(WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers for the anime film Your Name)
Kimi No Na Wa or Your Name is a Japanese anime film based on its novel counterpart, written by the movie’s director Makoto Shinkai. It has earned around 39 billion Yen ($353 million), since its release in Japanese theaters in 2016. Since then, it has become the highest-grossing anime film in history, surpassing Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away at $289 million. It has won quite a few awards and has been nominated three times for best animated film. One in every seven Japanese people went to watch this so called masterwork.
On top of that, it has an impressive 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, what exactly led the film to quickly become one of the biggest #anime films from Japan of all time? Following are the different aspects of the movie that collectively helped it in becoming an overnight success.
The story of #YourName follows the life of a countryside girl Mitsuha Miyamizu and a boy living in Tokyo named Taki Tachibana, after they seem to have swapped bodies. Eventually, they return to their original selves, only to randomly interchange bodies again. Not knowing the cause of this strange phenomenon, Mitsuha and Taki set up some ground rules by leaving notes on their smartphones so that they don’t harm each other’s daily routines while they’re in the other person’s body.
The general premise of the movie shows the two trying to adjust themselves according to each other’s requirements during the swap, and not to mess things up for one another. The movie is the literal depiction of the phrase “walk a mile in someone's shoes.” Although the main idea is laid out early on in the film, the story offers much more than that. It is kept ambiguous until the very end, leaving the viewers only a basic overview of what’s going to happen next.
The director of Your Name, Makoto Shinkai, follows a unique style of storytelling in his movies. He likes to portray a relationship between nature, tradition and technology. Most Shinkai movies are about separation, where two characters are separated by either distance or time, or both. He uses metaphors and symbolism to highlight this separation. The separated characters usually communicate via non-simultaneous means like email, notes or letters.
The protagonists in Your Name are separated in terms of both time and distance, as they live miles away from one another in different time periods. Their mode of communication is leaving memos on their phones. This theme of disconnectivity is highly evident in Makoto’s previous works as well, such as Garden Of Words and Five Centimeters Per Second.
In Japanese culture, Tsukuyomi is the god of the moon and matchmaking. Tsukuyomi is said to tie an invisible red string to two people, and they’d be destined to be together. In the movie, Mitsuha is seen wearing a red ribbon which is used as a nod to Tsukuyomi’s red string of fate. Your Name describes the string to stretch, tangle sometimes break, but eventually reconnect again. This gives the viewer a hint to where Shinkai is going with the story.
Your Name is full of shots with lush backgrounds and artistic colors. It utilizes hand-drawn animation techniques to give a realistic effect to the surroundings in a scene. Many of the scenes were inspired by real-life locations in and around Tokyo.
Makoto Shinkai constantly uses graphic imagery in Your Name to back his theme of separation. Many scenes are cut in the middle by a line in half strengthening this idea of disconnection.
Throughout the movie, a half-moon or a full moon cut in half can be seen constantly reminding us that the main characters in the movie are detached from each other. Showing the moon is also a sign that although the characters are apart for the time being, Tsukuyomi is constantly watching over them.
Another technique that Shinkai uses in Your Name is that he keeps the angle of the camera low. This method is used many a times by directors to give the scene a feeling that is personal and lived. Shinkai uses this low-angle technique inside the characters’ rooms to describe their daily lifestyles, and outside to show the contrast between Tokyo city and the countryside.
He also makes the camera focus on just the characters’ feet, and follow them at a steady pace. The movement of feet is important to the character-building viewpoint, as you can tell a lot about a character’s emotions by judging how they move or hold themselves depending upon the situation.
The role of Mitsuha was taken on by Japanese actress and singer, Mone Kamishiraishi. She also has a part in the recent Japanese film, Oboreru Knife. Taki was played by the Japanese voice actor Ryunosuke Kamiki. He is the voice behind many characters in films like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Arrietty.
The Japanese rock band Radwimps composed the music for Your Name. Shinkai requested the lead vocalist to compose its music “in a way that the music will supplement the dialogue or monologue of the characters.” The film features the following songs performed by Radwimps:
- "Zen Zen Zense"
The film's soundtrack was the runner-up in the "Best Soundtrack" category at the 2016 Newtype Anime Awards, while the song "Zen Zen Zense' was the runner-up in the "Best Theme Song" category.
To wrap it up, Your Name is a film that is well-deserving of its critical acclaim. Even if you’re not a fan of teenage fantasy/dramas, it will touch you on a personal level. Just when you think the story has come to a halt, there’ll always be more to it.
Have you seen Your Name yet? Comment below!
(Sources: Nerdy Shenanigans)