It’s time for a light-hearted article on this blog!
I went to go see Your Name in a theatre. I didn’t know you had such an interesting name. You may bow at any time – Japanese style, of course – but be sure to back away first so you don’t bump your computer monitor. Gee, I wish I could have a movie named after me… just kidding.
Like any award-winning movie, our hero and heroine repeat the title’s name over and over, supporting that typical time travel trope of only forgetting the most memorable part of your experience (if you’re good at remembering names, that is). Like many time travel stories, this romance separates our girl who leapt through time from her Satoru Fujinuma by a Stein’s gate. What a memorable trope.
The story is about a boy named Taki and a girl named Mitsuha who wake up and find themselves in each other’s bodies. As the story gradually progresses, they learn about each other through their interactions with friends and neighbors, find themselves in a desperate situation where they must work together, and by the end, they fulfill the much-anticipated happy ending and the audience isn’t walking away feeling like there are too many plot holes.
To summarize it in terms of genres: high-school, romance, drama, sci-fi, and eye-candy.
I’m going to start off with the story details and then eventually sing about the eye-candy.
Table of Contents
- Character Development
- Morality and Spirituality
- Graphics and Animation
Warning: This section is full of spoilers. I’ll try alluding to tropes as much as possible, but stuff is going to be rather obvious.
High-school romance, separated by time, modern Tokyo. Cue madness. We can already expect that these two floundering freshies are going to be somehow united in the future. What was interesting is that (spoiler:) it ended the same way A Town Without Me (Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi) in that our hero and heroine aren’t reunited until they are of more appropriate marital ages. Maybe that’s a rising trend in Japan now that people are getting older (and won’t marry soon) or people are looking for the deeper romantic relationship (as opposed to puppy love).
Our tropes continue with the high-schoolers messing around in each other’s lives, with each other’s friends, and finally communicating via cell phone. This period may be considered the first part of the film, and it gives you at least some sense of the time that these two youths are together. By the end, there is some hinting at romance by observers, but the substance is kind of lacking. We don’t really get any glimpse into what the hero and heroine like about each other, though you can imagine that someone else being in your body and experiencing your personal life is enough for them to get to know about you. Still, it would have been nice to show on at least one occasion some thought out-loud where they mused with a smile about the other person or make some remark that shows interest. The real romance is too hidden, but maybe because it’s not really there until the end – a very distinct possibility – or it’s one-sided for most of the film. The boy shows the most interest in finding the girl though he never expresses any noteworthy reason for pursuing her.
It seems the main character’s romance was not the central purpose for their relationship. It is eclipsed by the cosmic catastrophe trope. While the relationship becomes stronger, it seems more out of mutual aid than of any genuine interest.
The cosmic catastrophe has weird magic effects. Communications cease, and their messages disappear for no reason other than that they should known better and used Okarin’s microwave instead. Suddenly, we’re on a random journey where the ball of plot progress leads us to back to once-familiar scenery. Here we have the Startling Revelation Trope or perhaps the I-Finally-See-It-With-My-Own-Eyes Trope as our here is shocked to see the truth with his own eyes… despite him and the audience being given Critical Info in advance. Ah, but hope is not lost, because from somewhere in the past, magic saliva reunites our hero and heroine. Their solution to the problem involves some magic drilled into the audience’s brain earlier in the film, and while it “fills the plot-hole” it’s as mysterious as the body-swapping would have been without that explanation. I’d like to say the two of them then team up to save the town, but their body sharing goes abit beyond lending a hand, so let’s just say they work together.
By some unexplainable magical movie phenomenon, they are reunited for a special moment at which point we insert the movie title. However, the fact that they have to ask each other for their names before the magic amnesia takes effect either testifies to the obliviousness of both individuals (who could have found some document with the other’s name on it or asked a friend) or to the forced importance of that piece of critical data, which they manage to repeatedly lose for the sake of dramatic emphasis.
If the second part of the movie is considered the boy’s search, the third part would most definitely be the Save the Town trope, by which friends unite and craft a plan that I couldn’t have pulled off if my life depended on it… Maybe ’cause I don’t have master hacking skills, a ninja badge, and an ammo dump in my garage. I’ll put all that on the to-do list. You can bet I’d be one of the dudes to run for it. Our hero and heroine approach the near-failing point when they experience the all-too-familiar Motivational-Reunion trope. I guess that was supposed to be the pre-climax point because at the climax the center stage was stolen by a burning chunk of extraterrestrial minerals.
Overall then, the story was so predictable (all except the part where… I won’t say), I could have yawned my way through this one and not missed the gist. It was relaxing and consistent and enjoyable to an extent.
Movies don’t give you much time to develop character. Having to develop characters when they are in opposite bodies is rather difficult. As expected, our main characters’ entire brains and memories perform the swapping (and we have to ignore biological effects, duh), giving us a glimpse at the hidden sides of their personalities. Unfortunately, some of the scenes demonstrating their character are very, very short, so their personalities are only minorly developed in these moments. But they do exhibit knowledge of their own kind, to put it one way. Having seen too many anime series, this part felt rushed to me.
