The Infinite Zenith

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New Game!!- Review and Reflection at the ¾ Mark

“Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it.” ―Leo Tolstoy

Aoba and Umiko interview Nene for an interim programming position, while Christina tries to warm up to the character team after fearing that they must hate her for her decision with the key visual, but it turns out they’re not bothered. Two new interns, Momiji Mochizuki and Tsubame Narumi, join Eagle Jump: Momiji is a graphics artist and begins work with Aoba, while Tsubame is a programmer. The others decide to host a welcoming party for the newcomers, with the aim of helping Momiji becoming more familiar with the character team. Later, while talking to Nene about how she came to be a programmer, Tsubame’s opinion of Nene and Umiko is diminished when Nene reveals she picked up programming as a hobby out of curiosity, feeling that Nene’s a part of Eagle Jump only for her connections. Determined to earn her place at Eagle Jump, Nene resolves to improve her programming skills. Meanwhile, Hajime grows worried about her high school friends, Akki, learning of her interests in anime and games while on an outing with Yun and her siblings. After a heart-to-heart talk with Yun, where they share images of their high school selves to one another, Hajime decides to reveal the truth to her friend, only to find that her friend’s long known and is accepting of Hajime’s hobby, to her surprise. As we enter the final quarter of New Game!!, the second season certainly has taken steps away from the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the first season, introducing new interpersonal dynamics amongst both old and new characters to liven things up around Eagle Jump. The latest additions to the staff include the competitive Momiji, who views Aoba as a rival after learning of her involvement in creating the designs for the company’s latest project, and the programmer Tsubame, whose remarks against Nene and Umiko have made some viewers very salty — individuals have felt Momiji and Tsubame to be quite unwelcome in New Game!!, although this is an position that I find ludicrous.

While dislike of these characters is perhaps only a natural reaction to two of the more hostile additions to New Game!!, I find that Momoji and Tsubame’s addition to the cast is a powerful one, serving to introduce conflict of a sort that previously has not been seen in New Game!! — early conflicts were resolved quite quickly because the old gaurd at Eagle Jump (including Aoba) have had a year to grow accustomed to one another and so, have learned how they best deal with challenges. However, Momoji and Tsubame are newcomers without any experience in company culture, hence their clashes with Aoba and the others. The rather heated discussion between Nene and Tsubame serves as a bit of a catalyst for hatred amongst viewers; most folks express disgust and disappointment with how Tsubame is quick to tear down Nene and Umiko after Nene casually remarks on her ties with Umiko and Aoba led her to Eagle Jump, and how she has no prior programming experience. However, I contend that Tsubame’s reaction, however inappropriate they were, is a natural one: people have a sense of pride when they’ve spent a considerable amount of time cultivating a skill. As such, when Tsubame learns that others can master those skills at a much quicker pace, it becomes a source of insecurity for her. In the absence of any knowledge about the actual journey Nene’s taken, Tsubame does jump the gun. However, this is surprisingly common; I have a friend who is a fantastic programmer, and folks (oftentimes, more senior developers or programmers) occasionally undermine him simply because they’re not appreciative of the fact that he’s very fact-driven and goes with better solutions based on hard numbers, rather than what experienced people have grown partial to, in order to build a system. One of the elements that New Game!! has not shown until now is that there are numerous unfavourable individuals in the real world. They can’t be ignored, removed or otherwise altered, so it is logical to work with (or around) them in the best capacity possible. Consequently, from a personal perspective, the inclusion of Tsubame and her remarks against Nene serve to strengthen New Game!!, showing that their universe is not merely a highly idealised depiction of reality, and that even in an all-girls environment, there can be conflicts. The true strength of New Game!! therefore comes from how the narrative presents Aoba, Nene and the others in helping their new hires develop the interpersonal skills to work in industry, as well as helping them adjust to life in the office.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve given a few interviews previously for new hires and as I am relatively new in industry, I completely emphasise with Aoba, who remarks that she knows very little programming. However, this interview is more of a test to determine if Nene is a good fit at Eagle Jump. This post comes somewhat out of the blue; I was not expecting Tsubame’s conversation with Nene to ignite discussions of that scale, so I figured that I should step in and offer another perspective. As with all of my previous New Game!! posts, this one will feature twenty images and their accompanying figure captions.

  • Before we dive any further into this post, I’ll explaining this post’s page quote: it’s sourced from Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author counted as one of the greatest writers of all time and refers to prevailing attitudes about New Game!!; while a large number of individuals seem to have it in their mind that Tsubame is in the wrong, it’s equally important to see things from another perspective. This is why I am not so hasty in dealing out judgement about her, nor will I dismiss all of the things in New Game!! that make it enjoyable simply because of one moment that seems inconsistent with the general tone seen previously in the anime.

  • While seemingly cold and strict at work, it turns out that Christina’s actually quite sensitive and shy, admitting to Shizuku that she was not comfortable at all with the decision she’d previously made to put Kō as the credited artist on the concept artwork.

  • While Shizuku might be a bit of a trickster who enjoys pranking her staff, she also has their best interests at heart, and so, arranges for Christina to meet up with the others, rigging her cat, Mozuku, to assist. The end result is that the character department and Christina become on more cordial terms with one another: Aoba isn’t particularly disappointed or resentful of their decisions, and her willingness to continue moving forward is perhaps one of the strongest aspects about her character.

  • The introduction of Tsubame and Momoji form the next disruption at Eagle Jump that alters the status quo. All stories worth partaking in involve a disruption to the status quo, which sets in motion the rising action. While New Game!! might be classified as a “cute girls doing cute things” anime, its biggest and best surprise is exploring territory that remains somewhat untried, especially with respect to drama, while simultaneously retaining comedic elements. The sum of this is that New Game!! is able to stand out from its predecessor.

  • Momoji and Tsubame share the same dynamics as Aoba and Nene: the former in both cases are artists, while the latter are programmers. The freshman, however, seem more serious about their chosen professions and have some experience with graphics work and programming, respectively, while Aoba and Nene are individuals who, while still finding their feet in the industry, genuinely love what they do and are shown to be ready to learn with the aim of improving. The differences between the two sets up the potential for conflict, and Momoji immediately opens by counting Aoba a rival.

  • Shizuku decides to simulate a Maid Café with Aoba, Yun and Hajime here to their surprise. I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but I’m almost always eyeballs-deep in code at work, so I’m not particularly big on distractions that do not deal with work (meetings are fine, provided they are about requirements and deliverables). I’ve been counting Nene and Tsubame “programmers” throughout this post, rather than “developer”; while the terms are often used interchangeably, a “programmer” is someone who specialises in writing good code and have a thorough understanding of how to build a solution. Conversely, a “developer” is someone who devises solutions, puts the components of a system together, gathers requirements and when needed, writes code. For a developer, communication becomes much more important.

  • Developers are true generalists, and unlike programmers or computer scientists, don’t always live and breathe code. I count myself a developer because of these reasons: I’m not a particularly skilful programmer by any stretch, and enjoy designing systems the most. As evidenced by this blog, I don’t always write code in my spare time. Of course, at work, I’ve no qualms about diving into APIs, documentation, or even Stack Overflow, to learn more about what I might need to do about a task at hand. Back in New Game!!, Shizuku has a bit too much fun in photographing Aoba, Yun and Hajime in maid outfits, much to their collective embarrassment.

  • When Shizuku approves of Hajime’s maid “skills” ahead of Yun and Aoba, Yun grows irate, while Aoba is merely confused, speaking to Aoba’s innocence. Hajime’s smirk is actually quite entertaining. I’ve seen the question being posed of whether or not anyone’s worked with superiors who are like Shizuku, and I am immensely grateful that my answer is no. This element is strictly relegated to the realm of fiction: in reality, people are rather more on-topic and focussed when work is concerned.

  • After the struggle to find a suitable restaurant to welcome Momiji, the character team settles down for lunch at a conventional restaurant. One of the greatest questions I’ve got about New Game!! is why audiences are taking it so seriously, lumping real world experiences and even credentials into things when the anime (and its source manga) are meant to present a fictionalised story at a game company. Wind of folks arguing about differences between a college and vocational institute have not escaped my ears; this is trite and quite unrelated to New Game!! on the whole. To haul terms into Canadian terminology, a college is an institute that does not confer degrees, offering certificates or diplomas upon successful completion of a programme (technical schools are a subset of a college, usually offering job-specific training programmes). The rest of the world considers this a vocational school. In Canada, universities are accredited to give degrees at the Bachelor, Master’s and PhD levels – in the United States, colleges refer to institutes that can only confer Bachelor degrees, while a university is an institute that also offers post-graduate degrees. So, by Canadian definitions, the people on messages-boards can go take a hike: a college and vocational school are interchangeable north of the 49th parallel.

  • Momiji is seen with uncommonly large portion sizes, and here, holds an onigiri that she’s brought for lunch. Aoba and the others attempt to help her feel more at home by inviting her out to lunch, although they relent when they see Momiji with her own lunch. There is a reason why I bring my own lunch as opposed to eating out: my office is located in the middle of nowhere as far as being close to food options go, and a quick lunch means getting back to work faster.

  • Tsubame is a capable cook, and usually whips up dishes that Momiji enjoys even in the absence of a substantial protein source. The two are roommates, a common arrangement amongst post-secondary students who live a considerable distance from their institution. The academic term is starting again for students; while I’m no longer a student, the effects of back-to-school are not lost upon me: traffic has increased slightly, with more pedestrians out and about now.

  • At one point, Momiji addresses Aoba as “Suzumiya” rather than Suzukaze when making her rivalry known. Struggling between being impressed by Aoba’s work and longing to surpass Aoba, the source of Momiji’s competitiveness towards Aoba remains relatively unexplored. Going from what has been presented, I would hazard a guess that Momiji is not happy about Aoba’s style having an impact on Kō’s style.

  • While attending an event, Hajime decides to catch up with one of her high school friends, but is to embarrassed to mention that she works in the games development industry. It’s revealed that Hajime had long hair in the past, and in response to the query of which incarnation of Hajime I prefer, I’d have to say that shorter hair seems to be more fitting for her current character, even if she is more appealing with longer hair.

  • While promising not to laugh, Hajime nonetheless finds herself facing Yun’s exasperation after seeing a photograph of her during her time as a high school student. Back then, Yun had coke-bottle glasses and was quite shy. When she graduated, she sought to reinvent herself, explaining her present tastes in clothing and distinct style. I am immensely glad that optics technology have largely eliminated the need for such glasses, otherwise, things could be quite uncomfortable on my end.

  • We’ve gotten to the moment at last in this talk: while I’ve spent the paragraphs explaining why I won’t vilify Tsubame, this post only features a total of two screenshots from that scene, which goes to show just how little the moment figures in the grand scheme of things: the whole scene lasts about two and a half minutes, which constitutes 0.95 percent of the entire anime’s length). I wonder what reasoning folks have for how one percent of the runtime in an anime such as New Game!! can render the whole of it (and the episodes upcoming) a failure, especially when considering how no plot holes are introduced, no unnecessary plot twists occur and there’s not deus ex machina, either.

  • It just wouldn’t be a proper post without an angry face from Tsubame. I’ve never particularly felt threatened by people whose talents in programming far surpass my own, although amongst my friends, I’m probably the most similar to Nene: I started out with a Bachelor’s in Health Science because I was indecisive about my career path, and while I could keep up with computer science students with vastly more experience and skill than myself, I continued wondering if software would be my calling. It wasn’t until the Giant Walkthrough Brain where I realised software development was my cup of tea. Unlike Nene, however, I’m always aware that I’m usually lucky with respect to solving problems, and the more I learn, the more I realise just how little I know.

  • In the time since I started this post, at least one other individual out there is in the same page as myself, suggesting that I’m not alone in thinking that Tsubame’s reaction hardly merits her becoming the “worst girl” or rendering the whole of New Game!! unwatchable. In order to ease out of that discussion, I’ll return to a moment of Hifumi handing Momiji new character designs to work on. While steadily improving, she still becomes flustered whilst dealing with people, and Hifumi has become one of my favourite characters of New Game!!.

  • The ninth episode’s namesake comes from this particular moment, where Momiji walks around in naught but her pantsu following a shower, to Tsubame’s disapproval. It’s been quite hot around my parts this summer, but not quite hot enough for me to do the same (if only for the fact that I don’t like walking around sans clothing). Given the stance I’ve taken on what ground New Game!! has covered and where these developments could lead things, I would not be surprised if this post becomes quite controversial and earns me several slaps on the proverbial wrist.

  • Having said this,  it would be interesting to see further rationale behind people’s perspectives: I already know of their stance about Tsubame and the execution of that particular scene, but the question I bring to the table is “what experiences in your life drive your outlook?”. Such a discussion could be very illuminating and offer insight as to how different people approach interpersonal conflict, but in the meantime, Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar is out, and it’s time to explore those snowy Eastern Front maps, if only to get away from the heat that lingers over my area.

With these elements in mind, New Game!! has continued to impress in its presentation of the ins-and-outs of game development; the additional conflicts (and the prospect of solving them in the remaining episodes) means that New Game!! has done a considerable bit more to discern and differentiate itself from the first season. From the audience’s perspective, this is welcome, giving the second season a considerably more meaningful message than if the writers had chosen retain the languid pacing of the first season. I definitely do not hate Tsubame, and my expectations entering the final episodes are precisely to see what path Aoba and the others take towards addressing this particular conflict. It is understandable that people make mistakes and speak their minds without understanding the big picture, but if this were the basis for people to escalate their conflicts or simply run away from their problems, there would be no progress at all to speak of. Within the context of New Game!! and the thematic elements of learning, cooperation and appreciation of one another that are presented, it is likely (and expected) that the final episodes will deal with making the new hires a part of Eagle Jump. Overcoming their challenges and resolving their conflict is consistent with the message that New Game!! strives to present, and to leave these elements unattended is in contradiction of the ideas New Game!! has provided audiences up until now. If and when I’m asked, I’m on Tsubame’s team because she’s a part of Eagle Jump (albeit a temporary part for the time being): a team is only as good as its weakest member, and if Tsubame is allowed to learn and grow to succeed, the team’s success together follows.

