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Revisiting Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words): A Review and Reflection five years after the 2013 Alberta Floods, and insights into mental health in a garden of words

“We’re heading into tough times. As people get into their homes and their home is in trouble, people will feel despair…we have to lift them up with our love and support.” –Mayor Naheed Nenshi, The City of Calgary

The home release to Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words came out five years ago today, right amidst the Great Flood of 2013: I was watching the film even as a heavy rainstorm swept through the region, dropping upwards of 200mm of precipitation in the Rocky Mountains that, in conjunction with saturated lands and snow on the surface, overwhelmed the waterways that flowed through my city: by the morning of June 21, the university had emailed its staff, saying that campus would be closed. Throughout the day, the media showed the whole of the city center covered with waist-high water, and having left my laptop on campus, I was unable to work on my simulations. The only other pursuit was to watch The Garden of Words, which a colleague had informed me of while we were out for lunch at an Indian restaurant. Sure enough, The Garden of Words turned out to be a highly enjoyable film: fifteen-year-old Takao Akizuki is a high school student and aspiring shoe-maker. Fond of skipping his morning classes whenever it rains, he frequents Shinjuku Gyoen and one morning, encounters the enigmatic Yukari Yukino, who happens to be skipping work. Amidst the problems that both face in their respective lives, the two strike up a friendship. When the summer break draws to a close, Takao learns that Yukari is a literature instructor at his high school who had been subject to harassment from students. The attendent anxiety led her to skip work, and Yukari began losing her way until she’d met Takao. She subsequently resigns, and later runs into Takao at Shinjuku Gyoen. After a storm hits, they return to Yukari’s apartment, where Takao confesses his love to Yukari. Taken aback, she notes that she’s moving back to Shikoku, leaving Takao heartbroken. He makes to leave, but Yukari catches up with him and tearfully admits that it was through his kindness that she’s managed to find her way again. In the epilogue, Takao continues with his dreams of becoming a shoemaker, while Yukari has resumed teaching.

Despite its short runtime, The Garden of Words manages to condense into its narrative an exceptional degree of symbolism, evident in the tanka that Yukari recites and shoes as a metaphor for life experiences. Shinkai himself makes it clear that the central theme of The Garden of Words is loneliness, captured in Yukari and Takao’s interactions with the individuals around them. Both characters share the commonality of being isolated: Yukari is withdrawn from her colleagues and family, being limited to dealing with her troubles on her own, while Takao receives little support from his family while he pursues his career. While this overarching theme applies to The Garden of Words, Shinkai also manages to bring about another, emergent theme through the decision to feature a noticeable age gap between Yukari and Takao. The companionship and understanding that the two find in one another, amidst a garden of both greenery and the literal garden of words they craft together, form very naturally. In a place where age, background and station are hidden away, Shinjuku Gyoen acts as the perfect sanctuary for two individuals brought together by the seemingly-mundane occurrence of rain, to begin opening up with one another and drive forwards the events in The Garden of Words. Shinkai intended for The Garden of Words to capture love in a traditional sense: Yukari and Takao’s time together, caring about and helping one another out, is a form of love that can be experienced independently of age and station. It is the deliberate choosing of a high school student and an instructor in a setting crafted of rain and greenery, that expresses the idea that this particular tenderness is a form of love that is as genuine and authentic as any romantic love.

“You can’t tell just by looking at someone what they are dealing with inside.” –Danielle Rupp

