“Who are you?”
During a conversation I had with a friend today, the topic of love came up. It’s a topic that’s been discussed many times by us before and in many different ways. There was one thing he said in particular today that caught my eye: “Love is an interesting concept you have to come across growing up, and it doesn’t happen to everyone in quite the same way.” It’s such a simple quote and yet it has such abstract and different meaning, depending on the situation. I recently had the experience of being able to watch one of the most hyped-up anime movies of the past 10 years, maybe of all time: Kimi no Na Wa or “Your Name” in English. Given the obvious build-up and press the movie had garnered, I was quite interested to see if it could hold up to my expectations…Those expectations were quite thoroughly and expertly smashed by Makoto Shinkai’s visual and emotional masterpiece deserving of the title.
The story of Kimi no Na Wa follows our two main characters, Mitsuha and Taki. Mitsuha is a young high-school girl living in the rural village of Itomori, part of a rich Shinto lineage and tired of her life in the country, and Taki is a short-tempered high school boy living in metropolitan Tokyo, working part-time at an Italian restaurant. The two youths’ lives intertwine when they learn that they have begun switching bodies with one another each night. Through their body-swapping, they come to learn about one another’s lives and grow close to one another by living out the other’s lives. The two help one another in their own lives until the connection between the two is them is spontaneously severed. I’m choosing now to go too deep into spoiler territory, as we’ll get to later.
The story of Kimi no Na wa is everything you would expect from a Makoto Shinkai work. The film is packed with many touching moments, both happy and heartwrenching, and does a great job at capturing the emotions of every character. It has a natural flow that keeps each scene and idea flowing seemlessly with the next. Most of all, the story is gripping. The film comes at you immediately with Mitsuha being informed of all these actions she can’t remember doing and gives a sense of mystery and oddity, before throwing the idea of body swapping into the mix. This was by far the strongest element of the show’s story for me. I’ve always found the concept of body-swapping fascinating in a science-fiction sense and I can gladly say the idea was executed masterfully. It was intriguing and interesting to see how these characters acted when thrown into the body of someone completely different than themselves. The romance of Kimi no Na wa was definitely in a “different way” from most romances and the sci-fi elements added another layer to the personality of the film.
The first character we meet within Kimi no Na wa is a young high-school girl by the name of Mitsuha Miyamizu. Mitsuha lives and goes to school in the rural mountain village of Itomori. She serves as part of the latest generation of a line of shrine mikos watching after their family tomb and has many duties that come along with it. Mitsuha shows clear disdain with her position as miko for the shrine, as well as her life in the country. Mitsuha longs for more than can be provided by her unassuming country life, wishing to live in Tokyo. Mitsuha is shown from early within the film to be in conflict with her father, who abandoned the family temple following his wife’s death and chose to go into politics. Mitsuha is a fascinating character and I was able to relate with her on a personal level. Much like Mitsuha, I’ve lived in a heavily rural area and have longed for many years to move to the city, especially after visiting New York City for a week with a friend who lives there. For me, her struggles with her rural lifestyle struck very close to home and made me quickly attach to Mitsuha on a personal level.
Our second protagonist is Taki Tachibana, a high-school student living in Tokyo. Taki is a high-school student, like Mitsuha, but one who leads a very different life. Taki leads a fast-paced life of going to cafes and hanging out with friends. He works part-time at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo, while also secretly crushing on his superior, Miki Okudera. Taki is shown to be short-tempered from early on in the film, which is further put on display when he swaps with Mitsuha. Taki’s personality greatly contrasts that of Mitsuha early in the film, which leads to several conflicts between the two as they begin their frequent body-swapping. While not as personally relatable for me, Taki’s personality was instantly charming during his first scenes. Each time he swaps with Mitsuha, he is seen fondling her breasts, which, while serving as comedic relief, also plays to the mentality of a young high-school boy. The big thing about the main characters of Kimi no Na wa is realism. Both characters feel very real and they act in the way a normal kid of their age would.
Animation & Sound
…It’s Makoto Shinkai, what more do I really need to say? Beautiful? Breathtaking? A masterpiece with frames deserving of a spot in art museums? All of this seems to pale in comparison to the fantastic art design of Kimi no Na wa. There’s a reason wallpapers of the film have become so common across the internet, the film is absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking imagery at every corner. As is to be expected, the studio producing Kimi no Na wa was “CoMix Wave Films”, the same studio who produced Shinkai’s previous works “5 Centimeters per Second” and “Garden of Words”. The movie’s backgrounds are immaculate with an exquisite attention to detail and the character designs are all gorgeous, with each character having their own distinct flavor and carrying the same level of detail at the backgrounds. There are entire multi-part essays and theses about the amazing works of Makoto Shinkai and the work really speaks for itself.
The soundtrack of Kimi no Na wa, just like the art, is something to behold. It’s filled with a mix of nuanced melodic pieces that perfectly capture the emotions of each scene they accompany and the driving insert songs performed by Japanese alt-rock band “Radwimps”. Sound direction for Kimi was led by You Yamada, whose previous accolades include such high-profile works as Mawaru Penguindrum, Yuri Kuma Arashi, and Garden of Words. To call the soundtrack breathtaking and beautiful, just like with the animation, would never be enough to capture the raw power of each piece. The emotions brought about by the gorgeous tracks are something that could never be re-created, check out the OST for yourself and see what I mean.
Given the praise I’ve already heaped onto the film so far, do I even really need to do this part? My friends had recommended this film to me so highly that, at first, I thought the film could never meet the lofty expectations that had been set for it. Oh, how wrong I was. The film was gripping from start to finish and I found myself unable to look away throughout most of the film. I was practically dead to the world around me as my eyes were locked into the screen. It was like the entire world around me faded away as I watched. I’ve rarely had anything grip me as much as this film has and I can safely say it has easily secured the position of my favorite anime movie and very likely my favorite movie of all time.
Kimi no Na wa is a masterpiece. It’s a once in a generation masterpiece that tells a poignant and heart-wrenching story about love. Love is a strange thing. Often, we don’t know why or how it comes about, but it always grips us. Kimi no Na wa is one of the best tales of young love I have seen in my entire life. In the approaching 23 years of my life, I can safely say there have been few movies that have the level of emotional impact as Kimi. I’ve already begun recommending the film and singing its praises to anyone who will listen and I will continue to do so. Kimi no Na wa is something special and one of a kind and I’ve rarely had any piece of media make me feel the way this did.
Story: 10/10, the body-swapping concept was handled with careful execution and the romance felt real and compelling
Characters: 10/10, Mitsuha and Taki are two of the most realistic protagonists in anime and their interactions with each other and the people around them feel real.
Animation: 10/10, It’s Makoto Shinkai
Enjoyment: 10/10, I never thought that a movie would strike me as much as this film did. It has captured my heart and the position of my favorite movie of all-time.
Taku Recommends: Watch this movie at all costs, you would be doing yourself a personal dis-service to not check out this absolute masterpiece of a film.
(Stay tuned to Funimation’s official website for information on U.S. screenings coming soon)