The Stairs to Suga Shrine in Yotsuya, Shinjuku, Home of the Fateful Meeting in Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” —Bruce Feirstein

The history behind Suga Shrine dates back to the Edo period; the shrine itself is actually the merger between the Gozutennou and Inari shrines, which, after the Meiji Restoration, became enshrined together to become the Suga Shrine. The shrine takes its name from Japanese mythology, where hero Susano no Mikoto defeated an eight-headed serpent and remarked 「吾れ此の地に来たりて心須賀、須賀し」(Romaji: “Warere kono ji ni ki tarite kokoro suga, suga shi”, literally “I come to this place, and my heart becomes purified”). The shrine itself features unique paintings on its ceiling depicting the Sanjurokkasen (The Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry) a group of poets from the Asuka, Nara and Heian Periods renowned for their poetic ability. The painting was dedicated to the shrine in 1836, being the work of Unpou Ooka, while the lettering was done by Arikoto Chigusa. Besides the painting, the site also is home to the Komainu, a guardian dog statue dating back to 1728, as well as the Yotsuya mitsuke memorial stone. With a bit of history behind it, the Suga Shrine is an intriguing place to visit for folks travelling in Japan, being close in proximity to the Tokyo Toy Museum and Shinjuku Historical Museum. However, I imagine that most folks are not here for some Lonely Planet-esque entry on the Suga Shrine: the stairwell leading up from the main road to the Shrine was quite trivial until the première of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, and since the film’s release, has become a popular spot for visitors looking to tread the same path that inspired the place Mitsuha and Taki, the film’s protagonists, meet properly for the first time.

  • Because we are going through Your Name again, the presence of duplicate images in this post are unavoidable. The post itself comes out of the blue, precisely a year after Your Name premièred in Japanese theatres; it is a consequence of a request I’ve had from a member of Tango-Victor-Tango, who was looking for a well-written location post and was kind enough to supply me with the photographs they’d taken. I’m not sure how visible this post will be in the grand scheme of things, since search engines are saturated with sub-standard location posts from Your Name, but at the very least, I hope that the post, featuring fifteen images each for the real-world location and movie incarnation, will be helpful for this particular member.

  • Most of the images of the film’s final moments are set in the streets surrounding Suga Shrine, and while attesting to the exceptional amount of attention Shinkai’s art team has paid to detail, such as illustrating of street signs, protrusions in the road and even the reflection of light on wet surfaces, the locations themselves are rather unremarkable, so this post’s figure captions will not deal predominantly with the locations themselves. Instead, I will take another look at the ending of Your Name, which has been considered inappropriate in the days following the home release.

  • Criticisms of the film’s ending as being inordinately happy have been made by a handful of individuals, asserting that a happy ending is, and I quote “…a lie that people actively seek because they can’t accept the shitty mess that is real life”. Such an assertion evidently can only come from individuals who have yet to find fulfilment or purpose in their lives – if they have such aversions to notions of serendipity, it follows that such people hold a degree of resentment against society itself, lacking the drive to better themselves and improve things around them.

  • The same individual goes on the claim that “…endings are the ones which realistically portray the cost of all their characters’ actions and why, in the end, the choices were worth it, despite what they gave up in exchange”. The irony of this is that even by their definition, Your Name‘s conclusion is enjoyable. I remarked that one of the main themes of Your Name, missed elsewhere even by reviews published to major news sources, is that love transcends spatial-temporal boundaries. As such, after everything that Taki and Mitsuha had gone through, it is realistic in portraying how the two reach their destination.

  • Because Your Name places so much emphasis on the unusual properties of how fate can bind individuals together and makes extensive use of the red ribbon as a metaphor for this connection, it stands to reason that the film was aiming to illustrate the strength of this connection. To have Mitsuha and Taki pass by one another and passively resign themselves to a fruitless search would be to contradict the very themes that Shinkai strives to convey. Mitsuha and Taki make sacrifices on the course of their journey to find one another, and the end result is the culmination of these choices.

  • The reason why there is seemingly “no patience for contrarian opinions” is not for the fact that contrarian opinions exist, but because the opinions themselves seemed intent on painting the movie as a sub-par “feel-good” effort that deviated too greatly from realism. I found that the film succeeded in telling the story it set out to tell, and with its combination of comedy and drama, managed to capture the audiences’ attention from start to finish. While not a masterpiece that dramatically altered my worldview, it nonetheless remains an immensely enjoyable film; it is evident that folks who found the film unsatisfactory are in the minority.

  • Owing to the film’s widespread popularity and reach, there have also been numerous cases of armchair experts coming out of the woodwork to comment on the film, asserting that there is a much deeper meaning in the film that other viewers have missed and that they alone understand. The counterclaim for this is simple enough: the fact that Your Name is so popular and relatable for such a diverse population is precisely because the film’s themes, symbols and motifs are universally understood. By conveying these ideas in a visually stimulating manner, through the perspectives of two everyday characters, the messages in the film are never obfuscated.

  • One indication that execution of Your Name is masterfully done is that the film was able to present abstract topics in a highly accessible manner. One of the long-lasting lessons I took away from my time in academia, one that endures, is that an idea that it takes genius to make the complex understandable. The concept is attributed to Albert Einstein, and my former supervisor certainly encouraged his students to think this way: while other professors gave jargon-heavy talks, with slides filled to the brim with text, my former supervisor explained complex systems in simple terms, preferring to let visuals and diagrams augment his lectures. Shinkai is likewise able to express complex ideas in an approachable manner, which lends itself to his films’ ability to move such a number of viewers.

  • The most noticeable differences between the real-world staircase in Suga Shrine and the incarnation seen in Your Name is visible in this image: while largely faithful to the real location in composition, lanterns from the shrine are not present in the film, giving the sense that it is down an ordinary street that Mitsuha and Taki meet, rather than beside a shrine. While Your Name makes extensive use of real-world locations, it also integrates fictionalised locations, as well, standing in contrast with Five Centimeters per Second and The Garden of Words.

  • One of the most suspenseful moments in Your Name was watching to see if Taki and Mitsuha would go the route that Takaki experienced in Five Centimeters per Second. In Your Name, Mitsuha and Taki come close to missing their moment, but ultimately seize the chance to address the longing in their hearts. It is a welcome, deserved ending for two characters for whom the film persistently present as being fated to meet one another: their longing was purely to meet, and the film allows this modicum of solace in being able to do so.

  • While long held to be Shinkai’s best work, and a movie that I count as being a full-fledged masterpiece for having changed the way I saw the world, I presently find that Your Name is an excellent companion to Five Centimeters per Second in that it confers another, different perspective on what things could be. While prima facie differnt in their endings, Your Name ends in an open manner just as Five Centimeters per Second did, to remind audiences that meeting is not sufficient, but it is necessary, for a meaningful relationship to occur. Much like how Takaki accepts what’s happening and see where things go, Taki decides to take a chance and see where things go, as well. The endings are, in retrospect, more similar than initially apparent.

  • I’ll take a moment to remark that I’m not particularly fond of going down long flights of steps, since the longer the stairs are, the more likely I’ll feel as though I’ll trip on the way down. This image is almost identical to the one I used in my original Your Name review, and in the comparison between reality and Your Name, both similarities and differences become quite apparent here. I imagine that the choice to blend reality with fabricated cityscapes is meant to mirror the fact that Your Name uses both fictional and realistic elements.

  • Besides the ending, one conversation topic that seems to plague discussions of Your Name is why Taki and Mitsuha remain oblivious to the differences in their years, especially considering how the current year is almost always actively in one’s mind owing to the prevalence of calendars. I imagine that the sheer lunacy of the conscious exchanging phenomenon pushes the year into the back of Mitsuha and Taki’s minds, which is not improbably considering just how shocking such an experience would be. Others yet contend that their different iPhone models should immediately give away the year, but such a remark is indicative of naïveté: the iPhone 5 that Mitsuha uses is still quite widespread, explaining why Taki has no trouble with using one, while Mitsuha, being from the country, assumes that she’s been out of the loop with respect to iPhone models as a result of living in the countryside and accepts Taki’s iPhone 6 without too much difficulty.

  • One of the things I’ve never mentioned about Your Name but greatly enjoyed was Mitsuha’s version of the song Nandemonaiya: the RADWIMPS version was quite nice, but having Mone Kamishiraishi perform it was to give the song a particularly strong emotional feeling to it surpassing even that of RADWIMPS’ performance.

  • With this last image, so ends a locations post that was thrown together on a moment’s notice. This one comes across being more unusual in focussing less on the setting and more on topics (somewhat) relevant to the film itself. The reason for this is that there is only so much I can talk about concerning stairwells, and not being an engineer, I won’t be able to offer any technical details about the bending moment of a stairwell or anything of that sort. Regular programming resumes in a few hours, where I will be detailing my incredibly enjoyable experiences with Battlefield 1‘s Łupków Pass update and the insane things I’ve done with the armoured train on that map.

The question is then, how does one reach this location? Owing to the exceptional mass transit system of Tokyo, this is not particularly challenging as an endeavour: Suga Shrine is an eight-minute walk from the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line Yotsuya-Sanchome Station, and ten minutes away from JR Yotsuya Station, being located at 5 Sugacho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. The actual detail of the stairs leading up to the shrine is quite different than that of Your Name, as is the cityscape visible from the top of the stairs, but as outlined in the Your Name Official Artbook, this is one of the major locations in Tokyo featured in Your Name, along with Gaien (the pedestrian overpass is located here near the Shinanomachi station and is the site where Taki and Miki share several conversations over the course of the movie), Yoyogi (where Mitsuha first visits in an attempt to meet up with Taki), Roppongi (Miki and Taki have their date at the Brasserie Paul Bocuse Le Musée Restaurant on the third floor, after meeting up at Yotsuya) and Sendagaya (Mitsuha can be seen running here at the train station trying to catch a glimpse of a seemlingly-familiar face). Outside of Tokyo, the town of Itomori is evidently a fictional location, drawing inspiration from Hida in the Gifu Prefecture and Lake Suwa of the Nagano Prefecture. The dormant caldera is modelled after Aogashima; located south of Hachijojima, it is very remote and typically, can only be accessed by helicopter or boat. The latter is a tricky gamble owing to dangerous terrain surrounding the island, accounting for the general reluctance of fans to visit.

New Game!!- Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” –Colin Powell

Hajime and Yun spend time together at a concert while Aoba, Nene and Hifumi do the same. Later, Hifumi accepts an assignment to be the lead character designer in place of Kō after their proposal is accepted by the publisher, and she sets about trying to keep the progress at a steady pace, although she finds Yun being dishonest about being able to make deadlines. This issue is resolved when Hifumi helps Yun design a more efficient workflow. Meanwhile, Aoba struggles to design the game’s main antagonist, but with some insights from Rin, manages to design a compelling backstory. She spends time at a hot springs with Nene and Hotaru Hoshikawa, an old friend from high school, discussing their visions of the future, and later, Nene demonstrates her completed game to Aoba, impressing her. However, Aoba is asked to turn over designing the artwork for their upcoming alpha to Kō, despite Kō’s objections. She nonetheless produces a finished product, resolving to see her assignment to completion even in the knowledge that Kō’s experience far outstrips her own. In the end, despite her drafts being declined in favour of Kō’s, Aoba feels that the learnings have been most valuable and allow her to improve for the future. This is the more serious direction that New Game!! has taken; dealing with internal struggles of interacting with fellow employees as well as handling decisions higher-ups make based on market forces.

The shift towards topics that are more sobering in nature is a direction well within the purview of what is reasonably expected of New Game!! – as remarked upon in my earlier discussion, the honeymoon that New Game!’s first season depicted is over, and Aoba is now gaining exposure to a reality driven by concrete decisions driven by the single most powerful actor: dollars. While it is saddening to see Aoba fall to tears when overwhelmed by the realisation of just how far the skill gap between herself and Kō is, even after holding back her disappointment at the higher-ups’ decisions, business decisions are often made with very specific reasons in mind that extend well beyond emotions. Consequently, to remarks that this makes Christina Yamato a villain, I counter that her message from the executives is a logical one; companies do what’s best for the bottom line, forcing folks like Aoba to take one for the team, because the alternative can mean the entire team fails. I myself am getting a first-hand education in these things, so I find that, while Aoba’s situation is unfortunate, it is also necessary for the company to successfully market the game. Consequently, Christina Yamato and the people she reports to are hardly villains: in fact, to add this into New Game!! is to introduce an impediment to Aoba, and seeing her overcoming this particular challenge will be rewarding, indicating Aoba’s own growth as she learns more about the game development process.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hajime’s excitement about Moon Ranger concert tickets leads her to be reminded not to slack off during work hours. In spite of her efforts, Hajime is beaten to the punch and fails to buy her tickets, but turns down Hifumi’s offer. The rate at which tickets are bought by bots and scalped has reached ridiculous levels, and in a newspaper article I read a few weeks back, more stringent means of defeating measures are still needed to ensure that real fans can purchase their tickets. Yun invites Hajime later to join her siblings for the afternoon event.

  • Yun’s younger sister is a splitting image of her; both her sister and brother get along with Hajime without any difficulties. I’ve seen queries raised as to what difference there is between the children’s showing and adult showing, although the answer itself is quite apparent: the children’s show is rather more structured, being akin to a play, while the adult showing feels more like a concert, allowing attendees to dance along to the performance. The differences are geared to maximise enjoyment in both demographcis, although as Hajime finds out, the children’s concert is very enjoyable.

  • Nene and Aoba encounter Hifumi at the adult performance later, decked out in gear in preparation of supporting a group she’s fond of. I’ve never actually been to any concerts from performers in my area before, primarily because I’m not particularly keen on the sort of music that is popular (e.g. Katy Perry or Taylor Swift). Instead, my music tastes are considered fringe, as I prefer soundtracks, J-Pop, symphonic metal and older Cantonese songs (e.g. Sam Hui, Danny Chan, George Lam).

  • While New Game!! excels at illustrating the dynamics amongst the characters in and around work, the excursions into the staff’s time outside of work is also important, helping convey that each character is more than merely who they are at Eagle Jump. The differences are quite pronounced, from Hifumi’s enjoyment of shopping for clothes to Hajime’s tendency to binge-watch anime, leaving her tired and ill-prepared to deal with work the following day.

  • While New Game!! might appear to be a generally relaxed anime, I’ve seen my share of discussions where participants have been very serious with respect to details in the anime, from whether or not spoilers from the manga should influence discussion on what has already occurred in the anime, to speculation of industry standards where Eagle Jump’s staff run into difficulties. It is impressive that New Game!! is able to prompt such conversations, although I tend to stay out of things when they start getting too technical.

  • Despite her shyness, Kō and Shizuku decide that the time has come to transfer Kō’s role as lead character designer over to her. In spite of her doubts, Hifumi agrees, feeling it’s an opportunity for her to learn to speak up. While technically skilled, Hifumi initially runs into some difficulties in dealing with Yun when she begins slipping on her schedule as a consequence of challenges both in and out of the workplace.

  • In the end, Hifumi manages to set things straight with Yun and even helps her improve her workflow productivity by way of suggestions. However, this is done after Hifumi begins roleplaying, only for Aoba to walk in and observe the proceedings. It typifies New Game!!‘s ability to throw in the comedic with the serious, and this is one of the greatest strengths of the second season so far.

