The film holds true to all the expectations of a Makoto Shinkai production, from heartfelt smiles to crying the 5th time within the last 30 minutes. His signature metaphorical use of trains, the idea of a hopeless and distant love, and beautiful scenery really dive you emotionally into the story, even for how generic and simple it may seem. The film centers on two characters, Mitsuha Miyamizu – a schoolgirl in rural Japan who dreams of going to the city, and Taki Tachibana, an aspiring architectural student in Tokyo. With the passing of a rare comet, the two start imagining out of body experiences in which their consciousness swaps with each other while they sleep and dream. This leads to no shortage of comedic moments, as the two characters take turns exploring and manipulating their alternate lives – and bodies. As the nature of their dreamlike, out of body experiences is revealed, the two resolve to meet each other. But in their attempt to do so, a dark truth of their relationship emerges, accelerating the story and replacing the comedic elements with a suspenseful quest to find each other and ultimately, race against time. “Kimi no Na wa.” weaves a complex, multilayered narrative that explores the struggle of human emotions against fate. You can feel Mitsuha and Taki’s determination, confusion, and desperation as they toil against temporal reality, a journey that leaves viewers equal parts thrilled and emotionally exhausted.
To speak of names, one does not invoke Makoto Shinkai in conjunction with the phrase “happy ending.” To say that he has made his fame off producing romance anime is only half the story, as his work’s exploration of themes such as distance and unrequited love often impart a wistful and bittersweet aftertaste. “Byousoku 5 Centimeter” (5 Centimeters per Second), his most famous title to date, is both loved and reviled for its directorial willingness to defy the sort of resolution that viewers have come to expect out of the romance genre. While “Kimi no Na wa.” continues to incorporate motifs and concepts familiar to past Shinkai works, it reflects a maturation of his artistic vision to tell a tale of love and determination that transcends time, distance, and even apocalyptic odds.
I wouldn’t say I have much of a complaint about main characters Taki and Mitsuha. We all can relate to the high school phase of our lives, it appeals to us because stories we read or watch in books or films set on characters that are going through this remind us of our own springtime of youth. Shinkai did a good job at portraying them and their relationships. My main gripe is that I feel they weren’t explored enough to feel a strong sense of emotional attachment. Their lives, personalities, traits, habits, friends, lifestyles, etc are all explored in the first ~20 minutes, I personally felt that we only skimmed the surface of these characters and are forced to go further into the shallow end of a pool, only hoping that it gets deeper to actually swim around in this world of possibilities.
As expected of a Makoto Shinkai film, the artwork is beautiful. The production quality is off the charts. The art in itself is enough to evoke tears, as it did for me during even the trailer. His choice of colors and use of movement and focus within the frame really help you pay attention to what you need to pay attention to, while also not skimping out and leaving out detail if your eyes do decide to stray. There is one particular scene near the beginning which has a sort of “3D camera rotation” that looks so real that I thought it was rendered; but at the last second, the character turned their head, and I was able to tell that it had been entirely hand-drawn. There are scenes where basic physics are completely altered, yet they managed to make it 100% smooth, dragging me along through the character’s experience. Makoto Shinkai reaffirms his place at the forefront of animation, as the film’s stunning backgrounds and fluid motion easily make this one of the most visually ambitious anime of the past year. Superb art direction and character designs with the assistance of Masayoshi Tanaka (AnoHana, Toradora, KokoSake) give the film a modern, colorful aesthetic.
The music was done by the band RADWIMPS, a Japanese rock/alternative rock band. Some people have come to me asking whether or not this took away from the cinematic or emotional feel of the film, but in my opinion it helped in a way characterize the characters of Mitsuha and Taki. Rock music carries with it a sense of youth. Bringing that youthful feeling to the film’s soundtrack helps to establish the sense of naivety to the characters and their interactions. It really helps establish the characters as teenagers who don’t know or care about right from wrong, but rather would do what they feel in their heart is the right thing to do, which is exactly what motivates Mitsuha and Taki in their adventure. Appearantly, Shinkai and the Radwimps worked together for more than 18 months as they constantly modified and worked on the audio of the film, as early back as letting the cuts and rhythm of the storyboards dictate every aspect of the COMPLETELY ORIGINAL SCORE.
As little as I felt I delved into the personalities of the characters, I did enjoy the film a lot. Shinkai’s metaphorical use of trains just continuing to go along their routes that diverge in several ways really applies in this film, as much as it did in 5 Centimeters per Second. Everyone’s lives diverge in different ways, things happen in dreams and are forgotten the next day, things happen in reality and are forgotten over a lifetime. I enjoyed Taki’s and Mitsuha’s struggles throughout the film to help each other, and as much as it made me well up tears in my eyes, ˚‧º·(˚ ˃̣̣̥᷄⌓˂̣̣̥᷅ )‧º·˚I enjoyed his questioning of how much our memories make up who we are.