While most avenues of discussion suggest that love is a central theme in The Garden of Words, I further contend that the film is meant to illustrate the impact of companionship and support for individuals afflicted with mental health challenges. In The Garden of Words, these themes are represented though allusions to learning to walk again, and taking tangible form in the shoes that Takao crafts for Yukari. Yukari’s frequent thoughts, that she’d felt as though she’s forgotten to walk is an indicator that she’s grappling with life, experiencing anxiety and depression as a consequence of events in her work environment. She becomes withdrawn, and the changes in her brain chemistry have a profound effect on her physiology: Yukari reveals to Takao that her reason for drinking beer and eating chocolate near-exclusively is that she has hypogeusia, a diminished sense of taste (some articles label it as dysgeusia, a superset of taste disorders that describes both partial and total loss of taste). Shinkai himself describes Yukari’s taste disorder as a metaphor for her mental health, and while it is seemingly a fanciful condition tailored to drive The Garden of Words‘ narrative, the working through things suggests that Yukari’s stress causes the quality of her diet to decrease, in turn resulting in a lessened zinc consumption. Zinc is a cofactor in enzymes and is involved in taste-related pathways, so a zinc deficiency sufficient to cause Yukari to lose much of her sense of taste would be indicative of her situation. Anxiety and depression leads Yukari to skip work and suffer from a decreased quality of life. Alone and without much in the way of assistance, it takes intervention taking the form of the determined Takao, to help her get back on track. In dealing with mental health, I’ve seen that a good support system is perhaps the single most aspect of intervention and recovery. These topics are always a challenge to deal with, especially since reporting is tricky and the lack of good data makes it difficult to learn the cause and potential solutions. However, awareness for mental health is much greater now than it was earlier, thanks to growing understanding of the importance of emotional well-being. In helping Yukari by being there for her, and giving her companionship, Takao acts as a catalyst for Yukari’s recovery, and Makoto Shinkai makes this explicit in his symbolism: in having Takao create a pair of shoes for Yukari, it signifies his determination to help Yukari walk again.

The presentation of rain as being a multi-faceted force in The Garden of Words is central to the movie’s magic: at times, it is a gentle, natural force that allow Yukari and Takao to interact together in slow, tender steps, but by the film’s conclusion, it is a tempest that crescendos into Takao’s confession and Yukari finally opening up to him. Occupying both ends of the spectrum, Shinkai’s masterful use of rain allows The Garden of Words to express emotions and thoughts that even colours and scenery together cannot. Weather has been utilised to great effect in fiction to further develop a narrative, and The Garden of Words is no different: in this film, Shinkai demonstrates that he is able to further his artwork’s ability to convey an idea in ways that his previous films did not explore too rigourously. A powerful force in The Garden of Words in bringing Yukari and Takao together, the power of rain was shortly demonstrated in reality: the Great Flood of 2013 I’ve alluded to in several of my earlier discussions is an interesting example of rain being able to cause both separation and togetherness. In its excess, the rainfall responsible for causing flooding throughout southern Alberta physically separated people, but it was in these difficult times that communities were unified by the flood, demonstrating exemplary citizenship to help one another out in the ways they could, whether it be something as simple as making a generous donation to the Red Cross and flood recovery efforts, or else selflessly stepping out into the field and helping flood victims clean up. Regardless of the scale of their actions, each individual who reached out in their own way to help was a part of that community, and while the Great Flood of 2013’s effects are still felt five years later, it is only because of the community’s actions that recovery has made substantial strides.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When I last wrote about The Garden of Words, it was 2013. Battlefield 4 had been announced for three months, I had graduated with an Honours degree in Health Sciences, and the Great Flood had hit my area. The rapidly rising waters caused the university to close, and as I did not have a Mac to work on at the time, my research to grind to a halt. I noted in my original review that by The Garden of Words, Shinkai and his team had so finely honed their craft that his visuals became comparable to photographs in terms of detail and colouration. This image of the Tokyo streets is one such example, and at a glance, it really does look like a photograph. To put things in perspective as to what’s happened in the five years since, I’ve finished my Master’s Degree, worked for two years in software, earned my ni-dan in karate, travelled to Japan and are anticipating Battlefield V, which was showcased at this year’s EA Play.

  • The original The Garden of Words post I wrote featured thirty screenshots, but looking back, the post is quite devoid of content besides a basic “their loneliness brings them together”, praised the film for giving the male characters a more driven personality (as opposed to the passiveness that defines Takaki) and remarked that the movie’s strongest point is how focused and concise it is. This post features forty screenshots, all of which can be viewed at full resolution. Rather than diverting time towards symbolism, The Garden of Words weaves symbolism directly into the narrative. In doing so, the character’s eventual fates are clearly presented, leaving no loose ends that became somewhat of a challenge in Five Centimeters per Second.

  • When Takao first meets Yukari, there’s little indicator of what she does or how old she is. She leaves Takao with a tanka from the manyōshū‘s eleventh volume: besides suggesting that the rain brought them together, it’s something that only literature instructors or enthusiasts would be able to recite. Takao is wrapped up in the moment and does not realise this, taking an interest in the fact that Yukari has an enigmatic air to her that seems quite enchanting. This chance meeting, seemingly willed by the rain itself, sets in motion the film’s events.

