Movie Review: Kimi no Na wa

Kimi no Na wa, alternately known by its English title Your Name, has taken the Asian entertainment sphere by storm recently. Besides being the fourth highest grossing film in Japan ever (second for a domestic Japanese film), it’s had similar success in China, Thailand, and South Korea. The gist of the movie seems very simple: your everyday run-of-the-mill body swap shenanigans. But Kimi no Na wa is so, so much more.

Japanese Name: 君の名は。

Director, Writer, Cinematographer: Makoto Shinkai

Genre: drama, fantasy, romance

Running Time: 1:46:26

Recommended For: just about everyone, but in particular those who love fantasy love stories

NOT Recommended For: people looking for a mindless action or horror flick


Starring: 

Ryunosuke Kamiki as Taki Tachibana, Mone Kamishiraishi as Mitsuha Miyamizu, Masami Nagasawa as Miki Okudera, Etsuko Ichihara as Hitoha Miyamizu, Ryo Narita as Katsuhiko Teshigawara (Tessie)Aoi Yūki as Sayaka Natori

Plot Outline: 

Mitsuha Miyamizu is a teenage girl living in the small Japanese village of Itomori. Though her father is Itomori’s mayor, she stays with her grandmother and younger sister in her family’s ancestral shrine and partakes in its traditional rituals at the encouragement of her grandmother. Mitsuha, however, dreams a little bigger than this mountainous region of rural Japan. One day she wishes that she could be born again as a handsome boy in Tokyo. Much to her confusion, she wakes up one day in the body of Taki Tachibana, who is just that. While Mitsuha gets to experience her dream life as a high schooler in the bustling city of Tokyo, Taki himself is enters her body back in Itomori.

When the two realize they have been switching places with each other, they begin leaving notes to each other to set boundaries. They reach a happy place where they each get to experience two different lives they never expected. Taki, acting as Mitsuha, is able to give her a more friendly, approachable image to her classmates. Meanwhile, Mitsuha successfully manages to woo Taki’s coworker, who he has been crushing on for a long time. But all things are subject to change, and the small bit of happiness the two high schoolers built will eventually be thrown into question.

Review: 

Let’s just get the big question out of the way: Is it worth the hype? Is it justified that Kimi no Na wa is breaking records and making waves across eastern Asia? In my personal opinion, the answer to this is a resounding yes. Now, I’m afraid I can’t speak on or make comparisons with the novel, as I have not read it. However, I do have an interest in doing so after watching the film version. And that’s simply because I am wholeheartedly in love with this movie and everything about it.

I’m going to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, because Kimi no Na wa is something you have to experience the initial shock of firsthand. So without further ado, let’s run through the most notable aspects of this film.

Animation

First and foremost, the animation for this movie is absolutely stunning. Kimi no Na wa is essentially an anime film, but the images illustrated rival any scene you’d find in a big-budget Hollywood film. The attention to detail is phenomenal. I remember being struck by one moment in particular where rain was falling and you could see the glowing green reflection of a Starbucks sign wavering in the puddles on the ground. I just thought to myself, “Wow, this is really something else.” There was a seamless balance of obviously hand drawn characters with more digital backgrounds used for scenery. And the eventual outcome was visual perfection.

The designs of the characters themselves weren’t overly detailed. Each character was distinctive however, and their emotions and mannerisms were all expertly handled. However, I think the animation really shined in the supporting details. Scenery, light, and visual movement were the most eye-catching aspects of the visual presentation of the story. To keep my rambling about this minimal I will just say: the animation is one of the best things about this film. You could watch this movie with the volume and subs off and still be impressed by the animators’ efforts.

Sound

Sound was also incredibly important in Kimi no Na wa. It not only set the setting for each scene, but the director expertly used the lack of it to build tension and make an impact. There was one instance in particular where the abrupt disappearance of background music actually made me tear up. Songs were soothing, whimsical, or uplifting whenever they needed to be. So I have to applaud whichever individuals were responsible for the music direction of Kimi no Na wa. It was really a huge part in creating the atmosphere of the film. There was a very constant bell chime motif that acted almost as a reminder for the audience that something significant was happening. It was rather eerie actually. In general, the incorporation of some less modern instrumentals and sound effects was an interesting and effective choice for the film.

Strategic use of music aside, the soundtrack itself was lovely. Needless to say, I’ll probably find myself looking up the OSTs for Kimi no Na wa because this type of music is my guilty pleasure. You can listen to one of the movie’s main songs below, for a taste of the beautiful soundtrack:

Characters

I personally loved the fact that the two main leads were both distinctive enough to stand out but not unrealistic Mary Sues or Gary Stues. The whole “country girl longing for the city life” trope is very played out but I saw Mitsuha’s character as something much bigger than that. She could have easily been a generic bubbly female lead but she wasn’t. Mitsuha had the intrigue of Itomori’s mystical traditions on her shoulders and pushing her character development, and that made her something really special. Taki was more of your typical brash male lead. Yet he was not hotheaded enough to be basic nor perfect enough to be the played out “princely” anime love interest. I think both main leads were flawed in the right places, and unique enough to make for a relatable yet still intriguing cast. They behaved like high school kids and I feel that their reactions to most scenarios, especially the initial shock of the body switching, was totally believable. Side by side, I do feel that Mitsuha was the more nuanced character. But in the end, I think Taki showcased the most growth as the story progressed. Both were equally important to the eventual fulfillment of the plot in the end though, and that was quite satisfying to see.

