Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)
I recently took the time to (finally) watch Makoto Shinkai's Kimi no Na wa (Your Name). Before seeing this film, the only other work that I had seen by Makoto was his short film Hoshi no Koe (Voices of a Distant Star), released 14 years prior to Kimi no Na wa. Like Christopher Nolan, Makoto is interested in using time as an important storytelling device (at least in these two films), to the extent that time can be seen a character in it of itself. In fact, I wonder if Hoshi no Koe had an influence on Interstellar since the two stories share important story elements.
Overall, I would recommend Kimi no Na wa to both enthusiasts of Japanese film, as well as general audiences. Not only is it a refreshing and unpredictable romance film, but Makoto refrains from injecting sex and sexualization into the story, unlike what is often done in American love stories. Despite presenting itself on the surface as a body-swapping story, the film, in its full depth, challenges both the characters and the audience to question whether or not free will actually exists. Unlike Nolan who, in Tenet, leaves the question of free will unanswered, Makoto provides his take at the end of the film. However, just by cutting out and reordering a couple of scenes, Makoto could have changed his message to mean the opposite of what he argues about free will. To me, this is an indication that he may have been unsure of how to end the film, even when it was already in production.
While a compelling film, I'll just mention a couple of gripes. First, in my view, the film suffers from feeling a bit directionless in the first quarter. This time could have been dedicated to demonstrating the two main character's flaws and desires (Mitsuha's desires are developed to a large extent, but Taki's, outside of its relevance to Mitsuha, is much less clear). This point brings me to the second criticism: the main characters, in large part, feel static. Especially in Taki's case, because his flaws and desires aren't thoroughly detailed in the first act of the film, it is hard to know how much he grew as a person by the end of the film despite his selfless actions.
Looking beyond these critiques, however, Makoto was still able to craft an engaging story with sympathetic characters. This is because, regardless of its flaws, the characters' optimism and idealism, along with the beautiful animation, create a world and people that masterfully draws its audience into Makoto's imagination.
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Nakota L. DiFonzo