It might be a little early to predict, but I think that Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. might be headed for the Oscars. To say that it’s one of the best films of 2016 is probably a fact; however, to say that it is the best? That, in my opinion, isn’t too far of a stretch either.
What is the film about, exactly? To quote Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Well, in Your Name., that’s exactly the case.
So here’s where I issue my all purpose SPOILER ALERT.
Thoughts, opinion and review
Your Name., or Kimi no na wa, tells the story of Mitsuha and Taki, the former a country girl from the small town of Itomori, and the latter a Tokyo city boy. Due to unexplained phenomena, several times a week, without warning, the two switch bodies.
The problem with these swaps is obvious. First, it takes some getting used to, well, rather different anatomy. Not to mention getting used to another person’s life. And family. And environment.
But we have a phrase to describe all of those, at once: culture shock. (Okay, maybe not all of those, but you get the point.)
While the show wasn’t mainly about culture shock, I found its depiction of the experience beautiful. As it plays out, the duo have rather differing reactions to body swapping. Mitsuha, having always wanted to live in Tokyo, is elated, and quickly gets used to Taki’s life, immersing herself in the city’s delights (mostly cafe snacks, really). Taki, on the other hand, is required to learn about the ancient traditions of Itomori from Mitsuha’s grandmother, which sets him up for his heroics later in the film.
And, of course, as you’d expect from two teens in a movie switching bodies repeatedly, they begin to fall in love. Cue the sweet music and whatever else is required, because now we move on to the second and more important theme.
Empathy really shines in this show. With the stage set, problems begin to arise: first, the body switching suddenly stops, and the two of them lose their connection. This causes Taki to decide to go meet Mitsuha in person. That’s a bad idea too, because he discovers that his and Mitsuha’s timelines weren’t in sync—she was living in 2013, while he’s in 2016. What’s more, Itomori, Mitsuha’s town, doesn’t exist in 2016. It was destroyed by fragments of a comet that also killed most of the town’s population, Mitsuha included, in 2013.
This revelation, of course, devastates Taki. But while others would’ve given up at this point—remember, Taki doesn’t actually have a connection to the town save his irregular body swaps with one of its denizens—he decides to save the whole town, and with it, thousands of people that he would never know and never meet. While it could be viewed as a selfish move on Taki’s part—after all, his main goal is to save Mitsuha, the fact that he doesn’t just run off in her body and take her to safety (he certainly has multiple opportunities to do so), but rather, tries to save everyone, is an act of courage and empathy.
Basically, through the film, Shinkai shows how understanding another person—their life, their world, and their motivations—will result in empathy for them.
And now we arrive at the final problem in Your Name. Once the body switching stops for good, the two of them forget that the other existed. They’re completely wiped from each others’ memories. However, Taki retains his interest in Itomori—in the disaster, the aftermath, everything. He admits that his interest is strange—he doesn’t know anyone from Itomori (so he thinks), and yet, he feels a strange attraction to the place.
And maybe, that’s Shinkai’s point. Once you understand someone or some group, you can empathise with them—always. Taki, for some reason, even though he forgot all of his experiences in Itomori, never unlearned his empathy and wish to understand the people of Itomori.
And that, I think, is what makes the movie one of the best of 2016. Of course, there were other things I could have discussed, like how the film portrays disasters, romance and tradition, but that’s not exactly my piece of cake.
So anyway, if you wanted a numerical verdict, here’s one: 9.8/10.
Why it’s Oscar material
As I said earlier, I do hope that the show is nominated for an Oscar. The story aside, everything else about it was also first class: the animation, the art, the music, and even how the show was cut made it great.
But as many others have noted, this year’s competition is stiff, with hits like Zootopia, Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory and The Red Turtle having come out. (I’m going to ignore Moana for obvious reasons.) But, as Your Name. is already on the shortlist for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, maybe it will find a place in the nominations.
But speculating that list is for another day. In the meantime, what other thoughts do you have about Your Name.? (Or the Oscars. That too.)