  • When Hajime encounters difficulty in designing underwater gameplay mechanics, she manages to gain insights from a shared conversation with Aoba and Yun. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and is also essential to the game development process: mechanics can shift gameplay in different directions and alter how the final product feels for the end users. This is why weapon balance patches are continuously being tested and deployed in games like Battlefield 1, and why some players suggest avoiding Far Cry 4‘s Buzzsaw.

  • Aoba develops an inspired antagonist for their proposed game, and later reports this to Rin. When she begins showing some photos of her and a friend to Rin, she comes across a picture of said friend kissing her, prompting this reaction. I have the opposite problem that Aoba faces: because I skimped on storage in my iPhone when I bought it back in 2015, I typically off-load images onto my desktop and back them up to an external hard drive for long-term storage. As such, when friends ask me about the things I did during my trip in Japan or the hike from last weekend, I cannot show them, since they’ve been moved.

  • The amount of groping and general antics is what gives the fifth episode of New Game!! its name. Hotaru is seen in the middle here: voiced by Manaka Iwami, she’s one of the new characters introduced in New Game!!, being Aoba and Nene’s friend from high school, who was part of their school’s Art Club. A capable artist, she is enrolled at a fine arts college in order to become a professional illustrator.

  • Such antics thankfully remain confined to the realm of fiction, and during my sojourn at a Japanese hot springs back in May, I’m doubly thankful that I had the entire place to myself. I recall mentioning this in the Amanchu! OVA post, about the different forms of blushing and noted that the black body radiation kind was my favourite. Hotaru’s reaction here to being inappropriately touched at Aoba’s hands, of all people, lead her to emit thermal energy energetic enough to become visible light. Things later become more serious when the conversation turns towards the future: Aoba states that dreams turn out to be a mere stepping stone, and she’s ready to continue improving in order to pursue her goals.

  • This brand of thinking eventually becomes her mantra for New Game!!, driving Aoba onwards even as things become increasingly tough. While the stakes are elevated as New Game!! progresses, one thing I can always count on are the interesting faces the characters make under stress; here, Aoba rests her head on her desk at the prospect of what work there is on the horizon.

  • Nene’s demonstration of her game, Nene Quest, to Aoba goes rather well, although Aoba finds herself requiring a school bus, as she is being schooled at the game by Nene’s friend from university; befitting of gamers, Aoba and Nene’s university friend begin shouting mid-match, prompting the café’s staff to request a little quiet. Seeing Aoba enjoy her game and offer feedback is what spurs Nene on, and if memory serves, she will join Eagle Jump as a programmer later on. Whether or not this will be seen during New Game!! has yet to be seen, but it is very likely to be a pleasant moment when it does happen.

  • While Hajime swings her fists around to gain some inspiration for her game, I will take a detour and mention something completely unrelated: tomorrow is the first total solar eclipse since 1971 to grace North America. A partial eclipse of magnitude 0.8 will be visible from my position, reaching its maximum at 1133 MDT. Local news sources state that eclipse glasses have been sold out across the city, although I’ve still got a pair of Eclipse Shades from the partial eclipse viewing party held on campus back during 2014, when I was just getting started with Sora no Method. It seems that I’ve been aware of this eclipse for quite some time, having been looking forwards to it since 2012 when a total eclipse graced China, Taiwan and Japan in May 2012, although contrary to my remarks, I’m still well aware of what K-On! means to me.

  • To the upper right-hand corner is Christina Wako Yamato, a producer with Eagle Jump’s publisher, Houbundo. Houbundo is to Eagle Jump what Bethesda is to iD Tech and Machine Games, and what EA is to DICE. Business decisions made by the publisher do not always align with the development company’s goals; this is partially one of the reasons why Battlefield‘s DLC model has been a point of contention, and in New Game!!, Aoba and Kō experience this first hand when Christina announces that Kō is to do the artwork, prompting Kō to bring out her Mio Akiyama voice. In the end, to lessen the damage on Aoba’s feelings, Rin agrees to allow a minor competition to give Aoba a “fighting chance” even though she knows that the results will be foregone.

  • Kō offers Aoba some black coffee here, which Aoba drinks in one go despite her aversion to bitter-tasting beverages. For coffee, I invariably will prefer the addition of cream and sugar, enough to take the edge of the bitterness, but for tea, I prefer tea without any additions, having drunk it on its own at dim sum and Chinese dinners. Aoba pushes inwards with her project, not knowing it will never see the light of day, and as she continues to build it, her vision for the game becomes very clear.

  • It turns out the game that Eagle Jump is working on is a sort of RPG-adventure in a world of plushies, where the player can absorb the powers of different enemies while on a quest to liberate said world and help the queen turn things around. I’ve jokingly remarked elsewhere that such a game could be considered more violent than even the likes of DOOM, but in execution, the game looks rather family-friendly. As Aoba’s vision takes shape, I find that, were such a game to be built in real life, it would likely be published for a Nintendo platform, and would score favourably for its novelty, plus entertainment value for families.

  • The end result is that Aoba creates a cityscape type drawing featuring the protagonist hidden amongst the plushies, which speak volumes about the game itself. Her coworkers root her on as she continues working towards her goal, and later, Aoba pays Kō a visit to see how she’s doing with her work. Kō’s drawing is more action-oriented, and while others have argued Kō’s is superior, I personally prefer Aoba’s because it captures the atmosphere of the game more succinctly. I will disagree with the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango, however: neither are suitable as box art for the game. Aoba’s concept, modified to feature just the main character and the setting, would be the best overall, being clean and concise to show the main character in conjunction with the world the game is set in – consider the box art designs for games like HaloBattlefield and Deus Ex.

  • Aoba’s tears begin flowing freely upon realisation that Kō’s technical superiority leaves her in the dust. Reactions to this moment in the preview led viewers to wonder what was going on, and while Kō attempts to reassure Aoba, Aoba picks herself up, promising to at least finish what she’s started. It is this admirable resolve that makes New Game!! worth watching, and personally, I am a little surprised that messages of resilience, determination and a steadfast willingness to learn are often forgotten amidst a scramble to dissect the often-irrelevant technical elements surrounding New Game!!

  • This post on New Game!! comes out of the blue, simply to emphasise that I’m still enjoying what I see in the anime so far. As we hurtle towards the end of August, there are a few more things on the table left to write about, most notably, the Brave Witches OVA and Łupków Pass for Battlefield 1. For now, however, there’s the total solar eclipse to look forwards to. I’ll see if I can get a few photographs of it ahead of whatever my next post is: tomorrow also happens to be the date that DICE is rolling out a major Battlefield 1 update, which brings Łupków Pass to premium players ahead of the In The Name of the Tsar DLC in September.

I’ve heard that New Game!!‘s shift in tone can potentially divide the audiences into two factions, with one being appreciative of the changes, and the other feeling that treatment of Aoba comes across as being unfair, a deliberate attempt to set her career back. I contend that this is not the case; challenges are introduced precisely because they offer writers an opportunity to illustrate how people might reasonably handle them as they come up, and New Game!!‘s execution so far has been successful in showing Aoba as being determined and persevering. She may be overwhelmed by her emotions at times, but this is hardly unusual: what matters in the end is that she’s always willing to learn and improve. As such, I find that this new direction in showing hurdles that Eagle Jump’s employees face with the new project give audiences incentive to root for them as they call upon all of their resources and skills in order to deliver their assignments. Demonstrating that endearing elements can co-exist with more serious, real-world situations that have no easy solutions, these elements certainly have made New Game!! more enjoyable to watch, and I will be following New Game!!‘s second half with a keen interest.

New Game!!- Review and Reflections After Three

“When I left you I was but the learner; now I am the master.” –Darth Vader, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

With the competition to design a character capable of absorbing enemy capabilities beginning in earnest, Aoba struggles to come up with new character designs against veteran Kō, whose experience allows her to make considerable progress and makes her a favourite to win the competition, but when Hazuki cites Kō’s work as being too familiar to the art of Færies Story and approves Aoba’s designs, Kō is devastated, snapping at Aoba when the latter asks her for advice later. Rin speaks with Kō, reminding her of her own past as a lead character designer, and later, Kō agrees to help Aoba out. The final product, bearing a combination of their styles, impresses Hazuki and she assigns both of them to become the character designers. While Kō’s been around the block and is familar with the technical details, however, Aoba finds herself becoming lost, feeling ill-equipped to handle her position. Hifumi takes Aoba out for lunch to show support, as well as to practise talking to someone familiar and improve her shyness. Meanwhile, Nene’s made further progress in her game and arranges to meet up with Umiko to gain additional feedback on her game. New Game!! is settling into its narrative after three episodes, and insofar, it’s been a welcome return to this Manga Time Kirara adaptation that has captured game development in an immensely entertaining manner.

While subtle, it is quite clear that with the honeymoon of Aoba’s first year past – pure comedy is gradually giving way to character development, following the pattern that GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic employed; this approach is superbly effective at setting the stage and subsequently depicting facets of characters unseen to illustrate that the characters are more fluid than initially apparent. Whether it be Kō getting salty in front of Aoba out of jealousy, Hifumi’s efforts to become more social or Nene striking up a professional relationship with Umiko, it is definitely meaningful to see the different characters change over time. This has been something that GochiUsa in particular excelled at, and watching New Game!! apply this towards a fictionalised game developer shop successfully means creating a cast that viewers can empathise with more strongly with, regardless of whether or not they are familiar with the industry. To create characters viewers can become invested into and care for is the mark of a strong narrative. I also look forwards to seeing what directions the technical elements will take – New Game!! is authentic when it comes to its portrayal of elements that adds an additional level of depth to the anime, so it will be interesting as to what sort of tools and techniques will be shown as Aoba and the others begin working on their next title.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • New Game!! is the only anime besides Princess Principal I’m following with any semblance of regularity this season, and while I’m thoroughly enjoying both, I don’t feel that I can offer much to talk surrounding the steam-punk supernatural elements of Princess Principal, especially considering how I would likely pick the anime apart in discussion by comparing it to Tom Clancy novels. This is unfair considering the differences in genre, and as I am liking the direction Princess Principal is taking, such a post would probably not be indicative of this enjoyment. Hence, for the time being, I’ll stick to watching Princess Principal, and possibly returning to do talks on it later.

  • Freshman Aoba against Veteran Kō in the character design competition seems to bring to mind the face-off between David and Goliath – Yun is convinced that against the likes of Kō, competing is futile since Kō’s prowess makes her a shoo-in for becoming the next lead character designer, but Aoba decides to try anyways, feeling that it’s a part of her job description to contribute to the team and see where her art needs improvement even if winning the competition does not seem likely.

  • When Hajime comes in exhausted from a night of binge-watching anime, her coworkers assume she’s been hard at work on character designs and attempt to make things easier for her, leading to guilt. I’ve heard that marathoning (alternatively and more widely-known as “binge watching”) makes up viewing habits of upwards of sixty-one percent of all Netflix users, while sixty-four percent of all steaming viewers have marathoned a show at least once in a year. Three quarters of people define binge watching or marathoning as “two to six  or more episodes in a sitting”, a definition so loose that, under these terms, even I’ve binged watched something before. I normally watch episodes one at a time, or at most, two in a row.

  • In the OVA, it was the snowmen, and here, Aoba plays with her stationary while staying late nights to work; she tortures her eraser out of boredom and snaps out of it a moment later, returning to work. While I’ve never been a fan of what are colloquially known as “all-nighters” and avoid them like the plague, I can and will continue working from home on things if the need arises. At least this way, I can work from the comfort of home and immediately hit the hay when the tasks have reached a satisfactory state.

  • I have a feeling that seeing Kō’s pantsu is intended to be the exception rather than the rule, and as such, it would be unfair to assess New Game!! on the basis of its first episode alone. The closest it gets is showing Aoba’s (shapely) legs under her desk as she slumps in her chair during her overnight stay at the office. After a particularly long coding session, I might have degenerated into this position at my desk, but I try to make it a point of standing up and moving about every fifty minutest to reintroduce circulation, as well as stretching a little.

  • Inspired by her bear-shaped sleeping bag, Aoba’s sketches “accidentally” make it into the competition and impresses Shizuku, who approves of the designs to enter the second round of competition. I feel that Aoba’s use of hiragana in the drawing translate approximately to the Cantonese equivalent of “啤啤”, or “bear bear”. Formally, “bear” referring to members of the ursidae family is described as “熊” (phonetically similar to “red” in Cantonese), but for one reason or another, I’m really fond of calling bears “啤啤”, akin to how I prefer calling rabbits “bunnies”. Incidentally, while English has the more endearing form “bunny” for rabbits, I don’t think there’s such an equivalent for bear, and most children refer to their stuffed animals as a Teddy Bear.

  • Frustrated and upset that she was upended by an upstart, the tension in this moment is palatable when Kō loses her cool and yells at Aoba. Even without the audio elements, seeing Kō’s eyebrows makes it clear as to what she’s feeling: this is why I think anime eyebrows are relevant, as they can convey emotions very well. The shape and dimensions are very indicative of how the characters feel: in manga, this is especially important, since the visuals are fixed and as such, must capture as much as possible.

  • While perhaps not visible in this compressed image, Aoba is holding back tears after trying to talk to Kō for advice. In this moment, the differences between Yun and Aoba’s desk are quite clear: Aoba’s got some personal effects and a few resource books, but otherwise, her workspace remains quite free of personalisation to the extent of other desks. It will be here that I mention the page quote: Aoba’s definitely without the arrogance of Darth Vader, but the consequences of her chat with Kō exuded this sense. I also note that at some point, Aoba powers on her computer by pushing at the large button, which begins glowing. This is not a design characteristic of either the Dell Inspiron or XPS 8900 line: the Dell logo does not glow on the XPS 8900, and the power button is located near the top of the tower, further indicating Eagle Jump uses custom-built computers.

  • Meanwhile, Rin shares some insights with Kō, reminding her of how she came to be one of the greatest assets at Eagle Jump. She guides Kō and inspires her to make up with Aoba, leading Kō to help Aoba out. At the competition, the work that Aoba submits has Kō’s style and methods in it, leading Aoba to say that it was something the two of them created. Aoba’s new ideas with Kō’s skills allow their designs to take on a new feeling, and it is this sort of novelty that Shizuku is looking for.

  • Thus, Shizuku reaches a decision that sees Aoba and Kō work together jointly as character designers. Adding more interpersonal conflict into New Game!! furthers the enjoyment factor and shows that even in such a idyllic portrayal, problems can arise and need to be solved. The sort of drama is nowhere near as deep-seated as in a more focused workplace anime such as Shirobako; there is a limit to how serious New Game!! can get, but seeing the narrative unfold in this manner adds diversity to break up what would otherwise invariably end up as a monotony of comedic moments.

