Casual Observer / Your Name. (君の名は)

Heralded by some as "the next Hayao Miyazaki", director Makoto Shinkai has released the feature Your Name. to critical acclaim, mainly in Japan. However, it has finally reached the frozen north where I reside. I got a chance to go see it (twice) and I have to agree it is something special.

Images provided by Funimation

Images provided by Funimation

Shinkai and his team have always been known for their amazing scenery, portraying regular life and landscapes in an almost fantastical nature. I first fell in love with the style from of his earlier releases. 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007), is a story about falling in and out of love, and of the strain relationships can face in terms of time, distance, and even something more ethereal. Your Name. (2016) shares some of those themes with great success.

The art does something amazing, grounding the viewer in its intricacies and details. The environments are filled with subtle touches, saying many things about the characters, their relationships and the setting of the story, without needing to say word. The characters are simpler in contrast, but their movements have the same subtle touches, and animate colourfully against these backdrops. Small details in clothes and faces help lend to the connection you form with them.

Your Name. is about a boy and a girl, one living in Tokyo and the other in the Japanese countryside, respectively. The girl wants a different life and the boy finds himself happy, but restless. They soon find themselves in each other's bodies – the switch seemingly random. Leaving diaries for each other in their phones, they both end up being good influences on the other. Meanwhile, they appear to be drawn closer together by an invisible thread binding their destinies. Here we see the idea of the "red string of fate": a concept from Chinese legend that says two souls can be bound across time and space. Mitsuha, the girl from rural Japan, has a red hair tie that she wears daily, and eventually gives to Taki. The movie uses this kind of imagery to bind our characters together.

At first, the film is lighthearted and when I saw it in the theatre, the audience roared with laughter as the characters fumbled through each other's lives. At first Taki, the boy from Tokyo, is lost while inhabiting Mitsuha’s body and doesn't act ladylike. He acts with confidence and is bold in a way that Mitsuha isn't. As Taki, Mitsuha brings a calm and feminine touch to his life, even earning him a date in the process. They interfere in each other's love lives, they struggle through school and sports, and they continue to grow closer.

I watched Your Name. with subtitles and I recommend doing the same, my experience with the English dub didn't stand up to the original voices. There is subtlety to their performances that help lend weight to the film’s ‘twist ending’. They also allow one of the funniest jokes to still occur and make sense: Mitsuha confuses her feminine/ masculine nouns and language with Taki's friends, a joke that makes more sense in its original language.

If you wish to see this movie unspoiled, read no further! The movie's twist is great, and I was on the edge of my seat during it. Go see it and come back.

Basically, it is not only distance that keeps Mitsuha and Taki separate, it is time as well. Three years to be exact. We learn that Mitsuha has actually died, as the comet the movie has been showing over and over like a dark portent hits her small village and destroys it. Taki learns of this devastation in a brutal way, only stumbling upon the ruins as he tries to meet Mitsuha for the first time. It is a dark twist on the traditional "body switching" story that is effective, especially as Taki realizes the solution.

In a few short sentences and exposition, the body switching is explained in a satisfactory and believable way. Tying back into the idea of the red string of fate, Taki and Mitsuha's destinies have always been intertwined as their ancestors also body switched. This has been going on forever because they aren't necessarily destined to be together, but to save each other. These switches have been happening so that Taki can go back into Mitsuha and help her warn the town and not only save herself, but also her friends, family and the townspeople.

"Your Name." poster via Tumblr

"Your Name." poster via Tumblr

"5 Centimeters Per Second" poster via  Movie Poster Shop

"5 Centimeters Per Second" poster via Movie Poster Shop

After they have been saved, they forget each other and each other's names as love between them wasn’t the intended goal. The movie then fast forwards and we see Taki older, 8 years after the comet's impact. He struggles to find an architect job and still seems lost, feeling like he is missing something or someone. After a few close calls, Taki and Mitsuha finally see each other again and the movie ends on them asking each other's names. A moment that still is resonating with me. It is a perfect titular nod, and ends the story on a lingering ellipses that allows the audience to imagine their future happiness.

In 5 Centimeters Per Second, distance and time conquer love and the characters move on without each other. In Your Name., we see that love can overcome any obstacle, even time and space. A simple story told beautifully. As to whether Shinkai is the next Miyazaki, I have to agree. He has created a classic with Your Name. – a film that can proudly stand beside Spirited Away (2001) and Howl's Moving Castle (2005).

Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.

Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.

When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.

Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4