*Note: This review contains major spoilers of the movie. If you do not want to be spoiled, do not continue reading this post
Kimi no Na wa, also known as Your Name, is the mega hit movie in Japan of 2016 created by Makoto Shinkai. Raking in 30+ billion in yen during its impressive run at the box office both domestically and abroad, the movie took the anime industry by storm over the last year. In addition, it also managed to earn the title of highest grossing anime film in Japan’s history, breaking many decade old box office records, including Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away, though as of time of writing, Spirited Away continues to hold the record for most domestic and adjusted gross ticket sales and unlikely to be beaten. It also became the first major movie to hit standard movie theaters in the US (at least from what I recall) outside of standard Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki films, which is a rather impressive accomplishment given how niche the anime market continues to be.
Now that I have spent a whole paragraph praising the work and hyping it up for this review, the ultimate question at the end of the day is how does this really fare when one watches it? Is it really worth deserving of a top 10 or top 20 spot on a lot of anime sites? Is it something that’s worth watching 5, 10, 20 years from now? How does it compare with Shinkai’s older works that may have been missed by many people’s radars?
The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint. When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, something shifts, and they seek each other out wanting something more-a chance to finally meet. But try as they might, something more daunting than distance prevents them. Is the string of fate between Mitsuha and Taki strong enough to bring them together, or will forces outside their control leave them forever separated? (Source)
- Great visuals and use of symbolism as expected from a Makoto Shinkai work to foreshadow much of the plot
- A more satisfying closure and a different music composer brings a refreshing a feel compared to some of Shinkai’s past works
- Good balance of comedy, romance, and sci-fi elements while avoiding many stereotypical tropes of these genres found in many anime series today
- Big plot hole in the revelation of the “distance” between Taki and Mitsuha
- Arguably not the best Shinkai work
A Closer Look:
Kimi no Na wa is Makoto Shinkai’s 6th major feature film with him at the helm in addition to the various animation shorts he has done previously (+ remake of She and Her Cat). The constant recurring themes in many of his works are: 1) romance 2) some form of tragedy 3) (re) connection. In addition, he has attempted including some elements of sci-fi, adventure, and/or fantasy in some of his works, including Voices of a Distant Star, Beyond the Clouds/The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices. As a result, Kimi no Na wa is no stranger to recurring pieces. As for what “special” element did the movie include? Time travel, an element that is very tricky to master given the amount of plot holes that can easily appear from a simple mistake or oversight. Only a few anime titles have been able to master such a tricky element.
Kimi no Na wa focuses primarily focuses on the adolescent life of Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high school girl growing up in the countryside of Itomori, and Taki Tachibana, a high school boy in Tokyo. The only problem is they have a body-swapping dilemma when Mitsuha makes a sudden wish at her local shrine wanting to be boy in her “next life.” The movie then continues this body-swapping concept for a few days with a well balanced, but light-heart and fast-paced approach, combining elements of comedy and some fanservice on how our two leads adapt to each other’s lifestyles as well as their own. Then, the fated day when a comet passes by Earth arrives and not only does the body-swapping stop entirely, but also Taki suddenly loses all contact with Mitsuha. Only when Taki begins to research on who Mitsuha really is along with her hometown of Itomori does the truth unravel: the town itself was eradicted by the very comet three years ago.
Wanting to be able to meet Mitsuha again, Taki heads off to Itomori looking for clues while leveraging his scant body-swapping experience to ultimately guide him to the shrine containing “half” of Mitsuha. Drinking the kuchikamisake left there, he manages to somehow return to the past as Mitsuha once more to help save the town given his future knowledge. While saving the town was ultimately successful, by altering the past, he also severs the bond the two had. It is only five years later are the two able to reunite through fate (with a somewhat closed yet typical Shinkai ending).
The biggest gaping plot hole and question in all of this is how did neither Taki nor Mitsuha realize that there was a three year difference in the worlds they were living in? Both were constantly checking their phones, entering diaries, and the calendars even showed the day of the week! Mathematically, a three year difference won’t result in the days of the week aligning with the same day, which makes it a big mystery as to how this never came up regardless of shock factor or not. As mentioned earlier, time travel is always a very sensitive plot device, and to this day only a few titles have mastered this, such as Steins;Gate and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time). While many seemed to have overlooked this element when assessing how good the movie was, unfortunately, Shinkai’s movie did not do a very good job covering all of it’s bases and in reality becomes a significant hindrance in the otherwise sensible nature of this title. It’s certainly a piece that can be easily forgotten given how little they focused on the Taki from three years ago but not something that can be discarded given that future Taki himself plays a crucial role in helping Mitsuha and the Itomori residents survive the disaster.
Breathtaking Kataware-doki scene from Kimi no Na wa
Animation wise, Shinkai’s animation and art style has always been stunning and a personal favorite of mine, particularly for his visual novel works with minori and his earlier film works: 5 Centimeters per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. His use of scenery continues to be top notch and arguably the constant cream of crop for the last 10+ years, besting even the likes of ufotable, SHAFT, and Studio Ghibli.
The use of RADWIMPS for the primary musical score is a significant departure from TENMON, who had collaborated on most of Shinkai’s early titles. While TENMON was emphasized piano and violin pieces, RADWIMPS is an actual rock band that brought a much more different vibe to the movie, particularly one that felt more filled with light-heart, positive energy rather than the slow, melancholic, and/or dramatic tunes typically found via TENMON’s tunes. While I personally enjoy TENMON’s works, Shinkai’s change of pace here was very well done given the more upbeat nature of the movie and RADWIMPS deserve significant praise for creating a fantastic soundtrack that meshes well with the movie’s more heartwarming content.
On the casting, Shinkai cast literally cast no name voice actors/actresses (Ryuunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi) as the lead roles. While both have done acting and other works in the entertainment industry, both had only done minor voice acting prior to this movie. Whether this was intentional to tie in as a reference to the movie’s title itself is unknown but it would be interesting. What was great, however was both of their voice ranges during the body-swapping scenarios and being able to take on the persona of both the feminine and masculine sides of each gender.
As for whether both deserved “best seiyuu of the year” given this being the only role is something that’s up for debate. It was good quality work, no doubt, but not something that was eye-popping that other veteran voice actors couldn’t do.
Kimi no Na wa is a great film, no question about it. It’s a simple yet heartwarming story that gets its point across in a mere two hours. It uses great symbolism, including references to the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, to tell its story about tragic loss, re-connection, and searching for that “special someone” no matter where he/she is. Shinkai continues to excel in these recurring themes and there’s no real reason as to why he should stop if the formula continues to work for him. Furthermore, his artistic sense is literally eye candy and really knows how keep the audience glued to the screen just from that alone.
To be frank, however, I don’t think Kimi no Na wa is a masterpiece. The rewatch value is okay and the movie itself was certainly fun in more ways than one but I think he can do better and he has already admitted that himself. Personally, I think his three earlier works (Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimeters per Second, and The Place Promised in Our Early Days) continue to be arguably be better but never got the recognition they deserved. Whether or not his works are finally beginning to gain traction because of social media and simulcasts (e.g. via CrunchyRoll, etc.), or because of Miyazaki’s supposed retirement, or because the movie is simply good and I’m blatantly missing something remains to be determined. One thing for sure is Kimi no Na wa has opened many new doors for Shinkai and I certainly look forward to what comes next.
Score (Overall): 8/10
Rewatch Value: 6/10