  • As it turns out, Hifumi is rather big on shopping for clothes, but her crippling shyness leads her to hardly ever buying anything despite her looking quite nice in a variety of outfits. It would explain how her interest in clothing has not put a massive strain on her expenditures, and putting this side of Hihumi’s character into the episode’s opening shows that the episode is in part about her longing to be a bit more comfortable talking with others.

  • Aoba finds herself out of her league when the discussion on 3D modelling gets serious, leading her to blank out and not offer any insights or suggestions on Hifumi’s preliminary model. Their talk of fur effects here is a legitimate conversation: rendering fur, even on the new generation NVIDIA cards, is an expensive process, and most games will fall back on textures with a good set of normal maps in order to achieve a similar appearance without the graphical overhead. With this in mind, for pre-rendered scenes, more sophisticated visuals can be used.

  • In order to both help Aoba relax and also practise speaking up, Hifumi invites Aoba out to lunch, a fancy place serving crab spaghetti. A cursory glance at my posting this month finds that, this post included, I’ve a paltry seven posts. This is because I’ve been out and about more outside of work hours: I went to Banff National Park yesterday, complements of Parks Canada and did a bit of a hike around the Vermillion Lakes trails before having dinner at Melissa’s Missteak to celebrate yet another cycle around the sun: I ordered their six-ounce sirloin and lobster tail dinner with a fully-loaded baked potato. Under the steak house’s old-time ambiance (the restaurant is in a log cabin dating back to 1928 and looks like the timber-framed buildings of Colmar), I enjoyed the tender, juicy steak and lobster fresh from their live lobster tank: if you’re reading this and you’re in Banff, I highly recommend eating here. Between the atmosphere, friendly, attentive staff and excellent food, it’s a superb venue for eating before or after a long day’s hike.

  • After dinner, we then took a walk by the Bow River before driving home under a blood-red sunset, courtesy of the forest fires raging a province over. Returning to New Game!!, I’m similar to Hifumi in that social activity and crowds wear me out; quiet time is what allows me to re-energise. However, for me, things aren’t quite as bad; it’s more of a preference that I enjoy quiet and “me” time over being with a large number of people, but I can hang out in groups just fine. Here, Aoba, Kō and Yun watch as Hifumi flits between being awake and being asleep.

  • Kō watches Umiko working on her assignment: this scene was remarkably well-done, transitioning between Nene’s simpler project and Umiko’s commercial-grade work. In comparing and contrasting the two, New Game!! illustrates the similarities between Nene and Umiko even in spite of the differences in the scope of their work; from their encountering of bugs to solving them, only to have someone else coment on their work, Nene and Umiko’s parallel experiences are meant to show that novice and expert programmers differ in how they handle issues and design systems even if they’re working on very similar tasks.

  • With this in mind, word of certain imageboard’s userbase delving into irrelevant details behind Nene’s background (such as her major and the nature of her post-secondary institution) has reached my ears. I’m not sure why they are focusing on the minutiae and ardently maintain that their discussions are to be disregarded: Nene’s current major has very little impact on her ability to learn C++, and while folks are perhaps making Nene to be more talented than she is (learning a programming language and the basics of programming is by no means difficult), I personally respect her character for having made an effort into learning something new.

  • Similarly, whether or not Nene’s campus is modelled after Hitotsubashi University, in either architecture or offered courses, should have no bearing on the fact that Nene simply enjoys learning about C++ and has an eye on working towards a programming-related career: focusing on irrelevant details is a halmark of folks who do not understand what analysis is, only leading to inane speculation that is a waste of time. A short example how to quickly address minor details follows: let’s say I’m bothered slightly by the fact that Nene and Umiko both compile their code with the enter key for the sake of discussion. In Visual Studio, the default keyboard shortcut to build is ctrl-F5. However, I can then apply a bit of thinking, suppose they’re using Visual Studio’s terminal, and we’re good to go. Returning on track, Shizuku seems to enjoy getting on Umiko’s nerves, promptly earning herself a flick to the forehead that leaves a visible mark.

  • Hifumi decides to share lunch with everyone in an effort to get to know everyone better, but it turns out she’s bought some of the components. She also offers Aoba some home-made meat and potatoes, but Kō hops in before Aoba can, leaving both Hifumi and Rin irritated: the former had wanted Aoba to be the first to try, and the latter is stung by Kō’s remark that Hifumi’s cooking surpasses hers. After a tiring but enjoyable day in the mountains, I relaxed under sunny, if somewhat smokey skies today. It seems the smoke covering Mount Rundle yesterday has finally reached home. The smoke did not detract from my Battlefield 1 matches or the chocolate cheesecake partaken in today.

  • Umiko mentoring Nene brings back memories of when I mentored undergraduate researchers in my old lab a few years back, as well as when I was being mentored by my old lab’s graduate students. Having a good instructor is essential, as it can encourage aspiring individuals to persisting on, although looking back, I had it easier than my mentor did: by the time I became a graduate student, our lab had moved over to Unity and Unreal Engine, whereas when I first started, we were using an in-house game engine whose internal workings were difficult to fix.

  • Nene and Aoba chat over the phone as the third episode draws to a close. New Game!! has succeeded in keeping things fresh for the most part, and I’m looking forwards to each episode. With this post in the books, I am looking to write about the long-awaited Amanchu! OVA; it’s been out since March, but unforeseen circumstances mean that I haven’t really had a chance to look at it until recently. Moving into August, the posting schedule becomes a little less clear: aside from the Brave Witches OVA, set for release on August 25, I’ve not any other posts set firmly in mind to write about as of yet.

Three episodes in, New Game!! has definitely maintained my intrigue for its combination of character growth, consistent comedy and the occasional inclusion of technical detail that adds immersion into the anime. The main question that remains is when the new characters will appear: while watching new developments amongst the present cast has proven enjoyable so far, it will be much more interesting to see how the introduction of new characters disrupt the status quo and bring about transformation in the existing characters. Because there are four characters, I imagine that unlike GochiUsa, the new additions will require a bit more time to adequately develop and integrate into New Game!!‘s story: consequently, I look forwards to seeing how new folks will interact with the current group of characters, driving New Game!! into novel directions that give the anime a unique sense relative to the tone set by its first season. Of course, manga readers will likely already be familiar with New Game!! and understand precisely what directions the second season intends to take, but for me, I look forwards to seeing how the anime presents things, especially with respect to the simultaneously developing mentor-student relationships between both Kō and Aoba, as well as Umiko and Nene.

Kimi no Na wa (Your Name): A Review and Full Recommendation on Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 Film

“Love isn’t something that we invented. It’s observable. Powerful. It has to mean something. Maybe it means something more, something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artefact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” —Dr. Amelia Brand, Interstellar

Premièred in late August 2016, Kimi no Na wa (English title “Your Name“, which will be used for the remainder of this discussion) is Makoto Shinkai’s latest feature film, being his fifth full-length feature. It is adapted from his novel; since its release, Your Name has been widely praised for its narrative and visuals — the film has received universal acclaim, and its box office numbers have been nothing short of impressive. As of July 4, the film has grossed a total of at least 444 million CAD, and with audiences praising Your Name to an almost improbable extent, it is worth taking a look at the film that has caused such a commotion amongst the community. At the movie’s core is a seemingly unassuming premise: Mitsuha Miyamizu is a girl living in the rural community of Itomori who is greatly dissatisfied with her life, her father and her role in the community as a shrine maiden. Long yearning to be a handsome guy in the city, Mitsuha begins to experience an unusual phenomenon of switching into Taki Tachibana’s life. A high school student living in Tokyo, Taki works part time at an Italian restaurant and holds a crush on Miki Okudera, one of his seniors. Taki realises that he is switching out with a girl living in rural Japan, and as the two begin acclimatising to the phenomenon, they begin intervening in the other’s life — Taki presents Mitsuha as being more bold and open, bolstering her popularity amongst her peers, while Mitsuha is able to help Taki become closer to Miki, managing to ask her out on a date. The phenomenon ceases as quickly as it came, but, his sense of curiosity piqued, Taki decides to travel to the Itomori region and visit Mitsuha in person.

Taki’s trek proves unsuccessful and unearths a bizarre truth: the area had been obliterated three years previously when a fragment of a comet impacted with the surface. Refusing to give up, Taki manages to find the kuchikamizake that Mitsuha had made as an offering: he finds himself as Mitsuha and sets out with the goal of saving the citizens, enlisting Mitsuha’s friends to create a diversion in order to force an evacuation, while Mitsuha, now as Taki, heads towards the shrine on the mountain on the feeling that she might find Taki there. At the mountain’s summit under the evening skies, Taki and Mitsuha manage to meet for the first time and promise to recall one another’s names, but their memories of one another begin fading: Mitsuha is only left with Taki’s message that he’d fallen in love with her. While unable to stop the comet fragment from destroying Itomori, Mitsuha manages to convince her father to aid her in evacuating the region. Eight years later, Taki has graduated from university and is struggling to find work, all the while haunted by vague memories connecte to Itomori. One day, Taki disembarks from a train to find a woman who seems familiar; she seems to feel the same way about Taki, and meeting at a flight of steps, Mitsuha and Taki ask for one another’s respective name. Your Name represents a return to the fantastical from Shinkai’s earlier The Garden of Words (2013) and Five Centimeters per Second (2007), making use of the supernatural to present a very specific set of ideas in his film — while their inclusion is noticeable, fantasy elements never overwhelm Your Name, instead, being finely woven into the narrative to subtly hint at the complexities of human emotions.

Major themes in the movie

At the core of Your Name is the exploration of human emotions and their incredible sophistication; the brain is often touted as being the most sophisticated machine in the known universe, and presently, it is still unknown how things like memories and emotions operate at the bio-molecular level. While science has yet to yield more insight into this particular mystery, authors of fiction definitely appreciate this complexity; the inclusion of phenomenon such as body-swapping is meant to overcome constraints in reality to see how people may respond when presented with extraordinary circumstances that allow them to experience the world from a different perspective. In the beginning, Taki and Mitsuha’s exchanges are characterised by a strong sense of curiosity. While initially dismissing these as dreams, the persuasiveness of the body switches eventually drives Taki to try and meet Mitsuha, to confirm that his experiences are real. Curiosity soon gives way to understanding one another as they continue living life from the others’ perspective, and even after the first set of phenomenon ceases, the memories and emotions imparted continue to linger. In fact, they are sufficiently strong that Taki decides to take action, trying to reach Itomori. When he arrives, the strength of his desire to understand overcomes spatial and temporal boundaries, allowing him to meet Mitsuha in person for the first time. Similarly, even after his memories of Mitsuha fade from his life, Taki is left with a sense of longing. This is a consequence of having reached mutual understanding with her through their shared experiences — despite never saying so, the two become as close as lovers, as each knows what the other’s feelings and thoughts are. It is therefore unsurprising that, having gone through so much, Taki and Mitsuha understand one another as though they were the other: these feelings are strong and continue to persist over space and time. In his portrayal of Taki and Mitsuha, Shinkai aims to portray love as being an immensely strong emotion, being able to endure and bring people together even against the very laws that govern time and space.

It came as quite a surprise to learn that Interstellar, in a single quote, succinctly and accurately captures the main thematic element of Your Name. Love being an entity able to transcend the known laws of space and time have been explored in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter, Murphy (Jessica Chastain), are separated when Cooper is sent on a mission to explore habitable worlds through a wormhole to find a new home for humanity before Earth’s biosphere fails. In this journey, Cooper ends up passing over the event horizon of a black hole and enters a space with a fourth dimension, reaching a point where he is able to communicate with a past Murphy and transmit vital data allowing her to find the solutions the equations that John Brand (Michael Caine) had dedicated his life to solving. At around the film’s midpoint, John Brand’s daughter, Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) mentions that love is something seemingly with no social utility during a conversation with Cooper, and suggests that it is a force with trusting, even if it has no tangible, quantifiable form. Although Cooper initially is dismissive, inside the black hole, he finds that this holds true: his love for his daughter moves through space-time when he transmits the information allowing her to complete John Brand’s work. Similarly, the feelings that Mitsuha and Taki share over the course of their experiences are powerful, persisting long after their initial memories of one another fade. Makoto Shinkai and Christopher Nolan thus share the commonality in that they leave the precise mechanism as secondary to the presentation of this notion, emphasising that being able to experience love is far more important than the exact workings behind things.

While a wondrous aspect of being human, love is also a desperately tricky emotion to understand, leading capable folks to do things they might not otherwise partake in while in rational control of their actions. Indeed, Shinkai suggests that love is an emotion that may require external intervention in order to adequately explore, and in Your Name, this intervention takes the form of body-swapping. A commonly-employed storytelling device, body-swapping aims to present individuals with a different perspective, a literal “walking a mile in someone’s shoes”: as humans, individuals are constrained to viewing the world from a single perspective and as such, while people are generally able to empathise with others and imagine themselves in a different person’s viewpoint, it does not quite compare to actually experiencing or viewing the world as another individual. Most narratives using this element do so in order to broaden the individuals’ perspectives, and in Your Name, the phenomenon is utilised to provide an unequivocal sense that Mitsuha and Taki have walked in the others’ shoes sufficiently to know what the other is longing for. By providing the means for the two to experience life from another perspective, Shinkai pushes them to understand one another more profoundly than would be possible in reality, but even with newfound perspective conferred through a supernatural means, it takes some time for Taki and Mitsuha to acclimatise and understand one another. Over time, this sense of connection strengthens, and leaves a particularly profound impact on Taki, enough to prompt him to visit Itomori and Mitsuha.

