Kimi no na wa.: Shinkai’s best work to date

I already watched the shitty DVD-rip quality a week before, but I decided to hold my review until the premiere in Singapore, which was today. The student discount also made it possible for me to watch it without straining my wallet too much. Mind you, Singapore’s capitalism makes everything expensive, including drinks.

Ahem, anyway… Kimi no na wa or Your name. is indeed one of Shinkai’s best works if I do say so myself. I think of it as a spiritual successor to Shinkai’s first hit, Byousoku 5 cm, but this time, Shinkai adds some spice to what would have been a drawn-out melodrama. For the edgy, cool kids who would berate someone who actually cried during the movie, yes, the movie is indeed melodramatic at some points, but I feel that amount of melodrama is justified, as it results in a memorable story of love that crosses dimensions and parallel timelines.

A quick summary of the movie, which I regard as unnecessary, since you can easily read about it online because Kimi no na wa is like, still the number 1 blockbuster in Japan right now. Oh wait, the new Death Note movie just broke Kimi no na wa’s streak. But then again, I feel obliged to write at least the barebones plot of the movie.

Taki and Mitsuha start exchanging bodies for some reason. They live each other’s lives and somewhere along the way, they start developing feelings for one another. The body-swapping stopped after a while, so Taki decides to meet Mitsuha. There’s also a comet that’s a major plot device.

That’s as far as I can go without giving away some major spoilers. At its core, Kimi no na wa is a melodramatic story about love that surpasses the constraints of dimensions (dammit, I pretty much just gave away a lot of stuff just by mentioning that) and time. It can also be interpreted as an allegory for long-distance relationships, or that memorable relationship you shared with someone a long time ago but now you have to forget because it didn’t work out. Wait, that’s the plot of Byousoku 5 cm. Oh well, they both share a similar nuance.

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My review

And here’s my review of Kimi no na wa. Minor spoilers ahead.

First, I have to comment on the astoundingly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing graphics and art of the movie. This movie is more than eye-candy; all of its visuals are impressive and meticulously detailed. From the autumn leaves to even the splash of raindrops, Shinkai and his team did not let a movie budget limit their attention to detail. I’m pretty sure he was like, “Fuck the budget, make that rain as realistic as possible!” The same goes to the beautiful city- and land-scape shots that make up most of the movie’s aspect-to-aspect transitions. To say that it is a treat for the eyes is an understatement; it’s like your eyes went to a 6-star hotel and stayed in the Presidential Suite with the good champagne and everything, and then being treated to the world’s finest spa treatment money can buy.

Second, as a fan of Shinkai and his work, I also noticed a lot of Shinkai-isms in the movie.

First and foremost is the fucking train. In Byousoku 5cm the train was there as an allegory of distance and the act of travelling on a train to reach your loved one’s place is considered the obstacles encountered in a romantic relationship. The train was also responsible for splitting people apart. Fuck you, 5cm train. In Kimi no na wa, the train represents a place of meeting and parting. This is shown when Mitsuha first meets Taki  for a fleeting moment on the train in the first act, and when they split apart during the third act. The act of travelling was also there, when both Taki and Mitsuha respectively took a train to meet each other, but failed. Since Japan is mostly connected by train, I guess this symbolism is fitting.

There’s the mix of tradition and science. In Garden of Words, Shinkai uses classic Japanese literature as allegories to life. In Kimi no na wa., Shinkai mostly focuses on Japanese mythology, represented by the god that Mitsuha serves and the philosophy of musubi, or “knotting”, and blends them with elements of science fiction, like parallel dimensions and comets. The entire philosophy of the movie rests on the connection between time and musubi as the governing force of the two characters. How time can flow, swerve, and reconnect is what one should keep in mind when watching Kimi no na wa.

Another Shinkai-ism is forgetting and remembering, which is a staple in most of his works. In Kimi no na wa, most of the time, the two protagonists are either struggling to remember or struggling not to forget. This is manifested in actions, such as writing in cell phones or their bodies. The struggle to not forget is further manifested in both protagonists’ tendency to remember only fleeting moments of their time together.

Shinkai likes to employ a lot of aspect-to-aspect transitions in his work. This is mostly notable in scenes when Shinkai expects us to be immersed in the flow of time and rhythm of his story-telling. He does that as a service to us, so we can get lost in his own world and then tell his story.

Third, but certainly not least, is the impressive OST. RADWIMPS did a pretty good job in composing the soundtracks for the movie. If you do observe closely, the lyrics of the various theme songs actually reflect the story. In fact, if you try to interpret the lyrics (and perhaps stretch it a bit), it reveals the underlying emotions and nuances of the moments when the OST was playing in the movie. Althought you might not need to go as far as that, since the music already speaks for itself. Aside from the OST, Shinkai also did an amazing job in blending audio and visual elements in the movie. It would not do any justice if I tried to explain it.

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My verdict

As usual, I won’t be assigning a grade to this movie. Although if I were to do so, I would give it a 11/10 just because it was so good.

Kimi no na wa is indeed an impressive work by Shinkai, and I would have to say that it is one of his best works so far in terms of visuals and audio. Although there are some out there that might criticise it for being too melodramatic and predictable, I find the story to be really appealling to me. It really pulled at my heartstrings, and the background music tugged them even harder. This movie is surely a masterpiece, especially after being so shot down by Byousoku 5cm.

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