  • To emphasise the theme of isolation in The Garden of Words, Shinkai presents his supporting characters as being distant, engrossed in their own worlds to be of much help to either Yukari or Takao. For Takao, his mother is more interested in chasing men than caring for her family, while his older brother is moving out with his girlfriend and cannot otherwise spare much time to listen to Takao’s concerns. Similarly, Yukari’s colleagues and coworkers are only able to do so much for her. Thus, with limited support from the most obvious sources, Yukari and Takao’s fateful meeting drive them to turn towards one another.

  • As they spend more time together, bits and pieces of each individual comes out into play. Besides using extensive use of rain imagery, the events of The Garden of Words also dealt greatly with mental health; Shinkai may have intended for his works to convey a certain theme, and the more prominent anime writers out there have largely focused on the movie as a love story of sorts, the focus of The Garden of Words on everyday events means that some ideas can be derived from the film’s events even if they are not immediately apparent. This is the advantage about being multi-disciplinary – one is afforded different perspectives on things that would be missed in the absence of familiarity with a particular discipline.

  • Mental health is a highly relevant topic in the present, although it is still an elephant in the proverbial room: traditionally, men have always been told to “man up” and tough out whatever challenges they encounter in life. When I went through my rough spot following the Great Flood of 2013, I (foolishly) figured that what I was feeling was a one-off, and that I’d be back on my feet in a matter of days. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. My particular approach to recovery was largely an individual process, but I know now that I can, and should, turn to those around me if anything difficult should occur. I remark that, to come out of a post saying that folks shouldn’t read into diagnosing fictional characters with mental health conditions and then to proceed to do just this for my The Garden of Words post is to be hypocritical. However, my intent here is to demonstrate the strength of a theme in a narrative where mental health was evidently meant to be at the forefront of discussion – nowhere in my discussion do I attempt to diagnose Yukari, and I use generalisations to illustrate the messages.

  • Because mental health is such a difficult topic to discuss, I am not particularly surprised that discussions about The Garden of Words have not made mention about things like depression, support networks and the like. I’m normally quite critical of anime reviews for missing important details, but for The Garden of Words, I make an exception because mental health is not a trivial matter to discuss. With this being said, current approaches to mental health remain very clinical in nature, and not everyone requires this clinical solution: The Garden of Words shows Yukari recovering without anti-depressants. While there are definitely cases requiring medical intervention, for more moderate cases, some companionship and adventure might just be what one needs. Of course, what works will vary from individual to individual, but it should be clear that not everyone requires clinical intervention just because they’re having a few bad days.

  • After the flood waters receded, the weather in Southern Alberta became remarkably nice: Canada Day that year saw some of the most spectacular weather I’d known, but I still vividly recall feeling quite down in the aftermath of the flood. Under a blazing hot sun, I enjoyed a Flamethrower Grill burger from the DQ nearby and spent the afternoon playing Vindictus, but I had been filled with a sense of longing and for the longest time, did not really understand what was the reason behind this feeling of melancholy. Five years later, I think I can answer that question – matters of the heart were troubling me, and the flood’s disruption precluded opportunities to assuage the sense of emptiness that was welling as my friends began going their separate ways following convocation. The sense of powerlessness to make my wishes a reality and isolation thus led me to suffer from poor spirits.

  • Unlike myself at the age of fifteen, Takao has a very clear vision of where his dreams lie, and what it takes to reach his chosen career of being a shoemaker even while in high school. At the age of fifteen, I was vaguely aware that my future lay in the sciences, likely biology, but otherwise did not make a concrete decision until I was in my final year of high school. In my university’s bioinformatics programme, I saw a path that would leave options open: I would gain background in both health and computer science. Indecision has been one of my old weaknesses, and it was only during the final year of my graduate studies programme that I decided that iOS development was a career I really desired.

  • In order to raise funds for his aspirations, Takao works at a variety of part-time positions, including that of a dishwasher. Although he is not particularly skillful at shoemaking, his innate passion for the career provides him with his drive to practise his craft. At his age, this is viewed as an expensive hobby rather than a viable career path, but his persistence is most admirable: while his friends are out enjoying the summer, he pushes towards his objectives.