Taki and Mitsuha’s decision to seize the initiative and seek out answers surrounding their feelings represents a welcome return to Shinkai’s usual approach: Five Centimeters per Second, long held to be the strongest of Shinkai’s films, featured a protagonist whose efforts to take charge in his life was met with resistance upon resistance, resulting in a character who gives the semblance of being unable to control the events in his life. By comparison, Taki acts on his feelings to ascertain them: he desires to learn more about Itomori and meet Mitsuha in person, arranging to travel there himself. Even when met with failure, Taki continues to persist: his journey to Mitsuha is fraught with challenges, but Taki continues to endure. In his determination, he challenges fate, trying to evacuate Itomori’s citizens with the aim of saving Mitsuha for the singular purpose of seeing her. While his efforts initially seem to be for naught, Your Name‘s ending shows that his actions ultimately prevailed. By taking the initiative to do something, rather than remaining passive and consigning himself to the flow of events, Taki sets in motion the very events that lead him to finally encounter Mitsuha properly in person. Similarly, Mitsuha is consumed with curiosity and yearning, visiting Tokyo in an attempt to find Taki even though at this point in her time, Taki does not know her. Nonetheless, the chance meeting sets the stage that ultimately drives them together. Where this goes is left open to the audiences, but given the overarching messages presented in Your Name, having taken the pains to figure out who the other is, Mitsuha and Taki will become acquainted with one another — their experiences allow them to understand one another to an extent that a relationship would certainly be within the realm of possibility.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With themes of love being a force beyond comprehension, the idea that even supernatural phenomenon can have their limits in allowing people to understand one another and fall in love, and that it is ultimately an individual’s own will to act governing the narrative in Your Name, Makoto Shinkai delivers a masterful story in this movie. It is therefore quite unsurprising that the film has been met with near-universal critical acclaim: Your Name is a tale where determination triumphs over distance and time, one that reminds audiences that not all dreams necessarily are doomed to failure or obscurity. In leaving bleaker endings behind for one that is much more optimistic in nature, Shinkai succeeds in creating a film that resonates with a much wider audience. The unique combination of Shinkai’s storytelling and art style coupled with a satisfying ending creates a memorable film; even though Your Name does come across as being a classic feel-good movie, its execution is solid on all accounts. Aside from its narrative elements, Your Name‘s incredible attention towards details further contribute to its world-class qualities, ranging from its adherence to scientific aspects even in spite of its liberal application of body-switching, to the top-tier artwork and animation that Makoto Shinkai wields to bring his stories to life with a sense of fluidity and realism that remains unparalleled.

In spite of its supernatural premise, Your Name manages to retain a modicum of scientific accuracy in depicting the impact event that levels Itomori. When it was first announced that an impact event involving a comet would figure in Your Name, questions would immediately be raised: comets are usually no larger than ten kilometers in width (larger comets that have come closer than Saturn have been estimated to be twenty to sixty kilometers in diameter), but even a smaller comet with a nuclei of around eight hundred meters in diameter would create a crater around fifteen kilometers wide and impact with 50 gigatons of TNT equivalent. Thus, even an impact by a smaller comet would completely devastate Japan and have global effects. However, Your Name decides to go with a much smaller body, no larger than forty meters: as Comet Tiamat flies by the Earth, observers are treated to a large scale meteor shower, with the media reporting that the nucleus is disintegrating despite the Roche Limit not being exceeded. The release of gases from the comet’s interior has weakened its structural integrity, and as comets are composed mostly of rocky ices, the surface damage should is limited, as the objects would melt and lose much of their mass. Despite reassurances that the odds of an actual impact would be slim, a small, surviving rocky fragment of around two to five meters wide is headed for Itomori, striking the hillside and decimates the area, leaving a crater several hundred metres wide. The depicted blast is under ten kilotons, smaller than that of the first atomic bombs; obtaining figures from the novel, the object has diameter of forty meters and an impact velocity of 32 km/s. Shinkai’s novel describes the impactor as creating an 800 metre-wide crater. In Arizona, the Meteor Crater was created by a body 50 metres across, impacting at around 12.8 km/s with 10 MT of force. Meteor crater is 1.186 kilometres across, and residues show that this was likely a nickel-iron body. By comparison, the 800 metre wide crater in Your Name is consistent with a body with a much lower density, although its high impact velocity would have likely created a sizeable explosion, as well. The film depicts the body as having a diameter of no more than ten meters, which would have yielded a crater less than 400 meters across. While there are some inconsistencies, and perhaps not completely precise, it is quite clear that in Your Name, Makoto Shinkai has taken the time to research the effects of a smaller impact to craft a plausible outcome of the aftermath of the fragment’s collision with Itomori. In doing so, Your Name manages to strike a balance between the supernatural and the scientific, furthering the film’s notion of blurring boundaries to yield something novel.

Aside from its solid narrative and compelling characters, the artwork and animation in Your Name is top-tier, truly world class in ever sense of the word. In fact, it is not audacious to suggest that Makoto Shinkai’s attention to detail, whether it be the reflection of light on Taki’s iPhone 6, to the visual clutter of interiors to them a lived-in feel, or the majesty of Tiamat’s tail as it passes over the planet, makes Your Name by far the most intricate, best-looking anime that audiences will have seen — graphics in Your name are truly in a league of their own, matched only by Shinkai’s earlier films and Studio Ghibli’s best works. Under the well-chosen lighting and associated effects, Shinkai capitalises on the colours and tones to vastly augment his characters’ emotions and feelings. Warmer environments and more saturated colours show the characters to be at ease or content, while colder, moodier colours convey a sense of desolation. It is under the most brilliant skies that the pivotal moments of Your Name take place, whether it be the myriad of colours that paint the sky under which Taki and Mitsuha finally set eyes on one another, or the majesty of the night sky split in two by Tiamat’s passing. In this masterful application of colour, Shinkai demonstrates that he genuinely understands how to best project his characters’ thoughts and feelings to the audience, making use of it to supplement the dialogue and aural elements within Your Name that succeed in leaving a powerful impression long after the scenes have concluded.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Your Name begins with a cold open, depicting an asteroid plunging towards the surface, but like the artbook I purchased in Osaka, I’ve decided to open things with Mitsuha beginning her day. This movie is not the longest I’ve waited for an anime movie: that title belongs to Girls und Panzer Der Film, which was announced back in 2013 and finally saw a home release in May 2016. Compared to that, Your Name was not a long wait, although the ceaseless articles from Anime News Network about the film’s reception and box office numbers made the wait feel much longer than it actually was. One of my friends remarked that he couldn’t care less about the reception: what mattered most was being able to see the film.

  • Shinkai takes a bold new direction with Your Name; the unique situation that allows Taki to possess Mitsuha’s body means that Shinkai’s characters can do what his previous characters do not, and here, Mitsuha performs a physical check to make certain that she’s back, leading Yotsuha, Mitsuha’s younger sister, to wonder whiskey-tango-foxtrot is going on here. Taking on learnings from Children who Chase lost Voices From Deep Below and The Garden of Words, Shinkai’s female leads have a much more fluid, human feel to them, whereas earlier on, his female characters feel much more ethereal in nature.

  • The interior of the Miyamizu residence is intricately detailed — this scene marks the first time that pantsu have been shown in any capacity in a Makoto Shinkai movie. Closer inspection of this moment also finds that Mitsuha’s personal effects are drawn to a very high quality. Going from this image alone, Mitsuha seems quite organised: her room is very tidy save a few spots.

  • Breakfasts in Japan are typified by their inclusion of items such as rice, fish, vegetables and an omelette; to folks outside of Japan, this can be somewhat unusual these items expected from a dinner, rather than breakfast. With this in mind, Cantonese people typically have congee with Chinese doughnut (油炸鬼), fried noodles or rice noodle rolls (腸粉) for breakfast: this comes across as different even for me (I’m Canadian-Chinese and grew up with Canadian breakfasts), as I typically have such foods during lunch.

  • Whether it be the greenery or reflections in a window, each minute of this film is a visual treat, even if it is not high-intensity from an emotional or narrative perspective. Depicting common, every-day events is critical to set a tone in anime; all stories arise as a consequence of some status quo being disrupted, so in order to understand why a story happens, it becomes important to understand what things are like prior to that disruption.

  • Before we continue further into this discussion of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, I remark that I was wondering if it would be meaningless to write a post of this scale, considering that almost all readers coming in will have seen the film. However, having read through other discussions and interpretations of the film, this review is not entirely unnecessary: for one, I can offer a completely unique perspective of the film that has not been previously explored, and second, there are full-resolution screenshots that can be utilised as wallpapers. Having established that I am not wasting my time with this discussion (and hopefully, not yours), we can proceed.

  • This Your Name post surpasses even the Girls und Panzer Der Film post as the longest post this blog hosts: the discussion features a hundred images, all of which are available for viewing in 1080p such that viewers may enjoy the exceptional artwork in the latest film from Makoto Shinkai. As with every post before this one, I accumulated a non-trivial number of images, and to give each of them figure captions would mean spending an inordinate amount of time (to the tune of twenty-five hours) getting this post out. While the internet’s most exhaustive collection of screenshots at the time of writing, it should be apparent that one hundred images is not sufficient to capture everything within the film.

  • To put things in perspective, this post has a total of 14404 words: the total encompasses everything including the figure captions and paragraphs. Such a post would have taken at least fifteen hours to construct, certainly impossible to achieve immediately after the BDs became available especially considering that I’m working, but the film was also unique in that I had a chance to see it several times previously. Armed with this knowledge and the artbook, I have put together a serviceable review within the space of three hours. I note that even though this is the largest review I’ve ever done, with a hundred screenshots (or frame-grabs, whatever you’d like to call them), I do not feel I’ve adequately captured all of the moments in the movie.

  • Mitsuha’s friends, Katsuhiko Teshigawara and Sayaka Natori, walk with her to school. Katsuhiko is skilful with construction implement and explosives, while Sayaka is a member of the school’s broadcast club and is generally quite bashful. On her way to school, Mitsuha runs into her father, the mayor of Itomori, and is reprimanded in front of her classmates for not standing straight, to her embarrassment. One of the upcoming challenges any blogger will encounter while writing about Your Name using the approach I’ve got here will be determining who’s who. I will use a simple but consistent convention in my own discussion: whenever a character is being run by the other, I will use brackets to indicate thus. So, Mitsuha (Taki) corresponds with Taki being in Mitsuha’s body, and similarly, Taki (Mitsuha) means that Mitsuha is inhabiting Taki’s body.

  • Yukari Yukino is the Japanese literature instructor in Mitsuha’s class: reprising her role from The Garden of Words, Yukari is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, whom I best know for her roles as Angel Beats! Kanade Tachibana, Nagi no Asukara‘s Manaka Mukaido and Charlotte Dunois of Infinite Stratos. Unlike some voice actors, whose voices I can discern almost immediately (Ayane Sakura, Kikou Inoue and Inori Minase, to name a few), Hanazawa’s voice talent is quite diverse; I doubled over in surprise when I found out that Yukari and Charlette Dunois share a voice actor. Here, Yukari is presenting a bit of classical poetry; while foreshadowing the film’s events, the single lines chosen are not capable of describing the entire film as some individuals have asserted.

  • Returning to Your Name, Mitsuha’s classmates regard her strangely and wonder why things seem a little off: she cannot recall any of her behaviours from the previous day and assumes that she’s been dreaming. It is only during lunch that her classmates fill her in on what happened, affirming that, while her experiences felt like a dream, the events did indeed occur. Such a revelation can only come as a surprise to Mitsuha: phenomenon such as this in reality firmly remains impossible, and it is perhaps a blessing that our consciousness is confined to a single perspective (our minds would not likely be able to handle the strains associated with multiple lives).

  • The passage of time in Your Name is depicted in a linear fashion, although the flow of time in the film’s beginning is chaotic, conveying to audiences the sense of confusion and bemusement that Taki and Mitsuha face when experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. It is initially difficult to gauge who’s who because there is no precedent for what Taki and Mitsuha’s respective personalities are; when properly executed, a narrative can drive audiences to feel exactly what the characters themselves are feeling to create a sense of immersion.

  • Mechanics behind how Makoto Shinkai uses body switching are never explained in any real capacity: the limitations and constraints associated with switching bodies, such as the preservation of knowledge and experiences, are largely left arbitrary. The largest question audiences are left wondering about is just how much of the other’s memory one has access to when their bodies are switched. From the sounds of it, spatial orientation does not seem to carry over, nor do some skills that require training, such as Mitsuha’s involvement in weaving braided cords for her shrine duties, so it’s safe to assume that it’s a complete transfer.

  • Mitsuha is a miko (shrine maiden) for the family shrine, performing a kagura dance here. Literally “God-dance”, the kagura are a ritual dance performed by shrine maidens for the Imperial court and later propagated back into the villages, telling stories of folklore or fables. They are said to have had an influence on noh and even kabuki; modern kagura are performed to pay respect to the kami at the shrine.

  • As a miko, Mitsuha exudes a much more mature, even alluring quality to her character. Embarrassed by the complex history surrounding the shrine and her entanglement in its politics, Mitsuha would rather have nothing to do with things, although the choice is outside her control to make. Here, she produces Kuchikamizake, a form of sake produced by chewing on rice. The resulting alcohol is a white colour and very sour; production of this sort of sake for ceremonial purposes is still carried out on some Okinawa islands.

  • The use of flat visual layers to indicate a character’s imagination is a first in any of Makoto Shinkai’s films; typically, these are seen in something like Glasslip or Girls und Panzer. These effects are used precisely twice in the film, with the first instance being Mitsuha imagining herself acting in a mortifying manner most unlike herself. Visuals tell a story very succinctly, and in his earlier films, Shinkai’s characters are exceptionally articulate. They give highly poetic monologues that yield insight into their minds. In English, these sound tightly structured and highly formal, as seen in The Sky Longing For Memories.

  • While utterly hilarious to behold, watching Mitsuha shout out her displeasure about life in general, and that she wants to respawn (or reincarnate, for folks who don’t game) as a handsome Tokyo boy in her next life. While I’ve never really wished to be anyone but myself, I wonder what life would be like as someone else; to that end, if respawns are a thing (whether or not they are is not something I count as within the scope of this discussion), I would probably want to be someone with a much more relaxed, carefree outlook on life for diversity’s sake.

  • Perspectives shift to that of Taki’s. He fumbles for his iPhone, bringing to mind my iPhone 6, which has been in service for a shade more than a year now, acting as my workhorse platform for testing the apps that I am writing. I originally purchased one in 2015 November to replacing my ageing Nokia Lumia 520 in preparation for being able to test iOS apps, and since then, the iPhone 6 has been a remarkable asset: besides testing apps on a live device, the iPhone 6 has proven indispensable for my travels last year: the offline maps offered by Maps.me allowed me to navigate the streets of Laval, France, and I managed to save myself a bit of trouble by using the phone to book last-minute transportation from the Cancún International Airport to the Zona Hotelera. I’ve heard that the iPhone 8 will kick ass, but because I prefer to make my devices last, I have a feeling I’ll retire my iPhone 6 by the time the iPhone 10 comes out.

  • Taki feels as though he’s in a very strange dream, but nonetheless sets about getting ready for his day. From what is seen in Your Name, Taki lives with his father, and his mother’s whereabouts is never explicitly mentioned. In Five Centimeters per Second, Takaki’s parents were never shown on-screen, although very subtle details in the environment, such as handwritten notes from his parents, show that Takaki was loved by his family even if his parents were busy with work and thus, rarely around to spend time with him. Consequently, I imagine that inspection of seemingly trivial details in the environment may yield more insight into Taki’s family.

