in for a treat.
There are so many visually stunning moments in Your Name; the first scene with Taki in Mitsuha’s body is wonderfully drawn. The food Mitsuha orders as Taki looks mouth-wateringly good, and even the scene with the two sisters dancing is nice, with well-blended CG for the pulled back shots. The scene that has Taki entering a small cavern after the twist is the most brilliantly crafted in the entire film. Though my eyes did catch some CG cars driving by (they can never escape me), this is some of the best animation you’re likely to see outside of the Studio Ghibli catalogue.
But Cindy, What about the Fanservice?
I have a couple of opinions on moments that could be called “fanservice” in the most recognized sense of the term. If you’re curious, you can check them out below. If not, then we’ll move on to the film’s sound.
With regards to Taki’s “ritual” of sorts upon waking up as Mitsuha, I don’t have much of an issue. Is it a little excessive? Well, it’s more for comedic purposes. One less scene might make the last time he does it a little funnier, but that’s about it. It’s funny seeing Mitsuha’s equivalent situation when she first enters Taki’s body, probably because Taki’s scene comes first.
In the first body swap scene, Taki takes off Mitsuha’s shirt and looks at himself (herself? her?) in the mirror, then freaks out. Two points: 1. He’s already looking in a mirror and can see he’s now a girl, so why bother? 2. How did he take it off so that it falls around his legs? From the shoulders first? (Yes, I am looking at the logistics of a comedic fanservice-esque scene. I can’t help it.) If the rebuttal is “he’s a pervy teenager” or some equivalent, then, yeah, I can buy that.
There’s also a moment when Mitsuha’s breasts bounce, which I assume indicates that he hasn’t been putting a bra on her. A later scene shows a strap under her shirt, possibly hinting that she’s been going to bed with one on, which is kind of funny.
There are, however, two panty shots that make zero sense to me. They’re during the high-stakes climax, and they don’t come off as stimulating or funny moments. It reminds me of Itsudatte My Santa, which may be the worst thing any story can do. “But, Cindy, it’s realistic. Her skirt is short, and it makes sense that you’d see them in those moments.” Well, to that I say: her skirt is drawn as if the default length of the skirt is short, rather than her rolling her skirt like plenty of other school girls. Realistically, her skirt should be at least knee-length, like the girls from the high school near my junior high. In the end, though, this isn’t a major flaw of the film; just kind of pointless and confusing. (I know what you’re thinking: “Like this section of your review, Cindy?” ☆⌒(≧▽° )ノ)
I’ve seen a number of comments online about Your Name‘s soundtrack. I have to agree; Radwimps did a great job composing the songs for the film. Each song is perfectly placed. Though the lyrics aren’t necessarily word-for-word in line with the events of the movie, they still capture the mood of their respective moments. “Zenzenzense” may be the most popular song from the film, but “Sparkle” and “Nandemonaiya” caught my attention more. You can’t go wrong with any of the tracks, including the instrumental pieces.
The acting is also done pretty well. Ryunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi make an effort to distinguish when their respective characters are in their own bodies and when they’re in the other person’s. Kamiki kind of exaggerates the voice a bit, making it higher-pitched. It gets better as the film progresses, though. Kamishiraishi also changes the pitch of her voice, but it’s only slightly deeper and comes off a bit better than Kamiki’s.
Still, both do a good job when their characters are in their respective bodies, too. The actors for the supporting cast also do a nice a job. Since they don’t get as much screen time as Taki and Mitsuha, they have to work a little harder to really make their performances stand out. While I can’t say everyone’s does (due to the nature of the story), it’s as if some of the characters had a little more life injected into them than the script may have allowed for.
Should you wait in anticipation as Funimation prepares to launch Your Name into theaters all over America? Should you go out and see it ASAP if it’s already playing in your country? Ultimately, I think it’s worth seeing. Heck, for the animation alone, it’s worth seeing. I can’t promise you’ll get a lot out of the story, though others certainly have. If you want to get in on the conversation and see what all the fuss is about, you have my encouragement. Your Name‘s biggest strength is its ability to completely suck the viewer in. Though it has it’s weaknesses, there’s definitely something special about Your Name.
Are you excited to see Your Name in theaters? Have you already seen it? Leave a comment below and get in on the discussion!