by Samantha Ho
Starring Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi. Directed by Makoto Shinkai.
Kimi No Na Wa (internationally known as Your Name) has experienced something of an explosion in 2016. Originally created and targeted towards a Japanese audience, the new romance-fantasy animation has been shown in more than 85 countries and continues to remain at the top of the Japanese box office.
Most people exposed to Japanese animation easily recall the works of Studio Ghibli, such as Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle. But director Makoto Shinkai’s (who also directed the widely popular 5 Centimeters Per Second) popularity has taken off in recent years, with many giving him the conflicted title of “the new Miyazaki”.
Your Name revolves around a country-side girl, Mitsuha (Kamishiraishi), who is frustrated by her dull hometown Itomori and wishes for a complete change: “Make me a handsome boy in my next life!” She gets her just desserts and ends up swapping bodies with the Tokyo city-dweller and high school student, Taki. From there, they start a comical journey of trying to make the most out of their new lives.
I think there are a couple of reasons why youth and young adults would love a movie like Your Name. Firstly, the artwork is ridiculously realistic and beautiful, with many of the landscapes based on actual locations in Japan. Arguably, this alone is what made Your Name stand out against other animation movies in the last couple of years (and probably what drew people to watch in the first place).
Secondly, it is accompanied by a stellar (!) soundtrack. It is produced and performed by a popular Japanese band, Radwimps, who have done well in creating music that matched the dramatic tension and mood of the storyline.
Thirdly, the film’s themes aim to resonate with the frustrations, desires and emotions of young people. A longing for purpose and meaning. For excitement beyond the mundane. For connection with someone who understands us. For a hopeful end.
And the answer that Your Name gives to these longings is deeply religious. Particularly, it’s the film’s concept of time that is striking. Mitsuha’s grandmother, who is deeply invested in the family shrine, explains this concept to her in passing:
“Typing thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi. The flow of time is Musubi. These are all the god’s power. So the braided cords that we make are the god’s art and represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, and then connect again. Musubi – knotting. That’s time.” [translation taken from IMDB]
When Mitsuha and Taki swap bodies, we see Musubi in action. A surprise plot development leaves the two confused as to how to go back in time to prevent a crisis that will leave ripple effects for the future. Will Musubi work in their favour?
Perhaps it’s my lack of understanding Musubi, but I found the flow of time quite hard to keep up with (maybe because I’m used to linear presentations of time). The other thing I found hard to grasp was the pacing at which Mitsuha and Taki’s friendship progressed. It felt contrived and at times, superficial. Which was a shame, because I found the rest of the production elements to be quite amazing.
It’s at this point where I remembered how this compares with a Christian understanding of time. The God of the Bible is the global and supreme God, not one of many local ones. He is not the personification of time, but the infinite God who created time and controls it too. Colossians 1:15-20:
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
Knowing this Son, Jesus, made me hopeful for something more than what we have or desire in this life. And while Musubi can represent time, Jesus is what time looks forward to.
The Verdict: Overall, I was excited for Your Name because I thought it was a well-designed production which drew out a lot of relatable themes and presented them stunningly.* However, I was hoping for more in terms of plot development and characterisation. 3.5/5
*Those who are interested in watching a film that has similar themes yet I personally enjoyed more is Mamoru Hosoda’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Your Name releases in Australian cinemas this Thursday 24th November.