  • In contrast to the quiet of the Japanese countryside, Tokyo is packed with people as Taki sets off towards high school. In this scene, Shinkai captures the Chinese concept of “人山人海”: this expression, pronounced “Rén shān rén hǎi”, translates directly to “mountains (of) people, ocean (of) people” and commonly indicates a crowd of gargantuan proportions. This is an occurrence that is uncommon in my current city of a million; while I love the quiet that offers, some of my friends note that the city’s lack of night life is a major drawback.

  • The interior of Taki’s high school is ultra-modern, with large glass skylights that allow in a great deal of natural light. The buildings housing the faculty of nursing/social work and architecture on the university grounds have a a very similar design: with their large atriums, these buildings were a part of campus I rarely frequented. I took walks here during the quieter parts of the day and most often during the summer: from the top floor, one can look below to see open offices, and the area distinctly reminds me of some of the architecture seen in Portal 2.

  • Taki (Mitsuha) hangs out with his friends by lunch hour on the school rooftop: Tsukasa Fujii is in the center and expresses concern whenever Taki switches out with Mitsuha, while Shinta Takagi is an optimistic fellow who is keen on helping those around him. Here, Tsukasa’s remarks suggest that the body swapping phenomenon does not carry all of one’s memories over, explaining why Taki gets lost going to school whenever Mitsuha’s consciousness is inhabiting his body.

  • Taki (Mitsuha) expresses pure joy when visiting a café in Tokyo: the menu items are hugely expensive for her, and a cursory glance at some of the offerings (roughly 20-25 dollars for pancakes) indicates that the prices are expensive for me, too. However, under the assumption that it’s a dream, Taki (Mitsuha) finds that it’s okay and decides to indulge in afternoon tea, savouring the moment.

  • Anyone whose curiosity led them to click on the hyperlinks around in my older articles may find themselves staring at a photograph of food — ever since I bought my iPhone, I’ve grown fond of and have fallen into the habit of photographing the poutines and more casual things I’ve eaten, and it’s served to make memories of a day or event all the more vivid. Using clever flow, Shinkai captures the passage of time by depicting the plate as being finished by the time Taki (Mitsuha) removes his camera.

  • Later, Taki (Mitsuha) has trouble dealing with some difficult customers at work and is bailed out by his senior Miki Okudera, a university student whom Taki has a crush on, and who is more commonly referred to as Okudera-san or senpai in the movie owing to her seniority relative to Taki. Miki defuses the situation but her skirt is damaged by these customers in the process in an act of aggression. Miki notices here that Taki (Mitsuha) is acting contrary to his usual self: Taki is ordinarily short-tempered and likely would have told these customers to shove it, which is how Miki picks up that something seems unusual.

  • Inheriting Mitsuha’s skill with sewing, Taki (Mitsuha) repairs Miki’s dress, surprising her with an apparently hitherto undisplayed skill. I am almost certain that those close to me would notice something is off if I suddenly acquire the ability to sew: while I’ve become reasonably proficient with housekeeping skills, sewing is not on that list. As Taki, Mitsuha’s actions trigger Miki’s interest in him, a turn of events that Taki did not expect.

  • Things return to Itomori, where Sayaka remarks that Mitusha had acted quite contrary to her usual self during the previous day. Mitsuha occupies the back-most seat near the window in her class: this seat has been occupied by The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Kyon, Tomoya Okazaki of CLANNAD and Yui Hirasawa of K-On! in other anime. Giving a sense of distance and melancholy in some cases, there is actually a practical reason why anime protagonists so often occupy the back rows — it allows for the play of light to better bring out the character’s feelings, and also reduces the number of other people that need to be rendered on screen. It’s a simple technical element, certainly not important enough to warrant an statistical study.

  • I include in this post several screenshots of room interiors and landscapes to truly capture the extent of the artwork that is present in Your Name: this is an art class at the high school in Itomori, and as per Shinkai’s strength, the room is highly cluttered and detailed. Volumetric lighting effects can be seen in this image, and because this scattering occurs as a result of dust particles in the room, it stands to reason that the art room is a dusty sort of environment.

  • When Mitsuha (Taki) boldly knocks over a desk with her leg and dares anyone to challenge her identity, her entire art class goes silent. She smiles in a mischievous, dangerous-looking fashion that is certainly not how Mitsuha would ordinarily react, and when Sayaka informs her of this, Mitsuha is bewildered that something like this could happen. This may seem a very far-fetched phenomenon from a scientific perspective, but swapping consciousness is, strictly speaking, not an impossibility. In a study by UCLA’s Martin Monti using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), it was found that consciousness is an emergent property arising from the firing of billions of neurons in the brain.

  • In order to document these events, Taki and Mitsuha take to jotting down their experiences as one another. The nature of their body-switching becomes increasingly real, allowing for some humour to arise as each intervenes in the other’s life using their experiences to drive things in a new direction. Advertised as a critical element in Your Name, body-switching was originally speculated to be utilised for comedy back when trailers for Your Name began airing. This is true to some extent, and a great deal of Your Name‘s magic actually comes utilising this feature for both the comedic and the dramatic.

  • Their looks of horror mirror one another, and the similarities in their facial morphologies (besides being hilarious) is an early, subtle hint that these two are going to be closely connected, sufficiently so that they begin interfering in the other’s life. However, to emphasise differences in their background, Taki’s initial notes to Mitsuha are made on paper, while Mitsuha recounts her experiences as Taki in his iPhone’s electronic journal. The calendar app Taki uses is strikingly similar to the interface used in CareKit, a framework I am absolutely not fond of for its inflexibility and lack of support.

  • The music in Your Name is produced by RADWIMPS, a Japanese rock band. Your Name features the greatest number of vocal pieces in any of Makoto Shinkai’s films (another first), and beyond this, one of their most impressive feats for Your Name is that, for the English dub of the movie, they’ve performed each and every one of their inset songs in English.

  • Overall, the instrumental soundtrack in Your Name is a solid one, featuring a fine balance between the ambient background songs that serve to create a lighter atmosphere, as wells the pieces that are more intensive from an emotional perspective; these tracks make extensive use of piano and string to create a moving piece that serves to further augment the psychological tenour of a moment to clearly spell out what mood or tone a particular scene is intended to convey. I’ve never been big on male Japanese rock bands, but when enlightened with what the lyrics meant, their vocal pieces proved very enjoyable to listen to.

  • Taki’s first act is touching Mitsuha’s breasts following their initial switch. You, my readers, may laugh, but I am highly doubtful that folks have that level of discipline if they had switched over to a body of the opposite gender, they would not succumb to curiosity. Numerous fictional works suggest that this is the first thing that would happen because likely, it is the first thing the author would do if they were to undergo such a transition, and because curiosity is an integral part of human nature, I suppose it is only natural to do something like this.

  • As Mitsuha and Taki become accustomed to their situation, they ascertain that the phenomenon occurs with a random frequency, only occurs when both are sleeping, and has an unknown cause. In order to preserve the integrity of the other’s physical body, neither is allowed to stare excessively at oneself in the mirror or hit the showers. Furthermore, they must learn the other’s schedules, speech patterns and not unnecessarily waste money. Finally, to track things, a detailed list of activities is to be left on each’s mobile devices so they can recall any actions. It’s surprisingly thorough and shows that both Taki and Mitsuha are doing their best to figure things out.

  • Hypothetically, using a sophisticated form of fMRI and electroencephalography (EEG), brain activity could be captured and transferred onto computers far surpassing what we presently have, then use means beyond our current technological level to upload that data into a brain in a different body. This is to say nothing of the implications that would arise from memories of one gender residing in a brain of the opposite gender: even if male and female brains are very similar structurally, subtle differences could alter their functionality (e.g. personalities, emotions), and hormonal differences would create a challenge for the individual as they adapt to their new body. Transferring minds with the frequency seen in Your Name could lead to memory loss, function impairment or even brain damage if the technology is not sufficiently advanced for the task. Owing to all of the unknowns in the brain, much less digitising its contents, I imagine that such technologies can only reach a useful state once humanity reaches the same level of technological advancement as that of Halo‘s Forerunners.

  • My application of science into the matter turns me into a wet blanket, so I close off on the note that while scientifically improbable given humanity’s technological progress, using a supernatural means of switching consciousness for a story is perfectly acceptable — at the end of the day, I’m just here for a good story, not to pick apart the feasibility of switching bodies. As time wears on, both Taki and Mitsuha become wise to the extraordinary phenomenon they are experiencing and begin recording their experiences.

  • The most entertaining scene during the montage, as far as I’m concerned, shows Mitsuha (Taki) landing a perfect shot in basketball mid-air and landing with enough force to oscillate her mammaries in the z-axis. Earlier, Mitsuha berates Taki for sitting as a guy would. This has never been seen before in a Makoto Shinkai film before, giving Your Name a much bolder sense than his earlier works, and while Shinkai capitalises on the unique situation to field moments his previous characters are not subject to, they never become excessively distracting from the main narrative.

  • Whereas Mitsuha begins bringing Taki closer to Miki with her knowledge of how a woman’s thought process works, Taki draws on his confidence to improve Mitsuha’s image at school. Despite being unaccustomed to dealing with aspects in the other’s life, Taki and Mitsuha begin imparting positive impacts on the other’s life through their actions, suggesting that sometimes, improvements in life do require another perspective. While quite impossible from a literal sense, it is certainly true from a figurative sense.

  • If someone were to switch places with me, unless they had basic knowledge of C# or Swift 4 (released with Apple’s upcoming Xcode 9), they’d likely be in for an unpleasant surprise. Similarly, I’d probably be ill-suited for whatever occupation they are in. This is why high school students are used in Your Name: given the earlier assumption that Taki and Mitsuha change places completely, the impacts, while still noticeable, would be far less detrimental. I shudder to think what would happen if I lost even a day’s worth of time at work and dealing with the consequences after coming in the next day.

  • As things progress, the different perspectives that Taki and Mitsuha bring to one another’s lives begins altering their relationships amongst other. Both critique the other for having not done such a bang-up job maintaining their own social lives and consequently, are single. Yet, Mitusha manages to elevate Miki’s interest in Taki, while Taki introduces a noticeable change in Mitsuha that leads a few guys and even a girl to give her love letters. When it comes to relationships, I’ve never made it past square one, and I do find myself wondering if things will turn around.

  • Mitsuha (Taki) and Yotsuha take hike through the mountains to visit the body of their deity. During this process, Taki learns more about the Musubi-no-kami (having nothing to do with the rice balls or Hawaiian snack of the same name), the Shinto God of love whose functional counterpart in Chinese mythology is Yuè Lǎo, who unify couples with red cords. The story has its origins in the Tang Dynasty, and Yuè Lǎo takes the form of an elderly man who appears by night.

  • Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s grandmother explain that these red cords rule the unity between people, govern the flow of time, and in the darkness, bind them. The cords are meant to symbolise the relationship between human emotion and time. This is the physical representation of the theme that I derive from Your Name — the movie is about the strength of emotions enduring through time. Consequently, it is fortunate that a particularly egregious analysis has not gained too much traction. In this “analysis”, the conclusion reached is incorrectly that the “vague yet aching sense of clinging to memory [both Mitsuha and Taki experience] underpins the entire point of [Your Name]”.

  • Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, a vast caldera is beheld with a rock at its centre. Mitsuha’s grandmother informs her and Yotsuha that this is the god’s main body, accessed by a small passageway into the underworld (Yuè Lǎo, while said to live on the moon, alternatively lives in the Chinese equivalent of Hades in some accounts) from which return to the overworld is only permissible through a sacrific. Continuing from points earlier, notions that Your Name is about a “juxtaposition of written and oral traditions, the difficulties of transmitting and interpreting each when transported to a different time and place” simply don’t apply: the supernatural phenomenon surrounding Mitsuha and Taki are not lost in time and space, but rather, endure because of the strength of the connection that the two share.

  • It is explained that the Kuchikamizake is an offering made because it contains something of great value: a bit of Mitsuha herself, in its essence. This is sufficient to appease the gods and allows for safe passage into the underworld. The scenery of the Caldera and the mythology Mitsuha’s grandmother brings to the table is reminiscent of that of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, which was likewise set in rural Japan and also the fictional world of Agartha. The fantastical setting allowed for some wondrous scenery to be created.

  • The Garden of Words marked a return to the urban settings Shinkai masterfully created in The Place Promised In Our Early Days and Five Centimeters Per Second. These locales are absolutely stunning, but I also enjoyed the fantasy world of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below and the science-fiction setting of Voices of a Distant Star. Consequently, while I’ve no qualms with the beautifully depicted forests, peaks and cities of Your Name, a part of me wonders if the time is appropriate for Shinkai to revisit the military/science-fiction stories that his earlier films were constructed around.

  • As the sun dips below the horizon, the day enters twilight. In standard Japanese, this is is indicated as 黄昏 (tusogare, Huáng hūn in Chinese); kawatare-doki (かはたれどき) stems from an archaic dialect form of expressing twilight. However, owing to mechanics in the Japanese language, kawatare-doki can also be written as 彼は誰時 (which is approximated as “when is the time of who he is”). The implications are that twilights are that time frame where it is neither day nor night, when time blurs, and thus, is when one is likely to experience uncommon phenomenon. As an aside, 黄昏 shares some phonetic similarity with the phrase 誰そ彼 (Daresokare).

  • These similarities in the linguistics form a poetic explanation of why the body-switching phenomenon can only occur while the other is sleeping: it’s technically occurring owing to the transition of day and night, when time itself seemingly becomes unfocused. As Grand Admiral Thrawn might say, it’s very artistically done, serving to suggest that who we are and when we are become unclear under some circumstances. It’s as much of a mystery as the feelings that endure in our hearts, and this is the truth of the thematic elements in Your Name. Thus, I strongly disagree with claims that defining the different forms of kawatare-doki and their relation to the braided cords is the entire theme of Your Name. These are merely the symbols and motifs that serve to act as a tangible indicator of what the movie’s theme is, and as such, to the aforementioned egregious analysis, I note that no credit is offered for partial answers: pointing out the symbols and saying that they are the themes in whole leads to an incomplete conclusion being draw.

  • As evening sets in, Mitsuha’s grandmother notes that Mitsuha must be dreaming; she’s aware that Taki is inhabiting her body at this point in time, but as the revelation sets in, Taki suddenly comes to back home. He learns quite suddenly that he’s set for a date with Miki, organised courtesy of Mitsuha, and rushes out the door, reaching the train station just in time to meet up with Miki. As his first date, things are a bit quiet between Taki and Miki. With little to say, Taki finds himself engrossed at a gallery depicting Itomori, and Miki puts two and two together, feeling that Taki’s fallen in love with someone else. While Taki denies this, the outcome is not particularly surprising: having flitted in and out of Mitsuha’s mind, he knows her nearly as well as she does herself.

