I am doing this to satisfy my behavior of being extremely nitpicking. Also because I have hinted it back in April; it’s practically the same deal as my previous post!
So, to lastly end the sixteenth day of 30 Day Anime Challenge, an anime with some of the best animation in my rightful opinion, is…
Genre(s): Romance, School, Supernatural and Drama
Source of adaptation: Original Anime
The time it was aired: Summer 2016, August 26
Studio responsible: CoMix Wave Films
Have some more of MAL’s synopsis:
Miyamizu Mitsuha, a high school girl, yearns to live the life of a boy in the bustling city of Tokyo—a dream that stands in stark contrast to her present life in the countryside. Meanwhile in the city, Tachibana Taki lives a busy life as a high school student while juggling his part-time job and hopes for a future in architecture.
One day, Mitsuha awakens in a room that is not her own and suddenly finds herself living the dream life in Tokyo—but in Taki’s body! Elsewhere, Taki finds himself living Mitsuha’s life in the humble countryside. In pursuit of an answer to this strange phenomenon, they begin to search for one another.
Kimi no Na wa. revolves around Mitsuha and Taki’s actions, which begin to have a dramatic impact on each other’s lives, weaving them into a fabric held together by fate and circumstance.
Story and Plot
Makoto Shinkai has this ridiculous obsession with the long distance and boy meets girl story, metaphorically turning it into the work of audiovisual art which Kimi no Na Wa. happens to be his most phenomenal instance of such achievement yet.
The story is most straight forward; it should be simple enough for anyone to understand since there are no obvious deep and psychological mind-screws to turn you into a film super geek. That is however not a settled logic as the film also provides enough amount of Easter eggs for Shinkai’s diehard fans. It may take you a couple of watches to find them all on your own, or just look them up in the Internet.
Kimi no Na Wa. runs on multiple layers of stories on top of each other; this is a big change from his last truly famous work, 5 Centimeters Per Second (and also a major step-up from Garden of Words), where three stories are shown separately yet they all lack huge amount of depth. Kimi no Na Wa. easily surpassed that issue, establishes some incredibly strong settings in both Mitsuha’s hometown—Itomori, and Taki’s constantly mobile life in Tokyo.
My re-watch experience from first minute to the last in short, felt like looking at an iceberg from top to bottom. It started small then holy mother of God, how did the feels overwhelm me at the end?
The plot is well made by the carefully interrelating events and did not feel off for the most part. Though overall it is clearly far from perfect as I could nitpick and become a technical killjoy. Nitpick is the keyword here — you have to look harder than usual just to spot major plot holes. Continuity errors are bound to happen when the production team is huge.
Pacing of the movie is split into multiple sections, having most parts being slow but progressive enough to make me feel the slice of life element. I should have taken the genre tag seriously as well. Remember that I’m writing out this review right after having finished writing one for Koe no Katachi. This film still packs some serious drama punch, especially right after they stop having body swaps. The pace around these sections is heavily slowed to drown me in feels—namely Taki’s struggles.
Some other parts of the movie, especially the montages with insert songs, are lightning fast to utilize maximum humor. I’m sure that they are the more famous parts of the movie.
The narrative: Erm… how do I go about this…
Simply saying that the movie is nicely told from multiple narratives will not do justice. Before this movie even came out, Makoto Shinkai was already being hailed as a masterful director. Would I be able to change your mind in some way, making you believe that he is more than just a great director—that he is also a top-notch editor?
These multiple narrative points would not conjoin together so well if it was not for Shinkai’s editing ability. The easiest hint to narration switch is having the characters closing their eyes to their sleep; it is then you are also expected to close yours as well, or just look away from the screen for a second—to give your eyes some well deserved rest. See, Shinkai thinks that much of you.
I really have to give my mighty praise to him for playing with my head and my heart by immediately following Taki’s act of calling Mitsuha’s phone with the latter receiving a call, picking it up only to realize that Tessie is the caller.
The trick-o-meter is reading at high.
As far as I am aware, this happens to be the first film where Shinkai actually attempts real comedy. I don’t know why he hasn’t tried it before because Kimi no Na Wa. is very funny in some parts.
Mitsuha is generally a kind individual. She is a very determined person, sometimes persistent, and is also adventurous. Mitsuha wants to live in the city, because she is desperately getting tired of the country side. Taki is also a kind individual and he can sometimes be persistent. He is a very helpful and busy individual also, and sometimes may be a bit sensitive toward others. Taki is also quick to anger, which causes him to be impatient and stubborn.
