I loved Your Name to a degree I’ve rarely loved a movie. Though it’s probably on par with Episode VII, so maybe this is just me getting sentimental in my old age. In any case, my pleas to get anyone to watch this movie so I could discuss it largely failed, so I’ve decided to scream into the void of the internet with my thoughts instead. This will consist almost entirely of spoilers, so beware of reading on.
From its opening shot, Your Name is basically messing with the audience. It starts with a meteor – significantly, not a comet – falling toward a circular lake. With no context this is pretty meaningless, but once you’re familiar with Itomori and even the color of the split-off part of the comet from the intro, you can piece together what’s happening here.
Another clever misdirect follows immediately after, as we see Mitsuha in Tokyo introducing herself to Taki, who doesn’t recognize her. The voiceover and animation make this seem dream-like, and indeed it ends with Mitsuha waking up suddenly. But the scene tells you a lot. You see Mitsuha give Taki her braided cord ribbon, and while it’s not explicitly called out until much later, Taki does wear the cord whenever he’s in his own body as a wristband for the duration of the movie.
The misdirect here is that while it’s Mitsuha waking up after this apparent dream, it’s actually Taki in Mitsuha’s body, implying it’s actually his dream we’re seeing. And that would make sense, because that dream is actually a memory which he has, but Mitsuha hasn’t yet experienced. Further, we only stick with Taki in Mitsuha’s body for a short time, after which we switch to the next day with Mitsuha as herself. So it’s very easy to miss that this is Taki’s dream and not hers, particularly since she does the voiceover in it.
The braided cord is an interesting element to watch during the movie, because both characters wear it only when they wake up in their own bodies. It’s not really necessary to tell who’s who, but it does avoid a potential plot hole. If Taki saw Mitsuha’s cord or vice-versa, they’d be liable to realize it’s exactly the same one they have. (Though the way this movie plays with memory and dreams, even if they had, I’m not sure they’d make anything of it. More on that in a bit.)
At this point, the movie backs off the heavy foreshadowing. Still, you actually know enough already to guess that Mitsuha is actually in the past, and that Itomori is going to be hit by the comet. The intro sequence shows Taki looking at the split comet, while Mitsuha still hasn’t seen the split, another indication that they are in different timelines. Given that it’s the intro montage, and it also shows both characters as adults in Tokyo (kind of spoiling that Mitsuha survives), it would make sense to conclude that this is a scene from the future, but it’s actually from (Taki’s) past. And he does look younger here, though it’s hard to notice at the beginning of the movie.
In what I thought was an odd choice at first, we track Mitsuha through an entire day, following that by tracking Mitsuha as Taki for a day. Aside from the brief moment of playing with Mitsuha’s boobs and freaking out in front of the mirror, we don’t see Taki’s perspective for quite a while. What he did as Mitsuha is left to the imagination (which remains largely true throughout the movie, though you get short flashbacks like him tipping over the art table). As it turns out, Mitsuha’s perspectives are frontloaded because Taki takes over the middle of the movie, since she spends it actually dead.
(As an aside, I have to admit that I am a huge fan of both fish-out-of-water stories and transformation stories, so body swap stories are basically my favorite thing. The first time I heard about this movie, I made a note to see it as soon as it came out. So if it was just the basic plotline we follow through the body swapping montage, I’d probably have been pretty happy. But then it delved into many of my other favorite tropes, such as ridiculously-obvious-in-hindsight foreshadowing and time travel. This movie is basically designed to please me personally.)
Aside from the intro spelling it out, the movie does start hinting more and more strongly that something is wrong with Itomori as the big reveal approaches. Taki wonders what Mitsuha is talking about when she mentions the comet, and you can see the comet-less sky pretty clearly in that shot. He calls here and it says her number is disconnected, but in the very next scene, you see her using her phone. Something odd is definitely up.
One thing I don’t completely understand is Mitsuha’s change in hair. It can be interpreted as either hinting at or perhaps masking the fact that she no longer has her ribbon. Yotsuha mentions that she went to Tokyo the previous day, so if you have a very good memory you may be able to figure out that that’s when she visited Taki. Of course, since you just saw Taki in Tokyo distinctly not being visited by Mitsuha, it’s easy to miss that as well.
The scene where we first see the comic split probably should cause a fear response, but it didn’t for me. I think that’s why they show the split comet in the intro. It’s something you’re expecting, and even when you see the red meteor in Mitsuha’s eye, it’s not obvious what’s about to happen.
Watching Taki’s trip to Itomori for the first time, I was confused why he couldn’t remember the name of the town. As it turns out, the answer is “narrative convenience,” but it got me thinking about how these body swap memories work. A big theme is that dreams fade, which is either a trick to hand-wave the issues with the plot or the crux of why it works, depending on how generous you are. Since I like the movie, I buy into the whole dreams being ephemeral thing, but there are a number of reasons Taki and Mitsuha probably should have realized they were not in the same time while they were still swapping. Here are a few:
- The days of the week don’t match (and this is accurately portrayed in the movie). So presumably at some point someone went to bed on a Friday and woke up on a school day, which should probably have set off alarm bells.