  • A closeup of Takao and Yukari’s shoes find that Takao has crafted his own shoes. With a reasonably-priced pair of shoes going around 80-110 CAD while on sale, I’ve found that good shoes should be able to last about two years under normal wear-and-tear conditions, but gone are the days when I have a single pair of general-purpose shoes for the more pleasant times of year and second pair of shoes for the winter.  In this image, minor details in the environment, such as the ripples of raindrops hitting water on the ground, are also visible.

  • During my trip to Japan last year, I did not have the opportunity to visit Shinjuku Gyoen, but we did pass by on the way to the Meiji Jinju, which was an oasis in the middle of Tokyo. The joys of large parks such as these give the sense of a sanctuary amidst a world that is constantly moving: at the heart of the park, it was calm and quiet. Here, I saw a sight that until then, I’d only seen in anime: groups of students praying for success in their exams. We later visited the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda and found groups of students eating lunch there.

  • One of the things on my mind is how the weather for the upcoming summer will be. Spring this year’s been quite nice even if it has been a bit rainy, and moving into the summer, meteorologists are forecasting that the prairies will have a summer with near-normal precipitation and temperatures. These are my most favourite times of year, when the days are long and the skies fair: I am hoping to spend a few weekends doing day trips in the nearby mountains should the weather be favourable.

  • When Takao begins cooking for Yukari and inspires her to begin cooking again, Yukari’s sense of taste is gradually restored. An improving diet is the biochemical reason why this occurs, but this is worked cleverly into the narrative to suggest that it is the act of being together with someone, to share one’s burdens, that prompts this change. It typifies Makoto Shinkai’s ability to craft powerful metaphors and symbols into his stories without sacrificing scientifically plausibility: while his stories cannot always be said to confirm fully with reality, a sufficient number of elements are accurate so that his stories’ more fanciful elements are not too detracting.

  • Images of Takao and Yukari sharing time together in Shinjuku Gyoen remain the single most enduring imagery pertaining to The Garden of Words, similar to the spectacle that Comet Tiamat yielded in Your Name. Being able to create immediately recognisable scenery has driven up Shinkai’s stock amongst fans: while Shinkai is modest and cautions audiences against comparing him to Hayao Miyazaki, I find that Shinkai’s single greatest contribution is his unique talent for making use of colour and light in highly detailed environments to assist in his narratives. Compared to Miyazaki, Shinkai’s characters tend to be stylised to a lesser extent and so, are not always as expressive as those of Miyazaki’s. Instead, Shinkai takes a different approach: expressiveness in his films is achieved through the use of the environments in conjunction with the characters’ facial expressions and tones.

  • The expression “no man is an island” is applicable to the events of The Garden of Words, being sourced from John Donne’s “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions”, and looking back five years, the notion that we need human contact in order to maintain our mental well-being is reinforced. In Yukari’s position, it can seem a Herculean task to break out of her melancholy, and Makoto Shinkai captures this reality in a very fluid, believable manner: it is her happenstance meeting with Takao that sets in motion change.

  • Yukari is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who has played notable roles in many of the anime I’ve seen, including but not limited to Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea‘s Manaka Mukaido, Cleo Saburafu of Broken Blade, Sonoko Nogi of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Gabriel Dropout‘s Raphiel Shiraha and Infinite Stratos‘ Charlotte Dunois. By comparison, Miyu Irino, who provides Takao’s voice, I’m only familiar with for his role as Mobile Suit Gundam 00‘s Saji Crossroad.

  • Takao measuring Yukari’s feet in the beginnings of his plan to craft a pair of shoes for her is the one of the most tender moments in The Garden of Words, attesting to how far the two have come to trust one another since their first meeting. Shinkai meticulously details the process that Takao takes in capturing the dimensions of Yukari’s foot, conveying intimacy as deeply as when Akari and Takaki shared their first kiss during the events of Five Centimeters per Second.

  • Takao’s older brother resembles Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below‘s Ryūji Morisak, Asuna’s substitute instructor whose knowledge of the mythical Agartha is extensive. Takao’s brother’s girlfriend bears some resemblance to Akari Shinohara. Of his older films, Akari and Sayuri of The Place Promised in Our Early Days look quite similar, as well. Shinkai’s exceptional prowess as an artist nowithstanding, one of the few limitations about his art style are how his characters can look quite similar to one another. By Your Name, however, his team’s craft has definitely improved: Mitsuha and Taki look unique, unlike any of his previous characters.