So, in short, -dere and -dere. Yes, I get it.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone else saying about how the main leads of Kimi no Na Wa. are one dimensional, because they are. But instead of taking the fault to suffering, Shinkai easily makes use of this very taboo aspect of character design and turns it upside down with his story. Now with the ability to switch bodies, both Mitsuha and Taki have become personalities galore up until the switches no longer occur. There is a tremendous amount of tiny details put into each of their one-dimensional selves so that you can work hard to distinguish between the two.
Even after that point there is a clear change in both of the lead characters; a common and important one being the rise in their determinations. It’s kind of silly when I think about this specific choice of character writing. Shinkai probably thought of it like, “Hmm, writing great characters—let alone a single one—proves difficult. How about having them swap bodies so they get a bit of everything?”
The tables haven’t really stopped turning since the widely feared one-dimensional trope still applies to the rest of the characters. Once again, Shinkai has probably foretold the outcome of his story to the character designer and he is also majorly in charge of their personalities (behold the power of original anime!). Because the movie’s length is much shorter than the culmination of television series, having one-dimensional supporting characters is really for the best. They all contribute to the lead characters’ change no matter how small. Had Kimi no Na Wa. been a full TV series, the issues regarding lack of development in supporting characters would have been much more apparent. This is where I truly believe that Shinkai’s decision has hit the bull’s eye.
Art and Animation
Obviously the forefront of this film’s success. I would personally describe the art in creating Kimi no Na Wa. as Post-Ghibli. It is not overly detailed, more like it is intentional that details are present where they are really needed. In rare occasions I would be presented by oh boy–
–sexy shots of both Mitsuha and Taki, as if they are completely different characters. Please do not forget the beloved senpai, Okudera Miki, because this very technique is used on her more often than anyone else in the movie—even more than the main leads.
If Yamada Naoko of Kyoto Animation is well known for being a camera lens freak, then Shinkai Makoto is undoubtedly a photography freak. My goodness, maybe someone should combine all of the scenery shots within the movie and see how much time they have taken in place of character dialogues. The aesthetic surrounding background art is premium, as expected from the talents from Comix Wave Films studio.
I have only managed to find one person accredited for these beautiful pieces of work —Mateusz Urbanowicz.
These do not even make up to half of all sceneries.
Backgrounds are only a part of the scene. The overall art side of the visuals alone is huge enough to overwhelm watchers and even more so appreciators of fine arts and effort like myself. Things like this make me guilty for buying DVDs instead of Blu-Rays.
Onto the animation part of the visuals — it is HUGE. The department is made up of more than 40 key animators; it is basically a collaborative session consisting of current & ex-Ghibli master animators and effects animation king Hashimoto Takashi.
Now, the characters — they cannot be wobbly when the stakes are high, right?
Masashi Ando pours his animation talents into the movie, giving the characters, especially Mitsuha, a generous amount of tiny details down to the bottom of their hair strands.
Let me first talk about the most important part of animation when the show is of drama genre — the characters. Shinkai’s past films were admittedly lacking in this department; even the lead characters in all of his past films are emotionally close to being just pieces of wood, in other words they are almost inanimate. Shinkai fixed this shortcoming by cooperating with character designer and animator Masayoshi Tanaka, who previously worked with the former, having produced an animated commercial for Z-Kai academic business group.
Cross Road (2014)
If you have spent two minutes of your life to watch the video above then it should become clear that Tanaka’s involvement in Kimi no Na Wa. changed Shinkai’s career for good. The characters are well beyond expressive, especially when the leads swap bodies because even more detail has to be put into them in order to convince me that I am indeed watching Mitsuha in Taki’s body.
Kimi no Na Wa. would live to a be a great example of blowing the budget (as opposed to this saying being popular for ufotable). The ratio of 2D frames to 3D CGI is of a huge left side. In fact, the meteror crash scene was majority in 2D, proudly done by effects master Takashi Hashimoto. Go back and watch the scene again if you haven’t realized that it was mostly hand drawn even if digitally.
Panning technique was used on purpose and in moderation in this movie. They work as some sort of ‘reveal’ mechanic, notable in cases like Mitsuha’s bubble of thoughts.
Animating Tokyo in general is basically budget suicide for anime studios. It wasn’t really a big issue for Shinkai due to his allotted amount but that is not to say the animators lack talent. Background characters/crowds are straightforwardly animated — they just move, nothing else. If you are really looking for a reason to hate Kimi no Na Wa. then this would be your best candidate.
