Your Name, written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, tells the story of Mitsuha, a high school village girl, and Taki, a high school city boy, who inexplicably begin to swap bodies. The film is extraordinary in the concept itself, and its execution elevates it to one of the finest films ever made.
The story of Your Name, as mentioned, is extremely unique. A body swap romance is something never even heard of, let alone done, and done so well. It is emotionally gripping, to the point of making the entire experience feel completely real and convincing; barely a moment where you doubt anything. The film presents a world where we are kept apart from what we want, and the only way to get through is pure, unencumbered drive for it. The characters are constantly facing obstacles in their pursuit to find each other and their quest to just be happy. At the midpoint when they finally decide to find each other, they stop swapping bodies, almost like the universe doesn’t want them to be together. This happens at every turn in the film, to the point where their actual meet-up feels like a massive load of your chest.
The concept of body-swapping in itself is special and it’s thrust even higher by manipulating time. We find out Mitsuha’s life takes place three years before Taki’s (Another major obstacle for them). This leads to him finding out she might have died in the comet strike three years ago making him question all his experiences till now; was it all a dream? The film also keeps hinting at this idea, making us question everything as well, even though we don’t want to. It adds to its world by saying we can only dream about happiness in this nihilistic world. And even though it ends with them succeeding in finding love, this event adds another element to its philosophy which makes it even more interesting. The midpoint of Your Name adds a great mystery to the story, inducing genuine curiosity in finding out what happens next. It’s another small way of pulling us into the film. Everything until now was so involving that when Mitsuha is revealed to be alive, it’s almost like you can breathe again.
The concept of ‘Musubi’ is a motif in Your Name; A representation of God and the flow of time. I see this as building up the ideology of the film further with the concept of fate. We know that it’s their drive for love that gets them together in the end, but was it the drive that changed fate altogether, or did fate change itself seeing how committed they were to each other? The film gives you much to ponder over. The idea of love always finding a way, destiny aligning itself for you if you want it enough, and the added element of making you question everything so far toward the middle, all makes for an exceptionally well-thought-out story.
The characters are the life-force of Your Name. Mitsuha and Taki both want to find each other as they need to fill a missing hole in their lives with something, or someone. They dream about this frequently, as is set up in the opening. Taki is a city boy who resides in Tokyo leading a modern, 21st-century life. Mitsuha lives in a smaller, more traditional town built in the crater left by a millennium-old meteor. A classic example of how different their lives are is shown by their concept of a café. For Taki, it’s a high-class restaurant with extravagant and expensive dishes that look like art pieces. For Mitsuha a café is simply having coffee on a bench beside a vending machine. It’s simple yet when combined with the need of the characters furthers the message of the film; despite the lives we lead, our emotions can be the same as that’s what really matters in life. Through a brilliant intercut sequence in the first half, their want to find out about this new person in their life is established. This very naturally blossoms into wanting to find each other to fulfill their need throughout the second half. The first half induces a genuine curiosity by presenting this unique body-swapping concept, both in the characters and the viewer, supporting their realism which is why we are on board with them in their quest through the second half. It gives both of them emotional moments so that we don’t feel as if only one is the protagonist who we’re supposed to side with (Marriage Story, anyone?).
The events of the plot lead to furthering character arcs in a satisfying manner. For example, only after Taki goes on a date with someone, that is set up by Mitsuha when she’s in his body, does he realize that he wants to be with her. This sets his quest to find her in motion, unraveling the mystery of the timelines and the comet. Only when they switch again after all this and Mitsuha sees his efforts, does she accept her passion for him as well. Which leads to an immensely character-driven climax. This sequence and these characters in Your Name represent the possibility of love pulling through in a world set up to be filled with trials and tribulations. Taki and Mitsuha fully accept their feelings, even forgetting who the other person is to an extent, furthering the ‘love finds a way’ concept. I see both character’s friend’s as fate helping them out a little, seeing how committed they are to help them.
Every action they take is purely to fulfil their need in life. Taki leaves his entire life in the first world city just to travel all the way and meet her. Mitsuha finally confronts her father whom she has a strained relationship with to evacuate the town so she can meet Taki in the future. Finally, the body-swapping in Your Name genius as it achieves two major goals for the story. It lets Mitsuha and Taki experience another person’s life completely different from their own, filling the missing hole in their life. And two, on a more physical level, when they’re finding each other while swapped, in a sense they’re looking for their own body. This implies that their quest to find each other can also be seen as a quest to find themself, working toward filling that hole in their life and how similar or ‘soulmate-like’ they are.
Makoto Shinkai’s direction is perfect. Every second in Your Name is dedicated to pulling you into the story, whether it is through gorgeous animation, humor unique to Japanese anime or pure emotional and visual storytelling. Every tiny detail in the film aims to make these two seem like real people. From their actions, reactions, and relationships. The animation style lends to this brilliantly. In so many sequences the camera moves like its handheld, giving a feel of real life, yet the animation provides an aesthetic beauty that can only be achieved in this art form. It achieves realism without photorealism. The choice of hand-drawn animation feels human, furthering this authenticity.
Visual motifs are quite prominent. Every door slides open when they are a step closer to finding each other, and slides shut when they move a step back, for example when they stop switching for two whole weeks. Mitsuha’s string is the most notable connective tissue they share, it being the only physical object they possess at different times and that alerts each other of their presence. The score is also immensely gripping. It not only captures but heightens the emotions we need to feel, especially in the climax. The final 20 minutes of the film are the most captivated by a movie I have felt in a while, from an emotional standpoint.
The struggles they face in this sequence are really brought to the forefront, escalating from racing against the clock to a whole town being destroyed. The comet represents the final obstacle they must overcome in order to fulfill their want and need. It’s a situation where they must race against the clock and a situation of life and death. You are on the edge of your seat and your eyes are watering throughout. Even though they have met, it doesn’t absolve the burden completely, as the goal was to be together. The film fully drains your emotions to the last drop in the final moments, where Mitsuha and Taki keep running into each other but don’t meet despite them feeling something, as they’ve forgotten. It implies that even if everything disappears, love cannot.
Your Name takes you on an emotional roller-coaster. It pulls you in, gives you an unforgettable experience and leaves you with more than plenty to think about and feel. It is an emotionally draining experience but in the best way possible.