Even while attempting to connect us, modern technology seems to further emphasize our own deeply felt isolation. Stroll through any city and find that nearly every man, woman, and child has their face down and headphones in, seemingly unaware of what’s happening. These ideas, admittedly, are not novel, as recent films like Her (2013) explore the difficulty of finding love in the modern age. Your Name, the Japanese animated mega-hit, seems to recognize this isolation felt by younger generations and consoles them—suggesting that fate and destiny work to ensure we find a companion.
Disheveled and unkempt, Mitsuha (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) wakes for school and mindlessly prepares for the day, longing for a chance to leave provincial Japan for Tokyo. She braids her hair, eats a quick breakfast with her elderly grandmother, and walks to the high school with some friends—the usual. Soon, however, she recognizes a few oddities, such as her friends continually commenting that she was acting “weird” the previous day, and suspicious writing in her notebook asking, “Who are you?” These abnormalities seem to comment just as much on the nature of being an adolescent as they work to move the plot forward. The following morning, Mitsuha wakes for school again, before quickly realizing that she was not living in her own body. Rather, she looks around this mysterious bedroom and, after gazing at herself in the mirror, concludes that she is occupying the body of a boy from Tokyo, Taki (Mone Kamishiraishi). This impossibility allows Mitsuha to live the life she yearned for, as she spends the day riding the train and frequenting cafes with Taki’s friends.
As Mitsuha occupies his body, Taki occupies hers as they begin switching places in their sleep a few times each week. Played on for wacky hijinks initially, this Freaky Friday-esque body swap concept is quickly relished by both Taki and Mitsuha—as they are both given the chance to live a life unbeknownst to them. They start leaving notes to one another while occupying each other’s body, reminding the body’s rightful owner what happened throughout the day, as both get more and more entangled in each others lives.
Both characters are adolescents searching for something greater than what they have. This unfocused longing is why Taki and Mitsuha grow to love body swapping. In his own body, Taki often sits alone in his bedroom, sketching pictures he recalls from provincial Japan. Makoto Shinkai’s stellar direction emphasizes the beauty of nature—holding on images of the rural town, with the twilight sun breaking over the looming mountains. Shinkai’s knack for creating sumptuous pastoral imagery helps viewers understand why Taki is attracted to rural Japan, and, as a result, Mitsuha. While switching bodies, it should come as no surprise that the two fall in love with one another. This powerful association formed between the land and people inhabiting it serves as a major theme throughout the film.
All good things must come to an end, and the body swapping stops occurring following the presence of a mysterious comet in the night sky. This prompts both Taki and Mitsuha to begin calling one another—each time, the line is unavailable. If the universe was responsible for bringing these two lost souls together, the universe seemed to be keeping them apart. The remainder of the film then becomes an achingly desperate search for the person they thought they once knew.
The filmmakers further accentuate the thematic truths of their film through the use of imagery. The comet, for instance, breaks apart into two when it reaches its perigee—symbolizing the diverting paths of Mitsuha and Taki. Of course, the unexpected splitting of the comet coincides with the abrupt splitting of Taki and Mitsuha’s communication. Many of the images presented throughout the entirety of the film visually depict the two teenagers’ crossing of paths. A pair of telephone wires are shown entangled, early on, to express the intertwining lives between both characters. Furthermore, after the body swapping ceased happening, an image of two birds flying past one another followed to further emphasize the missed connection experienced by both characters. After all, they never even met.
Your Name is overwhelmingly successful by utilizing animation to tell a teenage love story with mature sensibilities. Shinkai’s film, in many ways, is perplexing to begin with—the confusion from the body swapping could have been distracting. Your Name, rather, operates more in a dream state, switching between characters with the ease and enjoyment that Taki and Mitsuha embody.
Featured Image By Toho