Kimi No Na Wa: Treasure the Experience

[My thoughts on Kimi No Na Wa/ Your Name]

Recently, at the behest of a friend, I sat down to watch what she called 2016’s best animated film – Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). Beautifully crafted from beginning to end, this turned out to be an unusual love story that’s brimming with the feels.

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On hindsight, I guess the entire story revolves around the idea of being so close and yet so far away. We get an unlikely romance between two young people, Mitsuha and Taki who are further from each other than they think. They do share a certain connection though – you see, for some inexplicable reason, every few days a week they swap into each other’s bodies. It’s amusing and exciting to see them realise that no, it’s not a dream and then try to navigate the tall order of living in someone else’s body, in someone else’s world. They come to a certain understanding and at some point, develop an interest in each other.
Screenshot 2017-04-08 21.44.54.pngAt first, I didn’t see how or why they would fall in love, given that their interactions are mainly limited to messages that they leave in each other’s phones or faces (and occasionally hands). Sometime later, it occurred to me that what they do is far more intimate anyway. I suppose that living each other’s lives would give them a pretty decent understanding of each other, enough for them to develop a crush and eventually decide that they’re in love.

Up until that point, the story seemed somewhat predictable. Then, without much of a warning, it veers sharply into something of an unchartered territory, throwing the audience into suspense before promptly handing us a plot twist. I’m not actually going to discuss the plot because it’s impossible to do so without giving away serious spoilers – suffice to say that it was perfect balance of everything I didn’t even know I was looking for in a film that’s basically an out-of-this-world teen romance.

Screenshot 2017-04-08 19.29.15The body/ soul swapping thing could have gone so wrong, become a clichéd soulmate story but I was quite pleased by how neatly it unfolded. It’s an experience that defies all logic, that they question at the beginning, take for granted after a while and treasure by the end. (Plus, I like the idea that even the unnatural is not everlasting.)

Screenshot 2017-04-08 19.28.50.pngI wouldn’t call their romance relatable, but the characters definitely were. Despite their unearthly experiences, they are surprisingly down to earth. The plot effectively taps into their youth, adding a quality of innocence to their love story. So much of what they feel is new to them, and we can tell from the way that they’re uncertain at times, and then throw caution to the wind at other times, chasing after what they want. They’re quick to accept the supernatural and quick to fall in love, and quick to call it love. It works because they’re young. It’s sweet because they’re young.

Screenshot 2017-04-08 21.52.39.pngIt is indeed an experience to be treasured – finding and falling in love. It’s made all the more precious because we never know how it will turn out. In fact, at one point in the story, Mitsuha’s granny recalls a similar experience in her youth – she too had gone through a soul-swapping phase when she was a teenager. It’s a vague recollection but what’s clear is that she has forgotten most of it. Perhaps, she had been in love. Perhaps she had wanted to chase the feeling too. The whole situation seems to be an allegory for how the wonders of youth may be lost with time and age.

The story doesn’t explicitly elaborate on some things and these are left to the interpretation of the audience, such as the significance of the rituals, the voids in the characters’ memories and the reason for the whole soul-swapping phenomenon, but they only contribute to its charm. It is after all a fantasy and if everything were to be laid bare, where would the fun be?

Screenshot 2017-04-08 19.29.33.png

The plot is augmented by its presentation. The quality of the animation is spectacular, a visual treat, bright and bold with little left to the imagination. Things look stunning on every scale: we get the grand backdrop of the sky with a single meteor streaking through it and leaving a trail of rainbow, a city and a countryside strewn with starkly different colours, and a boy and girl in the centre of everything, waking up in their sunlit rooms. The transitions between the scales are beautifully done, fluid and flawless. I love the colours – the way they’re used so artfully to create the right mood. I also enjoyed the music and songs which perfectly complement every moment, grounding the emotions in each scene. Usually, I’m not overly concerned with animation quality or the soundtrack because I watch/read for the story, but these things really stood out to me and made this show all the more wonderful.

I watched this movie twice in a row, replaying it immediately after it ended the first time. To say that I was in awe would be an understatement. The end bleeds into the beginning, a timeless tale, and an experience to be treasured undoubtedly. Kimi no Na wa would takes up less than two hours of your life but it’s probably going to leave an impression.

(If you’ve watched this movie and have any thoughts to share, feel free to leave them here..)

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