Last but not even the least, there is a huge emphasis on animation involving any sort of writing action. Within the movie, both Mitsuha and especially Taki can be seen writing on each other’s hands. The softness in their writing can truly be felt by the animation alone, watching the scene on mute proved exactly that to me.
The same goes for Taki doing his sketches and writing for his exams — they are full of minor details as opposed to the usual budget saver ‘move your hand and pencil across the page’.
Well I’m kinda glad Kimi no Na Wa. did not go the cheap route…
The audio department making up Kimi no Na Wa. could be argued to fight against animation for my attention.
Shinkai worked exclusively with RADWIMPS for this project and it sure has paid off in more ways than one.
The Opening Theme
Between the opening and the ending songs I would hands down go for the opening. Accompanied by visuals probably more gorgeous than the film’s content itself, Yametorou reapplies the power and the meaning of alternative rock. I also personally loved this song the most, even more than the more famous insert song which will obviously be named soon.
The Ending Theme
While the ending song never manages to keep my attention on the screen, it is actually a beautiful piece to which I sometimes find myself listening on its own. I don’t blame RADWIMPS for this underwhelming track however, because their next few pieces in line are basically attention seekers.
They are pleasant surprise. I appreciate the guitar tracks for when the movie was still at a slice of life pace. Naturally the music pieces get heavier the further down the progress the movies goes, to this song which made me realized my heart was beating so hard I could hear the vibrations echoing all the way to my ears, preventing me from properly listening to the soundtrack.
The undisputed center of musical attention for Kimi no Na Wa., enter…
Like movie, like song. It went and garnered various awards while topping Japanese charts for weeks. I can see why that is the case…
Now this one is entirely situational — it kind of takes the right moment for me to really enjoy this one, not that I actually ‘dislike’ it.
Well, okay. I’m hit by not one or two but three surprises. The seiyuu for both leads Mitsuha and Taki are relatively new to the voice acting industry. What was Shinkai thinking?
They have both done a splendid job! Taki’s seiyuu, Kamiki Ryunosuke, is actually an actor for his main occupation and not a voice actor. Now I wonder if he has ever considered a change in career because the man is good. I could really use him in more rom-com anime shows as protagonists who are not so dense.
A few other characters are voiced by people in literally the same boat — actors as opposed to voice actors. Seriously, what was Shinkai thinking, especially now that the film is clearly a huge success?
The second surprise hits me a little harder. Mitsuha’s seiyuu, Kamishiraishi Mone, is years younger than I am! And she has already created a portfolio with a life-changing role stamped in it, holy mother of God.
Let us start appreciating young talents I guess.
Two other characters are also voiced by new seiyuu, and by new I mean the roles in Kimi no Na Wa. are literally either their first or second major ones.
The final surprise is Mitsuha’s little sister — she is really voiced by a now 13 year old! Talking about true young talents, I’m starting to feel bad about having to review this movie.
Let me not forget about the veterans. For me, Kimi no Na Wa. is legitimately the very first instance of Kana Hanazawa‘s name not being powerful enough to ‘carry’ the show. No, do not mistake what I’m saying for ‘selling out’. I’m sure nobody really wants to talk about name and fame because both she and Shinkai are BIG names in the anime industry.
Boy oh boy, this film can also be deemed overambitious
The underlying theme surrounding the countryside Itomori—where Mitsuha lives—is heavily influenced by the minds of this generation; there is absolutely no doubt that Shinkai-san has made Kimi no Na Wa. for the adolescence of today.
On the first watch I had initially dismissed the plot of this movie as simply a hilarious version of Kokoro Connect. Upon getting a hold of the Blu-ray, I returned to the show, looking for reasons which made many enthralled fans worldwide rave non-stop.
Firstly, let us look into the beginning of the film—a slice of life feel of introduction to Mitsuha’s life as she (and her company) literally takes us for a walk to her school and around her town.
There are ongoing conflicts not just for Mitsuha but probably also for a lot of other youngsters around her age. Though, she has it much harder because:
- She is a shrine maiden. Throughout her life she would have to constantly face pleads for preservation of the Shinto Shrine traditions. It may not sound like a major problem for us, but if you can highly relate to her then you would probably slap your thigh a couple of times and no longer wonder why some of us stop clinging onto older traditions.
Time never stops and neither do living people. Majority of us always cautiously welcome change. To be reminded of “back in the days” can get extremely annoying as you wouldn’t be surprised if anyone has at least once asked you to take off the nostalgia goggles. This isn’t an issue exclusive to shrine traditions as it also applies to everything in life, though it would be best if I just talk about art in the form of entertainment since this is an anime movie review.