  • Takao explicitly notes that he’s attracted to the air of mystery surrounding Yukari, but when he returns to school, it turns out that Yukari is actually one of the instructors here. The truth is soon shown to him: she’s a classical Japanese instructor who got into a spot of trouble when a younger male student developed a crush on her, and said student’s girlfriend retaliated with a series of rumours. I cannot speak to how things would be handled in Canada if such an occurrence were to be real, but it would likely be a major news story that would certainly force the school board to launch an inquiry.

  • While seemingly far-fetched for students to go to such lengths to discredit their instructors, high school drama is quite real. I recount a story where a fellow classmate, salty about the fact that I was kicking ass in introductory science course seemingly without any effort in our first year, accused me of harassment. The individual’s parents got the administration involved and I was warned that a suspension could follow, even though I had not acted against this individual directly. I argued that without any hard evidence beyond said individual’s word, their very efforts to get me suspended was in and of itself harassment. The administration realised they’d been pranked and promptly dismissed things, leaving me with a hilarious story about how I out-played this individual, although that is only in retrospect: there was nothing remotely funny about things at the time.

  • School rooftops have featured in anime with a similar frequency as the coveted spot in the back corner of the classroom beside the window. Questions have been posed concerning this, and the answer is a very mundane, unordinary one: it is much easier to animate these locations owing to the ability to illustrate a smaller number of people, reducing the costs associated with animating busy scenes. Having said that, Makoto Shinkai is not one to shy away from incredible levels of detail in his films, so his inclusion of a school rooftop and its quiet environs is intended for another purpose: to visually convey the sort of loneliness that surrounds Yukari’s story.

  • The fellow in the red T-shirt is a big guy…for Takao. After Takao slaps Aizawa, the senior student for having caused Yukari this much grief, the big guy steps in and displays a lot of loyalty for a mere friend of Aizawa’s: he decks Takao, sending him into the floor. A fight ensues, leaving a few scratches on Takao’s face. The fight’s outcome is not shown because Shinkai feels it to be not relevant: what matters is the fact that Takao’s feelings have precipitated this moment. In the manga, the big guy continues beating on Takao, but like the film, Takao rushes him. Because his injuries are light, it stands to reason that he manages to win this fight, or at least, surprises the big guy long enough to escape. Aizawa is voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best as Nagi no Asukara‘s Miuna Shiodome and Sakura Quest‘s Sanae Kouzuki.

  • Some of my insights on The Garden of Words come from the manga, which I bought two Thanksgivings ago: the weather that day had not been conducive for a drive out to the mountains, being quite foggy, but was just fine for visiting a local bookstore. The remainder of this revisitation, containing just a ways under half of the screenshots in the post, deals with the film’s final act. This is not an accident: the final act is an emotional journey that sees Shinkai’s writing at its finest. His stories are at their strongest when his characters are honest and open with their feelings.

  • When Yukari and Takao meet again under the gazebo of Shinjuku Gyoen, they are caught in a torrential downpour. I vividly remember the June 21st of five years ago as though it were yesterday. After receiving an email from the university that campus was closed on account of the flood, and having left my laptop on campus, I was unable to get any work done that day. It was an unexpected day off, and I spent it reviewing The Garden of Words, as well as playing through Metro: Last Light, which I got complementary with my GTX 660. I’d only just watched the movie the night before, and with rain dousing the Southern Alberta region, the irony of watching a movie about rain when rain waters were causing flooding was not lost on me.

  • The rains began in earnest on June 20 after the skies filled with rain clouds, and some areas of the city begun evacuations as water levels surged in the Bow and Elbow rivers. The whole of the city centre was covered in water on June 21, and the Stampede Grounds were flooded, as well. By June 22, the rains had lessened, and the flood waters began receding. Tales of courage and sacrifice to save people emerged, along with the comprehension of just how much damage the flood had caused. When the weekend ended, and the extent of the flood’s became known, I made a substantial donation to the Red Cross for Flood relief. Meanwhile, some of my friends working with companies over the summer began helping out with the cleanup effort.