  • I was quite fortunate to watch Your Name shortly after its original release and made a note of it in early October, to review this movie properly when it became available. The main reason why I am insistent on reviewing anime movies only after the home releases are available is motivated by two reasons: the first is a practical reason, being that I am an ardent believer that visual elements serve to augment a blog. Having screenshots allow me to properly express reactions and make a commentary of what’s happening on screen while providing a solid context for what I am discussing. I greatly enjoy drawing connections, and this is one of the reasons why quotes from Lord of the Rings, Futurama and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith made their way into this review.

  • The second reason for why I only will review an anime movie after the home release is available is out of fairness to readers. Brazenly leaving spoilers in the open and ruining the experiences for other folks interested in watching the movie is not my modus operandi. By presenting a review very shortly after the release date, this gives people a chance to watch the movie for themselves and also discuss the film to a much more interesting depth than if I alone were to be holding all of the cards.

  • Meanwhile, Mitsuha’s cut her hair, much to her friends’ surprise. It’s an old tradition arising from ancient Japanese women regarding their hair as the symbol of their womanhood. To cut it, then, it is a powerful representation of severing ties with the past and indicate the turning over of a new leaf, hence its the assumption that a girl who cuts her hair shorter must have suffered a break-up with someone. In Your Name, Mitsuha has experienced no heartbreak, but does feel different in the aftermath of her time as Taki. Again, this is not particularly surprising, since her experiences in Taki’s shoes mean she understands him second only to how well she knows herself.

  • When considered as an Oscar nominees for 2016, fans were excited: the film was counted as having a “very rightful possibility for the Best Foreign Film and Best Animated Feature for the Oscars”. Your Name ultimately did not make the list, the same fans went ballistic, denouncing the Oscars as an unsatisfactory metric for gauging a film’s quality. Oscar or no, Your Name is a fantastic film to watch, and that should be all that is relevant.

  • Subsequently, the body-switching phenomenon ceases to be, and Taki finds himself growing restless as his memories of Mitsuha gradually fade. However, unlike Takaki of Five Centimeters per Second, Taki seizes the initiative to sate his curiosity and meet up with Mitsuha in person. This singular decision is why the “vague yet aching sense to memory” can hardly be considered an overarching theme in Your Name: this conclusion fails to take into account the decisions that the characters make to explore their own feelings further. For someone who alleges to “appreciate anime with deep storylines and multi-faceted, yet very human characters”, the individual behind this analysis falls short of understanding what’s driving Your Name.

  • Curiosity soon turns to reality when Taki plans out a trip into the rural regions of Japan with the hope of finding Itomori and meeting with Mitsuha for the first time. Miki and Tsukasa accompany him on this trek out of concern for his well-being, leaving Shinta to handle Taki’s shifts at work. In spite of their efforts in speaking with folks in the Japanese countryside, their initial attempts wind up unsuccessful and no one has heard of the town that Taki seeks. In spite of this adventure turning up fruitless, Miki and Tsukasa end up having a bit of fun in enjoying area cuisine and taking in the sights outside of Tokyo.

  • During my time in Japan, I’d not ridden on any of their trains until the final day, when I was leaving Osaka for the Kansai International Airport. Other than that, a tour bus ferried me across the different parts of the nation. I am a little envious of Europe and Japan, where high population densities accommodate the infrastructure required to run cross-country trains: Canada is so vast and sparsely populated that it simply won’t be feasible to run a high speed rail from Vancouver to Halifax. In fact, such a journey lasts two weeks and starts a cost of 3200 CAD – train rides such as these are so uncommon we would count them as a vacation that evokes the journeys that pioneers made, rather than being a commonly-utilised mode of transportation.

  • After reaching a ramen shop and ordering some ramen, Taki asks the others if they’d like to turn back. However, a bit of fate in this moment gives Taki the intel he’s been seeking: his drawings turn out to be the town of Itomori, and thr ramen shop’s waitress and cook identify it as such, with the latter having grown up here. The lateness of the hour forgotten, Taki’s excitement gets the better of him and he asks for Itomori’s location. However, he learns that the entire region was annihilated three years earlier. The moment brings to mind my evening meal in Gifu, where I visited a ramen shop near my hotel and had a Pork Ramen to wrap up a fantastic day of travels.

“Mitsuha stood me up and died? I’m so angry. I mean, I’m so sad. But I’m still pretty angry. But also sad. Can I be both?” —Leela, The Late Philip J. Fry, Futurama

  • Surely enough, when Taki, Miki and Tsukasa reach Itomori, they find the town has been blown away, with a large parameter prohibiting trespassers and beyond, wreckage strewn about. The lake has a second shore formed from the impact crater, several hundred meters across. The surprise that Taki feels with this revelation is likely that of the audience’s; in keeping audiences on the edge, Your Name is very difficult predict and thus, captures the audience’s attention in full. This is an impressive accomplishment, and not all movies can pull this off: even if they do possess an exceptional execution in depicting how an outcome is reached, the outcome itself can often be derived with a bit of reasoning.  A most unusual phenomenon unfolds at the fringes of Itomori: Taki’s records of Mitsuha begin erasing themselves from his phone, and the very neurons in his brain are reorganised in a manner that fogs his memories of Mitsuha. Such an occurrence can only be counted as supernatural: there are no known mechanisms in the natural world that can simultaneously affect electronic storage or the biochemical processes within our brains. Incidentally, this memory loss takes place as the sun sets, and the skies darken; it’s a callback to the notion of kawatare-doki.

“Where is Mitsuha? Is she safe? Is she all right?”
“It seems in your haste, you let the meteor kill her.
“I…? I couldn’t have! She was alive…I felt it!”

—Darth Vader and Darth Sidious, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  • As the hour becomes later, Taki and his friends stop at an inn to rest for the evening. However, Taki can find no rest and digs through article after article, eventually learning that Mitsuha, Sayaka and Katsuhiko were among the casualties when Itomori was incinerated in the impact. Taki is pulled in two directions: on one hand, seeing things for himself leads him to conclude that this really was a fool’s errand, and steels himself to return to Tokyo. However, when he sees the braided cords that he’d made while Mitsuha was inhabiting his body, a few neurons in his mind fire, driving his desire to continue delving into the mystery to at least gain some closure.

  • Thus, Taki thanks Miki and Tsukasa for having accompanied him thus far, asks that they return to Tokyo so as not to continue on this journey, and continues onwards alone even as a thunderstorm rages in the area. As with The Garden of Words previously, details in the rainstorm are meticulously rendered, whether it be the beads of moisture glistening on a spider’s web or the spray caused by rainfall coming in contact with the surface. Rain figured prominently in The Garden of Words, coinciding with the Great Flood of 2013. There’s been a great deal of snowfall this year in my AO, and June was quite rainy, but July’s been quite pleasant, warmer than usual: we’ve been fortunate to have had pleasant weather this year.

  • Amidst the pouring rain, Taki ascends to the summit of the mountain where the Mizumiya deity resides. Google-fu finds that this mountain is a custom variation of Aogashima Island, a volcanic island some 358 kilometers south of Tokyo. Its maximum height is 423 meters on the island’s southern edge, and it is very much an active site for volcanic activity; its last eruption in 1785 and killed around half of the island’s population. Today, the island is home to around 170 people. In Your Name, the island’s design is dramatically modified for use as a setting for a major plot point.

  • Recalling that Mitsuha’s Kuchikamizake contains a bit of her essence, Taki decides to do the unthinkable and drinks it. While it is probably consumable, that it has been left to sit under the mountain for upwards of three years in an environment conducive for the growth of moulds meant that Taki runs the risk of growing very sick when consuming it. However, for the narrative’s sake, I will set aside my inner health scientist and allow this to slide, since his actions allow things to advance.

“From her first memory to the events of yesterday, I journeyed through the past. Until at last, I saw the times that we both shared and remembered as vividly as our own. Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time. The stars wheeled overhead and every day was as long as a life age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” —Gandalf the White, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

  • The effects of the Kuchikamizake send Taki into a journey through time and space: in this journey, he learns more about Mitsuha’s family and past; her father was a folkorist who fell deeply in love with Futaba Miyamizu, Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s mother, but following her death, became more grim and silent than before. That Your Name chooses to focus on Mitsuha’s past suggests that Taki’s past is rather more ordinary; it is presumably fate that brings his destiny with Mitsuha’s. The women of the Miyamizu family were attuned to impact events and experienced concious-swappings, but previously, no actions were taken, resulting in death and destruction: Itomori’s original lake had formed from an impact event.

  • After this blast through the past, Taki comes to as Mitsuha, gropes her out of relief and causes Yotsuha to feel that Mitsuha’s marbles have been lost. Taki seizes the initiative to try and save Itomori with the aim of preventing Mitsuha’s death, and to this end, manages to convince Sayaka and Katsuhiko to help out: Sayaka is to operate the radio broadcast system after hijacking the transmission signal, while Katsuhiko will place charges at a nearby transformer to create a diversion and small crisis in order to evacuate the area. In order to prepare for this, the three cut class, with Sayaka stepping out to purchase some snacks. Note the detail in the convenience store; from the items on the shelves to the play of light on the floor surface, every thing is intricately rendered in classic Makoto Shinkai style.

  • Likewise, the interior of the clubroom is filled with clutter to give a lived-in sense; besides photographs and flags posted to the walls, an eye examination chart of the same type seen in Sora no Woto is also visible. Mitsuha (Taki) is pleased that Katsuhiko is able to help and gets a little too close for comfort: to Taki, this is natural, but Katsuhiko is unaware of the switch. Later, when they describe their plan to Sayaka, Mitsuha (Taki) and Katsuhiko share a fist bump.

  • With the aim of convincing her father, Mitsuha (Taki) heads to the town hall and recounts her situation. However, being a strict, no-nonsense sort of individual, he’s convinced that Mitsuha is insane in the membrane and makes to call for an ambulance when she seizes him by the collar. This is Taki’s doing and is so out-of-character that Mitsuha’s father can only wonder who he’s dealing with, and Mitsuha (Taki) subsequently leaves without another word. This moment has been parodied by an artist who stylises the characters from Your Name in a manner reminiscent of those of Kiseki Himura’s Tawawa on Monday.

  • Yotsuha grows concerned about Mitsuha’s behaviours and chooses the moment to inquire as to why Mitsuha suddenly took off for Tokyo. In her monologue, Mitsuha wonders if the endeavour will be worth it and privately hopes that Taki will be glad to see her. She finds him studying for an exam, unaware that she’s meeting the Taki three years previously, and while Taki is unnerved, Mitsuha manages to give Taki her cord and name before they are separated.

  • Moments such as these unequivocally illustrate the enduring nature of human emotions, if they can persist through time and bring two people together in such a manner. This initiative, noticeably absent in Five Centimeters per Second, makes a triumphant return: while Shinkai portrays distance throughout his films as a core element, in Your Name, his deliberate and careful use of cords signify that feelings can bind people together even though temporal distance separates them. It’s a breath of fresh air, and with this in mind, Five Centimeters per Second is the outlier in his filmography with respect to his thematic elements.

  • Elsewhere, Taki (Mitsuha) has come to and stares down at the landscape below from the summit: she is horrified to learn that Itomori is no more and wonders how she is in this future. She hears Taki’s voice nearby as herself, and makes to try and find him. They pass by one another, but once the sun sets fully, under the time of transitions known as twilight, the two finally meet one another face to face for the first time.

  • In the eleven months since Your Name first screened in Japanese and select Southeast Asian theatres, my work has shifted from building Unity visualisations to designing and implementing iOS apps. Compared to my old university experiences, pacing is radically different, and on most days, I feel as though I’m getting the equivalent of a week’s worth of work done. Time simply blazes by in the blink of an eye, and each day is filled with new challenges to design solutions for – remarkably rewarding work, it’s also a full-time occupation. For Girls und Panzer Der Film, I was fortunate that the home release coincided with a weekend, but for Your Name, the film was set to release on a weeknight.

  • The hesitancy in Mitsuha’s voice captures her apprehension perfectly as she sets out to meet Taki for the first time, not knowing about the time difference that exists between the two. Mitsuha thus runs into Taki, who is studying English while on board a train to classes. He shows no sign of recognising her, and it is here that the disparity of time periods come into play. It is this element that led me to my comparison between Interstellar and Your Name; as different as the movies are in execution, their end messages ended up being surprisingly similar to one another. In a sense, Your Name can be seen as a Japanese interpretation of the idea that love can transcend space and time.

  • Because the lake and crater below are no longer visible, it becomes a challenge to tell whether Taki and Mitsuha will meet in Taki’s timeframe or Mitsuha; in fact, this creates a timeless sense that underlines the ethereal atmosphere surrounding their first meeting. It is during this time that the two finally meet one another for the first time, in a place that is in a literal sense, neither here nor there.

  • Under twilight, Mitsuha berates Taki for having groped her and being bold enough to drink the Kuchikamizake, but their conversation soon turns into a warm one — despite having never met physically, the two are as close as any friends, and after resolving to try her best to help evacuate the town, Mitsuha and Taki write their names down so they will remember after they return to their own timelines. The two revert into their original bodies after, and Mitsuha sets off to try and save Itomori’s inhabitants.

“Start the broadcast, Taki. Let’s just evacuate the damn townspeople and get back to our own time.”
“But-but won’t that change history?”
“Oh, a lesson in not changing history from Mr. I’m-My-Own-Girlfriend! Let’s get the hell out of here already! Screw history!”

— Professor Farnsworth and Fry, Roswell That Ends Well, Futurama

  • Back in town, the explosive charges that Katsuhiko have placed go off, destroying the transformers and causing a blackout in the area. Over the speakers, Sayaka begins announcing that the explosion has triggered the danger of forest fires in the region. On the ground, Mitsuha and Katsuhiko try to spread the word in an effort to get the people to leave the area. Folks are skeptical, and most choose to remain behind even though the festival’s been disrupted.

  • After Sayaka is busted, Yukari Yukino is seen among the escorts leading her away from the broadcast room. One of the questions floating around on the anime equivalent of Stack Overflow is whether or not Yukari manages to escape the disaster. My answer will not be quite as patronising as the tone adopted by the author of the accepted answer; it’s mentioned later that casualties were avoided because the town was in the midst of an evacuation drill, allowing them to leave the area before the comet fragment made earthfall.

  • While work has been busy, I’ve nonetheless found time to kick back and make the most of the time that I do have off. Last Friday, I decided to stop by my old lab and see how a colleague was doing with his degree. We shared conversations of his research, future directions and game development over dinner at Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse, where their delicious smoked ribs make for a fantastic evening meal. This time around, I ordered their Prime Rib Beef Bone dinner, which features four gargantuan smoked ribs. Accompanying the ribs were sweet potato fries, horseradish mayonnaise, fried green tomatos and cornbread. Everything was fantastic as always – the meat is flavourful and falls off the bone, and the fried green tomatoes proved quite delicious, being simultaneously refreshing and hearty. Big T’s is not just a name; their portions are massive, and while I’ve been defeated the past three times I’ve eaten here, in the perpetual struggle between man and food, I managed to finish everything to score my first-ever victory for MAN.