- The ribbon: if either had seen that the other had it, and they likely would have, that would have been a big clue.
- The comet: Mitsuha could see that the comet wasn’t visible when she was Taki.
- The year: Presumably the year was written or stated somewhere at some point, though we never see this.
- Technology: This one I can actually believe. Mitsuha’s phone is presumably older than Taki’s, but they may both assume that’s because she’s out in the country.
- The internet: We know Mitsuha browsed the internet looking for dating tips for Taki. It’s a bit surprising so little changed in three years that she didn’t notice.
- Itomori: When Taki learns what happened, everyone recognizes the name of the town that was destroyed. Taki should, too.
But like I said, I’m willing to ignore all that. In fact, just based on the last point, about Itomori, I think we can conclude that the two main characters have a pretty hazy concept of the world (either the one they’re in or the one they’re from, maybe both) when they’re in each other’s bodies. It is, after all, dream-like.
At the point where Itomori’s destruction was revealed, I immediately realized that this movie was amazing. I was not expecting that whatsoever, despite tons of foreshadowing, and I love surprises like that. At first I was unsure if I felt like changing time was the right resolution, but I don’t know where else this story would go. Plus, the premise was already supernatural. I love that the solution plays into the kuchikamizake that seemed like window dressing before this point.
The “kuchikamizake trip,” as it is titled on the soundtrack, is somewhat tangential to the plot, but really solidifies the movie. You see that the only arguably villainous character, Mitsuha’s father, is made a bit more understandable here. And maybe it’s just the non-Japanese non-country-boy in me, but it does make Mitsuha’s grandmother a little less sympathetic, too.
Although it’s not really relevant to any analysis, I do have to say that the final time Taki wakes up as Mitsuha is the funniest scene in the movie by far. The way he looks like he’s going to play with her boobs (again), but then hugs himself… followed by playing with them anyway while crying for joy at seeing Yotsuha… it’s just perfectly executed, and a great moment.
This is one of the only times we really get an extended look at Taki as Mitsuha acting like the boy he is. He’s also in her body for the trip to the god’s body, but he’s basically trying to behave at that point. But his interactions with Teshie here (and Sayaka’s priceless reactions) are basically the mirror to Mitsuha-as-Taki’s early interactions with his friends. Their plan seems a little flawed, in exactly the ways it ends up failing, but that’s kids for you. They did what they could.
I mentioned in my review that the dub is fine, but I do think the movie is worth watching subbed at least once even if (like me) you don’t actually prefer subs. The pronoun joke the first time Mitsuha talks to Taki’s friends as Taki doesn’t work at all dubbed, and they don’t translate “Musubi” as “Union” in the sub, which makes that scene actually seem less weird. But one point that does mostly work in the dub but works better in the sub is the idea of twilight/magic hour. “Magic hour” is essentially what they’re talking about, but if you know that term’s filmmaking meaning, it’s a bit hard to wrap your head around it being literally magical, as it is here.
Anyway, Taki and Mitsuha finally meeting is an emotional scene, the start of a quick series of emotional hits, the first being when Mitsuha disappears one stroke into writing her name. We see both characters forget one another, which is heartbreaking, and the fact that Taki wrote “I love you” instead of his name makes it even worse. (Incidentally, that was totally an emotionally manipulative moment, but it worked on me so I’m fine with it lol.)
The concept of love is an interesting one in this story. Up until this point, Mitsuha and Taki have never actually met, and only communicated via diary entries. Yet I completely bought that they’d fall in love. Maybe that’s just because it was a movie and that’s the expected outcome, but it does make me wonder what kind of feelings you might develop for someone you didn’t know, but whose life you had intermittently lived. I think in this case it’s pretty believable, if only because both characters are young, single, and kind of dumb when it comes to relationships.
And that brings me to the ending. In the theater, I kind of hoped they wouldn’t get back together, because I hate overly neat endings. However, it felt like the right call, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. The truth is, they don’t even know each other anymore, they just have this vague memory. We don’t know that it will even work out between them, but the fact that they’d be searching for one another is entirely believable. Having them finally meet (again) is really the only way this story could end. (This is especially true in the context of Shinkai’s other work.)
The more I think about this movie, the more I appreciate just how well put-together it is. And lament that it only works as a movie, because I can’t even explain to someone who hasn’t seen it why it’s so good. (And “someone who hasn’t seen it” describes almost everyone I know.) There’s a lot to say for it even beyond the narrative structure. The lack of a villain is a nice touch (shared with another of my favorite movies, My Cousin Vinny), and the nature of the romance between Taki and Mitsuha is interesting as well. It’s not at all one-sided, and even though Taki does quite literally save Mitsuha, it’s not a damsel-in-distress situation and in the end, Mitsuha ends up saving herself.
So in conclusion, I love it, I think everyone should love it, and when someone doesn’t love it, that makes me sad. Go watch it! (You know, ignoring that it’s mostly out of theaters and isn’t otherwise available.)