The heroine is depicted as a semi-generic girl. She’s somewhat soft-spoken and sensitive, not tomboyish though certainly having a mischievious side. She values family and tradition, but she is willing to break the rules. She apparently has a way with handling her family which – disappointingly – is often implied rather than shown, leaving that side of her a mystery.
There was some development early on with the heroine being eyed negatively by neighbors, but this never amounted to anything. I guess it showed some of her boldness and insistence on “doing the right thing” at the time in the face of adversity.
The hero is a stereotypical anime high-schooler: He’s a loner with minor interest in girls (and reluctance to approach them) and a couple of cliché friends: one too big and the other too smart, as if we’ve never seen this circle of friends before. He has some measure of kindness or respect that he shows to the elderly, and he can be readily embarrassed, but he’s got a bold side to him. He’s not a wuss, nerd, geek, clown, or anything that would be dangerous as the protagonist… for the film’s financial success, that is.
Overall, the development of both of the main characters is mediocre. I didn’t feel particularly attached to either one, and while I wouldn’t have wanted to see their deaths for the sake of them being human people, if they had died, I may have raised my eyebrows in surprise but not felt much – if any – emotional tug.
The other characters were semi-developed also, but not much. While you could certainly guess possible personality types based on the first reactions and appearance, movie time cuts out any chance of them getting too far beyond two-word descriptions like “friendly and supportive” or “old and senile”. Perhaps the film was trying to play off the usual tropes to establish character since you could have easily projected your basic anime cast personalities into these Joes and Janes… I’m sorry, Tomoyos and Tomoyas.
Morality and Spirituality
There were some rather unnecessary moments in the film, which is why the rating was to PG-13. Undressing and inappropriate-grabbing mostly. The former was unnecessary but possible, and the later only developed negative but predictable character. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if they didn’t keep repeating stuff.
There was some smack talk as well, and while more merited than the other issues, it only helps peg the moral level of this film.
Finally, we get some weird infomercial about spam musubi. Just kidding. The film contains various elements of Shintoism (after all, this is Japan), never fleshed out since the local audience would have already understood the topic. My moral background says I nix Pantheism – nevermind that my philosophical self already has a tendency to criticize every form of time travel from magical to Star Trek. Needless to say, suspense of believability is required for this film.
The soundtrack worked. The theme wasn’t bad at least, if you like JPop that is, though it didn’t really fit the film. Oddly enough, it was played in its entirety in a dedicated interlude – odd for a movie – and sounded rather awkward, as if it belonged in a completely different anime. The complete soundtrack was neither disturbing nor breath-taking on average, but I admit there are a couple gems in there. It was employed well because most of it melded into the background nicely.
You can listen to the entire thing on Youtube:
There is plenty of fan music out now.
Graphics and Animation
Finally, we get to the best part. This is what I pay money for. The scenery was gorgeous. Views of forests and mountains are hand-painted. Things looked beautiful down to each individual leaf at times. As I always add, yes, there is always a notch for better in this department in certain areas, but you can’t ask for much more without seriously delaying movie production. The sky scenes were excellent too, and it made me wish I could paint clouds like that.
The 3D was very impressive. No doubt, animators are getting much better at this stuff, but this is definitely the best I’ve seen so far. Why? Not only did it not interfere with the rest of the film, it flowed with it very well. Most of the 3D was in the city, though it’s often used for cars and vehicles where it always sticks out like a sore thumb. I’ve grown accustomed to the vehicles since this is unavoidable – anytime you try to keep perfect 3D perspective, you ruin the imaginary depth that the user’s imaginary projects into the scene.
One bummer was the character coloring. The designs were a step or more above generic, which is good. For once in an anime, you could tell the girls apart by looking at them even if they were dressed the same. Haha. But when it came to coloring, they usually retained the usual flat-tones and sharp-edged shading characteristic of the animation house that produced them. Admittedly, doing it right is alot of work, and it’s nice to see the studio’s signature style. The disappointing aspect was the lighting. The characters didn’t always fit into the worlds in which they stood. There were a few good scenes, but most of the time, the animators tried to keep it simple. Call me picky, but I know what to look for… I think. 😄
The animation was seamless and smooth, which is excellent. I could critique the directing / camera angles but at least it wasn’t too choppy.
- Story: 6/10 – Complete as a movie story. The entire rating comes from the fact that it is lacking some measure of originality but is well-connected and thought-out.
- Character Development: 4/10 – Somewhat unique people, some plot support for character explanation and growth, some learning, some relationship development.
- Morality and Spirituality: 4/10 – Unnecessary parts frequently employed + Shintoism.
- Music: 6/10 – Some nice pieces and fitting music, but some stuff that didn’t quite work. Hard to rate.
- Graphics and Animation: 9/10 – Eye candy.
- Overall: 6.5/10 – Worth the watch.
Note: 5/10 is “average” for an anime. That’s just the way it’s always worked out whenever I calculate things.
It’s interesting I didn’t come to the same conclusions many fans have. Elsewhere, people are raving about how awesome this film was. Perhaps I’m too accustomed to the formula now to appreciate the emotional appeal, or maybe I’m just too good at seeing through this stuff, or maybe I was in an odd mood, though that seems unlikely since I was very interested in watching this film for a long time. Ah well. It was worth the watch.