It is fine for you to cling onto the older age of music that you truly love (I’m a 90’s kids and yes, I am hugely fond of music from late 80’s to mid 2000’s), but do accept that there are people who are always moving forward and that you cannot expect every newborn to walk backwards to discover older music at their own will.
In relation, Mitsuha is terribly bored with the old country lifestyle on top of her shrine traditions. Tokyo is future for her (pretty sure that I have seen this trope somewhere else before…).
I actually had to stop writing this review and went out to find that ‘trope’. You can easily think of Mitsuha as a teenage version of Yoshino Koharu, where the former has yet to face reality that is adulthood.
Resuming the write-up…
- Mitsuha is the daughter of a politician. This one should come as self-explanatory, especially in this era where gaining fame is as easy as broadcasting hate speech. Her image is in almost within her now-exiled father’s control. The first two things that popped up in my head were a strict father and a teenager child; possibly the worst combination for any show involving strong family relationships. Teenagers seek independence—a great one at that, and I cannot help but become sympathetic towards Mitsuha as she lives a life believing that she is not permitted to wrongdoings.
This is also a perfect setup for whenever she goes on to do the unexpected; it quickly gets funny, even funnier when accompanied by her reactions when she is not possessed by Taki.
Another important thing I need to also point out is how Japan’s Article 14 of the Basic Education Act stipulates that schools should “refrain from political education or other political activities for or against any specific party.” That means many teachers impose self-censorship, discussing only the nuts and bolts of political system, and steer well clear of the LDP’s thorny draft constitution. Mitsuha was born into a big, subjective mess (her father’s corrupted politics in Itomori) and it would be until her eighteenth birthday (legal voting age) that she becomes free of it all. I now hope that you can see why her behaviors are perceived in such a way; she does not really have a choice in both matters, especially in this one while she remains young.
Now that was a hell lot of reading for just Mitsuha alone. She has quite a lot of background information loaded into her ‘character’; that’s some serious amount of work to create a somewhat average character. Mitsuha doesn’t and will never come off as iconic to me, I can however say thank you to Shinkai and his character team for actually creating her because face it, she’s probably the first character in any of Shinkai’s works to actually be subjectively qualified as a ‘lead’.
Fortunately for you, who are reading this right now, there is not a lot to say about Taki.
Taki is your standard male student living in Tokyo. There is not supposed to be anything about him worth your attention. But from the moment his life becomes associated with Mitsuha, involving a supernatural phenomenon of time-travelling soul swaps, Taki takes turn to become more than your ordinary city boy. While the amount of time Taki actually spent in his own body is minimal, the change in his character was so drastic I will admit that in absolutely no way it could be influenced solely by a self-made decision.
The change gets to the point that he starts to involve people around him for a little while. I could really just take this as one of my arguments to the need of side character developments. I would really love to know the story of Okudera all the way up to seeing that wedding ring on her finger.
The little details are geeking me out!
Especially those Easter eggs. But I would spare myself some time and talk about some of the things exclusive to Kimi no Na Wa.
There are certain scenes I could have deem useless if they weren’t used correctly. The movie has this ongoing motif of ‘opening doors to the future’. Within an hour and forty-six minutes of the film’s run time, there are various instances of doors opening and closing yet they mostly are presented in the exact same manner.
Accompanied by the crisp and clear opening/closing sounds. Many of these one-second frames that could otherwise be dedicated to something else gained my attention as they happen to be a big part of my normal life. They are really at maximum of one second each; that is not enough time for me to look away to… perhaps… my smartphone?
Yes, these frames act more like distractions, but the attention I give to them is probably because I am a ‘technical’ freak—I love opening doors for fun. Oh, and these frames are not even animated in a normal way studio makes anime.
The film also makes jokes out of small situations within itself. One prime example I can pick out while preventing major spoilers would be how Mitsuha, while possessed by Taki, creates a ‘cafe’ at exactly where her friends complained about Itomori not having a real cafe.
Kimi no Na Wa. exists as a proof of Shinkai being at a higher place in his expertise ladder. The movie succeeds in delivering an engaging experience, complete with magnificent (musical) set pieces, laughs, and drama tucking on your heart strings. This film ultimately is a visual presentation of the culmination of Shinkai’s skills in exploring the melancholy aspects of love and distance (his obsession for a story of such type), is just as much a lesson on the value of finding happiness through pure determination, initiative, and overcoming doubt and hesitation.
Thank you for reading my review!
As for those who were in my anime challenge train and got surprised by this post…
See you back here tomorrow where I will reveal who my best man is.