Jun 18, 2019
Bunney (All reviews)
Your Name begins with half an hour of establishing the central characters; Mitsuha and Taki, as well as their daily lives at school, work, their relationships, and their location, highlighting their cultural differences most importantly. This portion of the story succeeded in setting up the events thereafter. For that reason, in some ways, this is my favourite portion of the film, which doesn't set the greatest precedent, and I'll get to what I mean by that, all I'll say for now is that a disappointing second and third act can really make a first act look much better than it is.

However, setting up the events of the story is essentially all it is good for, and while character interactions felt natural, and a lot is learned about rural culture vs. city culture, not a lot is learned about the main characters beyond their sex and their cultural differences, meaning upon entering act two, a lot of ground has yet to be covered. That being said, small intricacies both characters share, such as Mitsuha's sewing and Taki's drawing abilities are established briefly throughout the film, and serve the story rather well, but ultimately, this doesn't add to their overall charm or lack thereof.

The blooming of a possible romance is also lost on me because the extent of the pair's interaction is communicating via prompts in order to help them remember what happened, as well as to give them lifestyle tips when switched to appear normal, suggesting nothing is organic or meaningful, especially because none of it is remembered naturally. They both experience each other's daily activities, such as their work and interacting with their friends and family, but nothing is accomplished to justify any form of romantic interest between the two, it more so succeeds as a fish-out-of-water story, or it would if the film presented it as such. Shinkai wants you to feel something about the coupling of Taki and Mitsuha, regardless of how enigmatic and convoluted their situation is, which, at least to me, is not a possibility. Their knowledge of each other is very superficial; they have lived each other's lives without really knowing anything about each other beyond their looks, their hobbies, who they hang out with, etc. They become infatuated with each other without ever gaining insight into each other's personalities, which means the reason can be reasonably boiled down to adolescent hormones; the thought of being even remotely in contact with the opposite sex... Hey, you come up with a better interpretation.

It's fine though, they can just shed tears and the film can play sad piano music to manipulate the audience into thinking something is actually emotional.

Soon after act two begins, the concept of 'Musubi' is mentioned, referring to tying, which suggests that when something is a part of a person, it ties into their soul. This is information learned by Taki in Mitsuha's body, and is also, unfortunately, where my disappointment began to materialize. The reason being the use of time travel storytelling. This is a difficult theme to tackle, and I say this because I'm dumb and anything to do with time travel is not in my wheelhouse. This is why I could never appreciate films like Primer or Predestination, as much as I wanted to like those films. In fact, the only reason I enjoyed Steins;Gate more so than the examples given is because the characters were engaging and had boatloads of personality. Essentially, if I ever call out the inconsistencies of Your Name's logic beyond this point, don't bother taking it seriously, trust me.

Performances are not generally something I touch on when discussing anime, but in this case, I'm forced to make an exception. What I looked for in relation to the body switching element, initially, is whether or not I could distinguish one character with the other; if Mitsuha as Taki and vice versa is presented in a way that makes me believe they're different. Generally, this is successful. Mitsuha's infatuation with city life and her femininity shows in Taki's body language and voice, likewise with Taki's brutish masculinity found in Mitsuha's body language, as well as his adjustment and growing fascination with Mitsuha's family customs.

However, the problem isn't how these differences are presented, the problem is the what; what is presented. Whenever Taki is in his body, he never embodies masculinity like he does when in Mitsuha's body, this is merely a gender-specific placeholder representing how men should act, the objective being to portray a women acting like a typical man, a man who plays sports and is abrasive, which Taki, most certainly is not. As a result, how the initial body switch is presented in combination with what is presented is too simplistic and lazy.

Shinkai maintains his trademark crisp, albeit, shallow aesthetic, typically favouring an array of wide shots and highlighting scenery, as well as presenting nature most prominently, i.e. the sky, greenery, and architecture, usually bringing out the best of his visual attributes. However, his visual flair is also usually confined to exploring nothing beyond the limited capabilities of reality. Never does Shinkai seem to separate from his stylistic comfort zone and/or implement visual experimentation, which would be fine and appropriate under exceptional circumstances, For example, his previous projects; Wolf Children and The Garden of Words, are narratively true to reality (except maybe for the actual wolf people but I digress), and the mundane, dry visuals compliment the narrative quite well. In Your Name, the theme of time travel and bodily connectivity could have benefited from the same complimentary visuals a film like Summer Wars had with its universe, and Summer Wars had more personality as a result. While Your Name looks fantastic in terms of production, its creativity and visual/narrative chemistry is lacking for the most part, though their are brief occasions of flair.

Furthermore, you may have noticed I coupled 'crisp' and 'shallow' to describe Shinkai's aesthetic, believing his previous work had more visual profundity, I feel confident in saying Shinkai's previous work, and Your Name respectively, is a concoction of beautiful and lightweight. Whenever Your Name cuts to a shot of, say, birds flying from the trees, I feel very little emotion. It feels, not so much like a creative decision to improve a scene, but like an overt boast, as if to prove to his contemporaries that he can be a legitimate filmmaker, too, guys. He tried too hard, which is emblematic of the kind of director Shinkai is. Sometimes, less is more, quite the double-edged sword considering I criticized Your Name for being stylistically lacking.