  • The waters had fully retreated come late June, and the weather became the characteristic of an early July in Calgary: hot and sunny. However, even as I returned to my routine in writing simulations for my research lab, a melancholy had gripped me. The cause was unknown at the time, but the sum of extraordinarily good weather, the inability to make the most of my summer days, some love-sickness and the fact that most of my friends were going their separate ways following convocation would have likely been the reason for this melancholy. A summer later, I would go on to buy the book “The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers”, whose proceeds would go towards flood recovery.

  • Slender and beautiful, Yukari is quite unlike any of Shinkai’s previous female leads. Freed from their role as teacher and student, the two enjoy their rainy afternoon together, with Takao cooking for Yukari. Their conversation is not heard, with a wistful track overlaid as background music, affording the two characters a modicum of privacy in a similar manner that Daniel Handler used in A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope, when Violet and Quigley are given some time alone halfway up the frozen waterfall. It’s a literary device that is intended to show characters in more personal, intimate moments, and while the bond that Yukari and Takao share cannot be said to be romantic love, it does count as love in a sense.

  • In my original The Garden of Words post, I had a close-up of the omurice that Takao’s cooked. I’ve made an effort to ensure that no image was duplicated from the original post, but unlike previous years, where it became difficult to do consecutive posts on the K-On! Movie because of overlap, the artwork in any given Makoto Shinkai film is so diverse that picking unique screenshots were not a challenge. Over the span of the five years that have passed since I first watched this, much has happened, and one of those things includes my having omurice, albeit one that dispenses with the ketchup on top in favour of a curry in Osaka. It’s a simple but filling dish – the incarnation I had katsu, so I could say I had the equivalent of omurice and curry rice all in one go.

  • During an awkward point in their conversation, Takao declares that he loves Yukari, but when Yukari seemingly rejects him, he takes off. Not quite understanding what’s happened, Yukari runs after him. As I have experienced, Takao is confusing his appreciation of Yukari’s company, and his desire to help her, for romantic love. It’s perhaps more of a bond of friendship, or even parental love, that has come out of this relationship: Takao is charmed by Yukari’s mystery and the positive feelings he gains by helping her. This compassion and empathy for someone else is a compelling force that one can indeed fall in love with, although people can sometimes mistake this as falling in love with a person.

  • This is not to say that falling in love with helping people, and romantic love with a person, are mutually exclusive. Takao probably harbours feelings for Yukari to some extent, and she, for him, although these are overshadowed by the positive feelings they’ve developed as friends. Challenges in differentiating from between the two can cause younger people, like myself, to pursue relationships they sense to be sustainable. Sometimes, things work out for the better, strengthening the couple and allowing them to find happiness, while other times, things don’t work out so well.

  • At the film’s climax, Takao finally expresses his own resentment at Yukari’s air of mystery – the very thing he was attracted to about her becomes a source of pain when he learns that she’s a teacher, and stung by her rejection, he demands her to be truthful, voicing that his dreams are unrealistic and unattainable, that her refusal in opening up to him and being truthful led him on in a manner of speaking. The sum of their emotions build, and breaks over right as the sun comes out, washing the land in a golden light.

  • Yukari’s refusal to mirror Takao’s accusations shows that, rather than acting out of malice or spite, her unwillingness to open up to him is mainly because of her own experiences. When the sun appears, it represents the reappearance of truth. Both Takao and Yukari are honest with their feelings, as well as how they feel about one another. In this moment, Shinkai again demonstrates his masterful use of the weather to advance the story – including Your Name, no other Shinkai film ever draws so heavily on the weather in its narrative.

  • Following the events of the flood, I invited a friend out to the Calgary Stampede as a date to express thanks for having attended my convocation and helping me take photographs, as well as for having listened to my numerous grievances about the summer, and unwaveringly providing support by ways of listening to me. The day progressed as one might expect a summer festival would in anime, with the guy buying drinks for the girl and impressing her by winning a stuffed animal for her at the midway games. That there was a Stampede at all that year was no small feat: the Stampede grounds were cleaned up after the flood, and attendees wore “Through Hell or High Water” T-shirts. It was a herculean effort to clean up the grounds and prepare for that year’s Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth: the event was a great success, attesting to the community’s resilience in face of adversity.

