I have wanted to see this movie for a long time ever since hearing about its success in Japan. I had a huge problem though, as there were no local areas that had theaters playing the movie. Funimation made the decision to play the movie in limited theaters in the U.S., and my eagerness to see this movie soared as time passed. After waiting SEVERAL months for Your Name to arrive in home video, I sat down and finally watched the movie. What are my thoughts on Your Name? This review will focus mostly on characters/story and will begin with my first-time thoughts about it.
The movie begins by establishing the characters and their personalities, as well as vaguely hinting at the mechanics of body swap. Your Name’s main hook for me in the first 30 minutes was seeing how the two main characters, Taki and Mitsuha, interacted with each other lives through switching and acting in masculine/feminine ways in various situations. While I did somewhat enjoy seeing the bizarre moments and understanding the character’s backgrounds, I felt the characters were initially lacking in clarity in terms of personality, motivations, and goals for me to personally care.
Mitsuha and Taki do not bring genuine chemistry despite the unique body swapping, as they can only mutually communicate through writings and texting on their phones. As someone who personally loves the aspects of character growth the most, I initially found the lack of focused close bonding to be disappointing. Although I can definitely see others finding an appeal of doing a faraway relationship, the execution of the relationship did not gel with me.
Characters tie in with another problem, Your Name’s confusing plot. I was questioning what the mysterious writings were and how the body swap scenes were executed. Why is body swapping happening so suddenly in one scene? Why is this movie cutting to a longer scene now? What is activating body swap? What role are comets playing? All these questions wrapped around my head. I initially went in this movie making a lot of assumptions, trying my best to pay attention to visual/dialogue clues and trying to enjoy the moments between Mitsuha/Taki at the same time.
The unusual mechanics of body swap were not explained until the 30-minute mark. But even then, the unusually fast pacing of the passing days of Taki and Mitsuha at that point prevented me from processing those mechanics in my head. Between the point when Mitsuha and Taki realize what is going on and the seemingly important scene where Taki goes to Mitsuha’s hometown to go the shrine, I was not sure what I was supposed to pay attention to.
Loosely understanding the swapping mechanics still, I moved on to pay attention what was going on with Taki (as Mitsuha) and him learning about the shrine and the god of human experiences. At the point when Taki stopped swapping with Mitsuha, I was really into the movie. The main conflict fascinated me and got me somewhat emotionally invested in the characters. This is the strongest part of Your Name where the characters contributed the most. I wanted to see these characters succeed in preventing the deaths from the comet. The rescuing mission was beautifully done, and it generally felt adventurous and intense throughout.
But then, the last part of the movie comes when Taki and Mitsuha slowly lose their memories as they try to prevent the comet massacre. I had more questions. Why are the two main character’s memories fading away? Was all of that built relationship between the two main characters all for nothing? Is this last scene suppose to be a three-year time skip? What was the end message of Your Name? I thought to myself “Nothing was made clear”. By the end of the movie, I was confused.
To explain my first-time thoughts on Your Name, I had this combination of mixed thoughts where I was questioning the plot while also kind of trying to understanding the plot and kind of liking the characters and how they do their daily life routines and how they solve the main conflict in the story. I can sort of understand why the movie was directed this way. I definitely feel there is an artistic flair to the movie by being subtle, but by not making things clear, those that decide to follow Your Name’s plot closely will be confused as hell. It is a double-edged sword.
I wanted to watch Your Name one more time before I could finalize my thoughts. I felt like I was missing some key things that prevented me from thinking that Your Name is a great movie. Giving this a second look, I definitely appreciated more things. This movie feels rewarding to watch when going in with an understanding the basic mechanics and story structure of Your Name. Connecting the dots to the plot was very enjoyable and I formed a better understanding of the characters. I understood the themes and the end message. I began to love the unique ideas Your Name incorporates into its overall story design. Everything was clearer to me on the second watch. I would say that it is required that this movie should be seen twice in order for everyone to appreciate Your Name.
I will say that the anonymous relationship in the end still bugged me, but not to the same high degree I had once before. I am assuming that the end message of this movie is supposed to be that relationships can be accomplished, even when the person is far away. Even though I personally do not like the movie’s execution of its message and relationships, I can see other people appreciating and being inspired by the content Your Name has to offer. I still really like this movie despite my complaints, and I feel the need to give out suggestions on what could make this movie better for at least a first time viewer. Makoto Shinkai said in one interview himself that this movie was not as good as critics praise it to be, and I have to give him respect for mentioning it. His honesty is why I am passionate to giving these suggestions.
1. Give side-characters like Sayaka, Miki, and Tessie a little bit more time to develop with both main characters closely. This movie does not give much screen-time its side-characters and gives more focus on the main characters. Had more time been given to side-character relationships, it would have made the part where the side characters helped Mitsuha/Taki with the comet case a lot more impactful.
2. Get straight to the point in clearly addressing body swap mechanics at the start of the movie. I understand that there is importance to the slow build up and a sense of mystery explaining the mechanics much later, but I personally think by arranging the movie this way, I would be at ease. More time could be given to side/main character relationships alongside more entertaining body swap moments, had this been done.
3. Make it clear that the ending scenes where Taki graduates from his university and meets older Mitsuha is a 5-year time skip. I would say this suggestion is more on the picky side, but considering the main conflict and the number of time skips that happen in the story, I would not be so sure that the last scene does skip many years to the future. This movie skips time in several places in a way that is unclear sometimes.
That is about it for suggestions really. Overall, I think Your Name is a great experience. The movie has its problems plot-wise and characters feeling underdeveloped at the start, but these do not hinder the number of positives (the body swaps and the interesting main conflict) that make me really enjoy this movie. With the way this movie was handled subtlely directing-wise, I feel that it opens up the possibility of a sequel. If such a sequel happens, I think it will likely answer the plot holes regarding the mystery/origin of body swap, give side-characters much-needed development with the main characters, and allow more direct romance between Taki and Mitsuha. It would be a great way to properly close the main story of Your Name and satisfy Shinkai’s original desires.