Review: The “Makoto Shinkai is the new Hayao Miyazaki” buzz embarks again when his latest feature, Kimi no na wa, or as known as Your Name storms Japanese box office recently. Shinkai (5 Centimeters per Second, Children who Chase Lost Voices, The Garden of Words) is always known for his penchant in crafting picturesque, hyperrealistic 2D animation with heart-wrenching story and viable imagination, which transcends in his natural approach.
Shinkai’s works often radiate idyll from the inside, simultaneously emanate visceral, candid narrative. Kimi no na wa / Your Name is no different; only you might bet that it comes from Shinkai’s wildest dream, rather than from his sober contemplation. It might initially look like a usual gender-swapping drama, but as it goes, it unravels more: from time-travel to disaster-drama and quest for love.
When a legendary comet approaches Earth’s hemisphere, a bizarre situation happens to two youngsters with different lives in different places. A country girl, Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), and a Tokyo posh boy, Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), finds themselves inhabiting each other’s body.
As it happens, the lite body-swap drama turns into a fun, quirky ride; Taki learns to adapt into Matsuha’s body, whose breasts he occasionally fondle anytime he’s becoming her. He learns about Mitsuha’s splendor hometown and an ancient tradition she’s living in. Meanwhile, Mitsuha who fancies Tokyo life also starts to find home in Taki’s body; helping him dating a senior work-mate in an Italian restaurant called ‘Il giardino delle parole’ (which means ‘The Garden of Words’, reference to Shinkai’s previous film).
The further the swapping progresses, it turns into a somewhat long-distant romance with enough quirkiness to let audience delve into the core of it. What started off as a gender-swap sweetness transcends into an emotional joyride as Taki and Mitsuha respecively leaves messages to each other via diaries, smartphones and their own skin. At the same time, they leave hints and rules to what they can/cannot do while in each other’s body. Taki and Mitsuha are close yet so far from each other, and that’s only after one twist; not the other one.
Once the celestial object approaches, stories about time loops, an ancient belief, extra-terrestrial object, and a story of a lost town juxtaposes in one synchronized interdimensional romance which Shinkai crafts with style and swift, un-convoluted storytelling.
Shinkai does not bother explore the cause of these strange occurence but some minor hints about Mitsuha’s bloodline. Same as the on-screen characters, they do not deliberately intend to know the cause, instead, they’re more curious to know each other and, more, to be with each other eventually. The plot exploits same curiosity as a fuel to further dive into the characters. That curiosity grows into sympathy, and sympathy eventually leads to empathy and sense of belonging: Taki to Mitsuha respectively and audiences to those characters.
If you are familiar with 5 Centimeters per Second and/or are torn by its conclusion, Your Name might serve as a cure. The latter somehow serves as an antithesis of the former and it’s actually observable via the use of similar symbolism. Skip it if you haven’t watched 5 Centimeters per Second and Your Name. In 5 Centimeters, specifically in ‘Cosmonauts’ segment, there’s a scene of a rocket/space-shuttle launch into the space, leaving the mother Earth. As much as it is beautifully depicted, it’s an obvious symbolism of ‘letting go’ as projected in the ending. Meanwhile, Your Name portrays a similarly opposite event on a scene where a comet fragment dives into the earth from the sky; which symbolizes ‘acceptance’ as projected in the ending. Symbolism and metaphors are familiar devices in Makoto Shinkai’s works, but knowing how they co-relate in different films proves that Shinkai has progressed as a brilliant storyteller.
In the end, what started off as a sweet, quirky gender-swapping drama gradually turns into a heartthrobbing, splendid story of distant love. So distant it almost gets untouchable, but in the end, it shows its true nature: it’s mysterious, enormous, and most importantly, majestic. As the credit rolls, as much sentimental we can be, let’s agree that Makoto Shinkai is truly one of the best filmmakers in this era.
And if Your Name is your first encounter with Shinkai’s works, you’re up for a good show.