  • By July, the weather had become extremely pleasant, but I had fallen into a summer melancholy, longing for the company of friends. The resentment that I was stuck is mirrored in my blog posts from the time; a hint of bitterness can be found in the writing. I concentrated as best as I could on my research project and managed to build a distributed simulation system, where multiple computers could each run individual modules representing one body system, and passed messages to one another to give the sense that the entire simulation was on one system. I also went on two road trips into open country near the end of summer (one to Canmore, and one to Jasper), lifting my spirits.

  • However, it would not be until the spring a year later, when I was asked to help with the Giant Walkthrough Brain project, that I truly began feeling myself again. Having come fresh from heartbreak during April, I entered the summer with a newfound determination to immerse myself in a new project to dilute the pain of loss. The outcome of this was that I left the summer far happier than I had been for the past year. Here, Takao places the completed pair of shoes for Yukari. After the film’s climax, Yukari heads home and accepts a new teaching position, while Takao continues studying to be a shoemaker. His promise of having Yukari walk again in the shoes he’s crafted her is seemingly unfulfilled in the film, but in spite of this, he maintains a resolute belief in finding her again once he’s made some steps in his own career.

  • Shinkai uses walking as an analogy for facing life’s challenges, and shoes become a symbol for a tool in aiding walking. Takao’s finished product represents his commitment to her well-being – the shoes are beautiful and capture the beauty that is Yukari. Here, I note that the earliest shoes date back a few thousand years. However, it is hypothesised that humans began wearing shoes around 40000 years ago, corresponding with changes to our skeletal features in the foot. This likely coincides with our migration away from warmer climates, where footwear would along us to walk greater distances without being affected by temperature extremities.

  • In the manga, Takao mentions that time without Yukari has flown by, also showing that Yukari has received Takao’s shoes and is now wearing them. The movie is careful with its framing to not show this explicitly and leave open for viewers what the outcome was, while the manga implies that Yukari and Takao do end up meeting again. Yukari’s appearance in Your Name is an interesting one, conflicting with her presence in The Garden of Words, so it’s best to suppose that, à la Rick and Morty, Your Name and The Garden of Words are set in alternate dimensions in the multiverse. I’ve seen failed efforts to work this out; attempts are inconclusive owing to flawed reasoning. Ergo, my explanation is the only one that is viable.

  • I feel that, compared to my original review five years ago, this The Garden of Words review is the true review that the film and readers deserve. Themes are better explored, and even though I am reminiscing for a greater half of the post, I am using this retrospective to better frame the themes. I think I’ve succeeded with this post. I originally set out to take another look at The Garden of Words because it marks the five-year anniversary to the Great Flood of 2013, and in doing so, learned a great deal about myself and developed a newfound appreciation for The Garden of Words, as well. Because of these insights, I now say with conviction that The Garden of Words is a veritable masterpiece, scoring a full ten of ten: despite its short runtime, it fully captures and explores a plethora of themes, including those dealing with mental health, in a meaningful manner. This film changed the way I view the world, and for this, it has earned its perfect score from me in spades.

The Garden of Words is one of Makoto Shinkai’s strongest works, matching Five Centimeters per Second in emotional impact despite its shorter length. An exquisite amalgamation of sight, sound and narrative that is neatly packaged into a concise, focused story that is very clear about its goals, my own enjoyment of the film is further augmented by the imagery of rain depicted throughout The Garden of Words. Although I did not realise it at the time, my own experiences with relationships (or at least, efforts to) stem from my falling in love with the idea of helping people, rather than being related to falling in love with a person per se. Similar to Takao, I feel drawn to being able to have someone lean on me, and at the time, it definitely did feel like falling in love; in retrospect, it is love in this form that likely manifested, and a part of the melancholy I found during the summer of 2013 was feeling so disconnected from an individual in the flood’s aftermath. However, having re-watched The Garden of Words with a new mindset, looking back, it is not such a terrible thing to be in love with helping others, and like Five Centimeters per Second before it, The Garden of Words is indeed a film that can withstand the test of time, being as enjoyable to watch today as it was when it came out five years ago. There is one important distinction: this time around, precipitation during this month has been normal, and the weather is fine, so the chances of seeing another flood like The Great Flood of 2013 are thankfully slim.

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 14401 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.