However, the side characters I felt were a bit generic. I found the eventual outcome for Mitsuha ‘s two best friends to be especially typical. But they played their roles right and functioned to help weave a bigger, deeper story. Which is the ultimate goal of supporting cast, so I can’t complain too much. In any case, they were important to the plot and weren’t just there as props for unnecessary conflicts. They also were effective in portraying the lifestyles of each environment, Itomori and Tokyo, very well. Thus I feel that I can forgive them for their somewhat minimal, if nonexistent, character development.

Plot

The thing about Kimi no Na wa is that I went into it expecting to be underwhelmed due to the plot description. I can happily say that the exact opposite happened. It’s odd because the idea of a male-female body swap isn’t particularly inventive. Yet the way this cliché is explored in Kimi no Na wa manages to make the film wholly original. I am such as sucker for stories that set you up with a deceptively simple plot line only to throw a huge wrench in it and leave you reeling in shock and wonder. And this movie does that beautifully.

All the montages used were tasteful and purposeful. Nothing felt rushed or unnecessarily prolonged. It’s like the director knew the exact balance of backstory and action, of humor and sadness.  I found myself smiling cheek to cheek and then crying in the span of less than an hour. And if elements of the story were confusing on the first watch, it was intentionally so. This film will mess with your mind. It’s going to call into question everything you believed from the start and make you think. And that’s why I love it so much. I had to rewatch Kimi no Na wa the day after I finished it just to fully appreciate all the nuance in the beginning that initially went over my head. A second run through also tied up all the loose ends and blurry lines that had me scratching my head on my initial viewing.

Without getting too spoiler-y, I will say the ending itself wasn’t shocking to me. And yet, it still made me cry. It’s like I was waiting for the emotional impact of something I knew to expect and when the writer finally delivered, the blow managed to land. I don’t think story endings have to be unanticipated to be meaningful. And I believe that outcome of Kimi no Na wa was both significant and in perfect harmony with the rest of the story.

Thematic Elements

The title of this movie is interesting because it’s so vague. It’s really hard to get a sense of what kind of story Kimi no Na wa might be from a phrase like “Your Name.” Even about halfway through the film, I didn’t understand exactly where the title tied in. But by the end, you could see how the story was essentially built not only upon these words, but around them. It was a wonderful thing to witness. And it was also probably the reason I was ugly crying by the time the credits began to roll.

The director is exceptionally good at maintaining themes and imagery across the film. The idea of “musubi,” a term likely unfamiliar to a non-Japanese speaking audience, was a major part of this. As Matsuha’s grandma explains in the movie, musubi is the connection moving between people and objects in the world. It’s something that the audience gets a very visceral visual of with Mitsuha’s hair ribbon. But the concept goes deeper than concrete connections like the tying of string, and that’s something you’ll have to experience by watching the film itself. I really love Kimi no Na wa’s incorporation of Japanese traditions and the cultural background of shrine rituals. It was just one of those aspects of this film that you couldn’t replicate in another country or culture. Or at least, the overall tone of the movie would feel changed somehow. Which is why I hope Kimi no Na wa will remain relatively untouched by Western or even other Asian remakes, should they appear. But that’s a whole different topic I won’t go into.

It’s a bit difficult to address other specific themes without revealing too much of the film’s plot. But I will say that besides obvious themes like love being explored, this film focused intently on time, memory, and tradition. Kimi no Na wa was a strange mixture of slice of life and fantasy, which gave the writer more freedom with what he could do with their characters and setting. And Makoto Shinkai certainly used this to his full advantage.

Final Thoughts

The strangest thing for me was how empty I felt after I finished watching Kimi no Na wa. But it wasn’t a bad kind of emptiness. It was more like the feeling of finally finishing an exceptionally good book or TV series after years of being a fan. Only, Kimi no Na wa takes you through this in a little under two hours. I was just left with the thought of: “What now?” All I wanted to do was recapture the magic of the movie and remember the initial shock and beauty of the story and all its twists and turns. And that may sound dramatic, but it’s not an exaggeration.

I just feel like this film is something almost anyone can enjoy. Boys and girls, young and old – you’re probably going to find something in this story that speaks to you. I do think in particular the youth, especially high schoolers, are going to relate to it more. But overall it has a timeless kind of message to it. Unless you only watch shoot ’em up action flicks or horror movies, I think you’d at least find it interesting. I can’t guarantee everyone will love it as much as I do. I can only leave you with the recommendation to see this film, make your own judgements, and witness a little of the magic the cast and crew of Kimi no Na wa were able to create.

Wasta
If there's a Baekhyun, there's a way.

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