  • During this past weekend, I woke up at the crack of dawn to finally capitalise on the complementary Parks Pass the Canadian Government has offered: the destination was Yoho National Park a province over in British Columbia. I visited Takakkaw Falls for the first time since seeing images presented in photobooks of the Rocky Mountains ten years ago – a three hundred meter high, glacier fed waterfall, Takakkaw takes its name from Cree for “magnificent”, and magnificent, it is. There’s a short footpath that leads to the base of the waterfall, and it was well worth it to walk this trail. With few crowds and a complete sense of calm, I finally check off one of the sights in the Rocky Mountains I’ve longed to see. We also visited the Natural Bridge and drove by Emerald Lake before turning around for Canmore, but not before my vehicle’s Check Engine light came on.

  • In Tokyo, the Taki who has yet to formally meet Mitsuha marvels at the beautiful scene unfolding before his eyes. It’s been quite some time since any comets were visible in the northern hemisphere; the last one was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, and I only have vague memories of seeing that comet for myself. As a bit of simple statistical analysis suggests that great comets are visible every twenty five to forty years in each hemisphere, and with Hale-Bopp’s perihelion was some twenty years ago, the numbers suggest we might be in range of a comet to match Tiamat in majesty.

  • In the film’s climax, Mitsuha trips en route to the town hall, and a glance at her arm reveals that Taki had written “I love you” in place of his name. The hiragana reads すきが (formally 好き): is the equivalent of the English “I like you”, to indicate an interest in starting a relationship. A much deeper form of love is expressed as 愛してる (aishiteru), although its usage is quite rare. With this in mind, the English expression “I love you” is one that holds a great deal of weight, and despite being only three syllables, is said to be exceptionally difficult to say.

“Never mind, Houston, never mind the story! Ah, it’s starting to get hot in here. OK. Alright, the way I see it, there’s only two possible outcomes. Either I make it down there in one piece and I have one hell of a story to tell, or I burn up in the next ten minutes. Either way, whichever way, no harm no foul. ‘Cuz either way, it’ll be one hell of a ride. I’m ready.” —Ryan Stone, Gravity

  • The re-entry scene in the 2013 film Gravity is probably the only movie I know that surpasses Your Name‘s comet entry with respect to visual quality and emotional impact, which is saying something: the combination of exceptional cinematography and the aural masterpiece titled “Shenzhou” create a moment that gave me the chills. Incidentally, “Shenzhou” fits rather well the moments in Your Name right before the piece of Tiamat impacts the surface. Now, if a comet come within a lunar distance to the planet and the probability aligned for a fragment to make earthfall in the near future, we would not have the means to effectively stop it from colliding with the surface with this little notice. Most of the impact avoidance strategies proposed to be effective involve long term manoeuvring of the object to alter its trajectory so it misses the planet. Short term strategies involve kinetic impact or nuclear solutions, which are more inexpensive but run the risk of turning the body into a fragmented cluster of smaller asteroids.

“Circular error probability zero. Impact with high-order detonation. Have a nice day.” —John Clark, Clear and Present Danger

  • The moment impact of the Tiamat fragment with Itomori is executed in silence, and shortly after, a tremendous blast rips through the area. While Makoto Shinkai and his team have done a fantastic job of presenting the visuals in this movie, I note that the moments following the impact demonstrate the artists’ commitment to visual fidelity — immediately after the collision, clouds are blown away by the blast wave, which faintly spreads through the area and triggers a tsunami in the lake near Itomori. Ever since watching a bit of refraction resulting from the blast wave of explosions in MythBusters, I’ve always found myself impressed at their depiction in media even though technically, the blast wave would travel at speeds exceeding that of sound and wouldn’t be visible at 24 FPS or 60 FPS: one would need a high speed camera with a minimum of 1000 FPS to capture the wave. Motoko Rich claims that the meteor impact was supposed to represent the aftermath of the Fukushima Earthquake in 2011, but this is an element that is not explored at all in Your Name, and as such, does not have any bearing on Your Name‘s thematic elements whatsoever.

  • The next morning, Taki finds himself on the top of the mountain and cannot recall why he arrived there, nor why his friends returned ahead of him. He returns to Tokyo, haunted by memories of a longing he cannot explain, and over the course of five years, has completed an undergraduate degree in architecture. Taki begins the ardous process of job hunting and is turned down everywhere he goes, while his friends fare better and have a number of job offers. The transition between university and working is immensely challenging, but once one finds their first job, the experiences and learnings are invaluable.

  • Shinkai has depicted the Tokyo skyline in his works previously, but by the time of Your Name, the subtle technical elements, such as watching the movement of trains amidst the cityscape has been improved. I remarked in an earlier review that the level of visual fidelity in Shinkai’s films has reached an upper ceiling on how detailed scenes can be; the difference between Your Name and The Garden of Words is roughly the difference between Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 4, but both successors utilise a novel execution to stand out from their predecessors.

  • In the five years that have elapsed since his trip to Itomori, Taki no longer vividly recalls the events of that day. Instead, he is left with lingering memories of what happened previously, and the knowledge that Itomori was successfully evacuated before the impact, leaving a minimum number of casualties. The dénouement of Your Name comes into play here as Taki is shown in trying to apply for work while his friends have already begun receiving offers for work. He meets up with Miki and shares a conversation with her, where she hopes he can find his happiness. A brief cut shows her with an engagement ring, and perhaps attesting to the milestone I’ve reached in age, I’ve become more attuned towards picking these things up now, although whether or not this is good or bad will be left as an exercise to the reader.

  • Shortly after Your Name was shown in Japan, an acquaintance of mine who’d seen the movie noted the song was perfectly describing their relationship and how couples will gain a great deal from watching the movie together, that “the distance and hardships now seem small compared to how much love there is…working on our dreams together, [couples] wouldn’t have it any other way”. However, I would argue that Your Name resonates deeply with folks who appreciate a good story, regardless of whether or not they are in a relationship or not, and that it would be nothing short of folly to pre-suppose that the film is intended solely for couples to enjoy.

  • My copy of the novel arrived a few months ago, and reading through it thoroughly has allowed for some insights to be conferred about both Mitsuha and Taki’s characters. In the ending remarks, Shinkai notes that the book and film complement one another, although the better experience is certainly from the film itself (for instance, the lack of a soundtrack means some emotions aren’t conveyed quite as readily). However, in providing the character’s thoughts, readers learn that Itomori Lake was once formed by another impact event, that the Miyamizu family has an uncommon history of being able to switch consciousness with another individual and that Taki manages to find employment by the time he encounters Mitsuha during the film’s end.

  • The combined insights from the novel and the powerhouse performance of Your Name means that reading and watching both is the most complete Your Name experience. I remark that purchasing the novel and having a professional translation of it was well worth the price of admissions: comparing the novel against fan translations find the latter to be inferior to the genuine article. Meanings are mangled, and subtleties are lost, whereas a professional translation allows most of the original meaning to be retained. The end result is an indispensable companion to the film.

  • Unlike Taki, who is minimally aware that he is searching for someone important in his life, I do not have that fortune. However, I would not wish to be in Taki’s situation — between having someone in my life and a starting point for my career, right now, I feel that the career is more important. I can get by without a partner, but I won’t last long in this world without a career. After sitting alone in a café, Taki overhears a conversation between Katsuhiko and Sayaka, who’ve become engaged to one another by this point in time. However, when he turns around, they’ve left. While the odds of this seem astronomically small, reality does things beyond comprehension, and even now, I’ve crossed paths with the people I’ve met years before.

  • One of the biggest challenge about writing this post is, because it deals so heavily with themes of love and strength of the heart even against space and time, I experienced a continuous, mild chest pain while writing it. I don’t normally have chest pain unless it’s from lifting weights, and are generally otherwise of a reasonably fit and healthy standard: I lift and run on a consistent basis. My curiosity got the better of me: this is the first time where a blog post has done this, and it’s not healthy to be feeling like this, so I decided to look at what was going on. As it turns out, the necessity of revisiting some old memories and emotions fire the same neurons in the brain responsible for processing physical pain.

  • The scene where Taki crosses a bridge on a snowy evening and runs into some who appears to be Mitsuha is designed with a very similar feel as seen in Five Centimeters per Second. However, rather than the moody shadows and prevalence of dark blue hues, in Your Name, the scene is better lit, with yellow sodium lights casting a different colour to break up the scene. This is intentionally done to remind audiences that Taki is not experiencing the same that Takaki had in Five Centimeters per Second. The importance of lighting cannot be understated, and misunderstanding how lighting in Five Centimeters Per Second played out is what led folks to draw the wrong conclusion about the movie.

  • Fortunately, I’ve got some training in stress management, so the pain will go away after I publish this post and busy myself with some Battlefield 1 and Far Cry 4. In Your Name, the application of time lapses is probably one of the surest indicators of how far Makoto Shinkai and his team have come since The Place Promised In Our Early Days: these scenes involve intricate lighting and dynamic shadows that must be painstakingly drawn for each position of the sun to ensure everything looks consistent. It was quite inspiring to learn that Shinkai hired graduates with a painting background rather than animators, which gave every film since The Place Promised In Our Early Days a distinct aesthetic.

  • Your Name‘s final moments appear quite similar to the short Paperman (2012), where a fellow by the name of George encounters a woman named Meg while riding a train to work. His efforts to catch her attention are to no avail, but through the power of love, fate brings the two together. Easily one of the most moving shorts I’ve seen, Paperman captures the intricacies of falling in love into a short span of six minutes, and moved one of my friends greatly: we were in a software engineering tutorial, and the TA had allowed us to watch the video near the end of semester. I imagine it would be lovely to have fate create those sorts of moments.

  • As with Gundam Unicorn‘s finale, “Over the Rainbow” and Girls und Panzer Der Film, I’ve made allusions to several different works. Among some of the works mentioned include Futurama, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The page quote itself is sourced from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, whose relationship with Your Name has already been discovered to some extent. While some may regard the defacing of these great quotes as an insult to Your Name or their original works, I contend that they are present to lighten the mood up throughout the post.

  • At a flight of steps, a dejected-looking Taki ascends, wondering where Mitsuha had gone. Precisely here and now, Mitsuha is descending, with an equally glum expression, having lost sight of the person she’s longed to talk to and meet. This precise spot became the location of great interest amongst viewers: for those in Tokyo with a bit of extra time to explore, the nearest train stations to the flight of steps are Yotsuya Station (JR Chuuou Line) and Tokyo Metro (Marunouchi Line/ Nanboku Line).

  • That Mitsuha and Taki meet one another again after all this time is attributed to fate, but fate alone is meaningless unless acted upon. One of the issues with Five Centimeters per Second is that Takaki seems very passive, acting based on the path of least resistance and never really taking the initiative to move forward and live in the present. As such, he finds himself unable to do anything when Kanae dissolves in tears in front of him during her failed confession, and why his subsequent relationships continue disintegrating.

  • Conversely, Taki shows a considerable degree of initiative: Shinkai’s characters are strong-willed and determined, so Takaki seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Here, Taki decides to throw caution to the wind and see if this person really is Mitsuha. Turning around, he asks out loud that she seems familiar, and wonders if they’ve met before, setting in motion events that set Your Name as being a world apart from Five Centimeters per Second in terms of how decisive the outcome is.

  • There was another challenge in drafting this post — this one is rather more benign and involves screenshot collection. Some of the moments towards the end of Your Name are shown in the movie’s beginning, and the use of flashbacks means that there is the risk of using duplicate images. In order to ensure that every image is unique, I had to go through the set of screenshots I’ve picked to be in the final review and replace any duplicates. However, even in spite of this extra effort, I was able to get this post out in a timely fashion; I don’t imagine there exist a large collection of screenshots, commentary and discussion out there as of right now, although this will change very quickly once other bloggers get their heads in the game. For the next hour or so, however, this post will hold the distinction of being the most comprehensive English-language resource for Your Name to have ever graced this planet Earth.

  • Lost memories come back, and tears find their way to Mitsuha, who realises that this is the person she’s been searching for. Both long to ask one another the question that’s been on their minds for the past several years, “君の名は,” bringing the film to a close as both characters begin to explore a direction they’d given up to be impossible. The morning light and clear weather throughout the scene hints at the movie’s outcome, and with Your Name under my belt, I can decisively say that this movie is worth watching; its combination of a rewarding ending and visual effects means that Your Name is able to appeal to a very diverse group of viewers.

  • The sum of taking Shinkai’s learnings from his previous films and integrating them into a single entity, the top-tier artwork and animation and a story that combines elements from Japanese folklore and literature with modern components and real-world setting means that overall, on a letter grade system, Your Name scores a 9.5 of 10 (which corresponds to an A+ using the system my university uses). The reasoning is that, while incredibly entertaining to experience, Your Name did not change my world-view to any significant extent, which is the requirement for a perfect ten. Makoto Shinkai himself has expressed that the film is far from perfect, the combination of effective application of things taken from his previous movies packaged up into a single entity telling an immensely satisfying story means that this film is indeed worthy of its overwhelmingly positive reception. I hope that all of my readers have a chance to see this film for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

The last time I watched a Makoto Shinkai movie was The Garden of Words during the summer of 2013, ironically, while it was pouring so heavily outside that the Bow River overflowed its bank and created the worst flooding in my area in over a century. Before that was Children Who Chases Lost Voices From Deep Below during late 2011. Both movies, already of an impressive quality, have been eclipsed by Your Name from a box office and reception perspective, but the question that remains is whether or not it Your Name does anything unique from a narrative perspective that sets it apart from his earlier works. From my perspective, it is able to take the fantastical elements of Children Who Chases Lost Voices From Deep Below, open drama of The Garden of Words and the emotional aspects of Five Centimeters Per Second, incorporating them into a cohesive story whose ending is one of optimism. While Makoto Shinkai has certainly had impressive works previously, Your Name shows that Shinkai has definitely been applying lessons taken from his earlier movies and using these to further hone his craft — Your Name represents his years of experience feeding into each scene to create a compelling story. This is my answer to the question; I don’t find the film to displace any of his earlier works in terms of quality. Each of his preceding films are outstanding and merits of watching, and Your Name reflects on the accumulated learnings from these earlier movies: the end result is an outstanding movie that definitely is a meaningful one to watch. For Your Name, I give it a strong recommendation without any question — the sum of its narrative, artwork, aural and thematic aspects makes it a moving experience to watch for both existing anime fans and folks who do not count themselves as anime fans.