Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryô Narita
“That day when the stars came falling. It’s almost as if a scene from a dream. Nothing more, nothing less than a beautiful view.”
Yet it was more than a beautiful view. Little did our two protagonists know that this meteor shower will change everything. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) are complete strangers, living separate and very different lives. Mitsuha is a country girl from a lakeside town called Itomori, where, with her grandmother and little sister, she helps run their local family-run shrine and preserve ancient rituals and traditions. She is bored of the repetitiveness of small-town life: “There’s really nothing in this town. Trains come every 2 hours. The store closes at 9 p.m. No bookstore. No dentist,” and wishes to graduate and move Tokyo. She gets her wish when, one day, she wakes up as Taki, a teenage boy in Tokyo. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of city life, he runs from home to school to coffee shops and his part-time job at an Italian restaurant in the evenings.
They switch back and forth at random and, in the form of hastily scribbled notes on pages of school textbooks and smartphone messages, they keep each other up to date with their adventures. They spontaneously live each other’s lives and subtly change it their own way, leaving close friends confused at the sudden change in their behaviour and much amusement and hilarity scattered in their wake: “you seem like a different person today.” Yet there is something darker looming beautifully in the distance and that is the spectre of a celestial event, one whose full catastrophic importance only comes to light mid-way through the film. The astral arc that the falling stars slices across the sky hovers like an ever-present warning on our two star-crossed protagonists.We see a sharp contrast between the lush countryside with sunlight peeking through tree branches, the glittering lake over hilly neighbourhoods against the deliberately slow pan over photo-realistic city skylines as towering buildings come to life when the sun goes down and scenes of people walking as a mass of unknown faces towards their many unknown destinations; all in a dreamy vividness so immersive that you can see every window in every skyscraper, the leaves on every tree.
Whether it’s tracing the comet as it slices its way across the sky in a brilliant glitter of auroras or noticing the mismatched ponytails on Mitsuha’s sister’s hair, it is in the subtlest instances that Your Name shines the most. And it is precisely these minute details that viewers should pay attention to. Like the red thread that connects our two main protagonists, every single little thing weaves together to create a beautifully stitched canvas; a canvas that revisits themes of memory and forgetting, longing and distance like 5 Centimetres Per Second (2007), of hellos and goodbyes like in Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011) and with as much attention to detail as the animation in Garden of Words (2013).
“They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, then connect again. Musubi – knotting. That is time.”
The audience is taken into a journey along two polarities, between male and female, past and present, city and country – but it is in the twilight of ‘kataware doki’, the time when night and day meets, that the real story hides. It is where beginnings and endings blur into one another, and it is as if we, as viewers, are transported into another realm. With the nostalgic strummings and pianos of RADWIMPS, even the soundtrack verges on the edge of ancient and modern.
“I feel like I’m always searching for someone, or something.”
Your Name is like a dream and even if Mitsuha’s grandmother says that “dreams fade away after you wake up”, this one will leave audiences feeling as if they are awakened from a deep sleep. Like a half-remembered dream or a name at the tip of your tongue, it will leave traces like the tail of a falling star, remnants of a forgotten memory long after its mystical light has faded into black.