JAPAN: Your Name (君の名は, 2016)

People, Places & Things

by Grace Kugelman

Please read the crafter statement before watching the video essay.  Thank you.

Aspects of “Your Name” that immediately stuck out to me were the artistry of the animation and how that romanticizes basically everything in the movie. “Your Name” is a 2016 romantic fantasy anime produced in Japan, which is also where the anime style was created. The two main characters from the movie, Mitsuha and Taki, grow up with very different lives. Mitsuha is the estranged daughter of the mayor of her naturally beautiful, rural hometown, Itamori. Her grandmother raises Mitsuha and her sister under the Miyamizu shrine, which is the familial water shrine that represents their past duties as priestesses. Taki lives with his dad in an apartment in Tokyo. He uses Tokyo’s public transportation to get to school and then has to work at a restaurant most days after school to help supplement his dad’s income and make their lives more comfortable. A commonality we see between both characters is the fact that both of them aren’t happy with their lives and wished for something different. When the characters started switching bodies with each other, they realized that they wanted the life the other one led. Mitsuha was jealous of Taki for living in a big city where he had endless possibilities of what to do with his life. Taki was jealous of the quiet, slower paced life Mitsuha had in the scenic town of Itamori. Why this stuck out so much to me is that what Mitsuha and Taki didn’t realize is that the lives they both led, the lives that both of them disliked so much, were lives that were desirable by others. They didn’t have bad lives at all, in fact there was so much that both Mitsuha and Taki had to be grateful for, yet they couldn’t see the beauty and wonder of the lives they led and instead kept thinking that they’d find happiness in a different life.

The fact that this movie is in the anime style helps to emphasize the beauty of the lives led by Mitsuha and Taki. While showing drafts of my video essay to my classmates, I kept getting the same general response, “this movie is so beautiful,” “I love the artistry of the animation,” “everything in this movie is so pretty”. I realized that not only is anime a beautiful art form, but my friends didn’t realize that the scenes they were looking at were scenes from the movie that the main characters hated. That’s when I learned anime romanticizes its content through its artistry.

Anime doesn’t prioritize photo-real representation or 3D design. Rather the various styles of anime purposely emphasize different things. Kawaii style focuses on bright, pop colors; chibi style makes characters appear much younger than they actually are, emphasizing a youthful, “cute” design. Your Name falls under the beautiful style of anime, it is characterized simply by its showstopping art, it’s captivating and mesmerizing because of the attention to all the little details. Combine that with the slow pans, gradual zoom-ins, and adapted “pillow shots” (courtesy of Yasujiro Ozu) that contributed to the relaxed pace of the movie by breaking up scenes with images of bare settings or a random household item that almost “seem out of place”. All of those factors contribute to the fact that Your Name is clearly a movie that romanticizes life, and helps to convey the message that people need to stop worrying about being happy when they buy a fancy car or start earning six-figures.

Another aspect of anime is the incorporation of religion and spirituality. As I mentioned earlier, Mitsuha’s family belongs to the Miyazumi shrine. The grandmother’s speech included in the first part of the video essay is Mitsuha’s grandmother explaining to them a particular belief that they hold- how people are constantly connected through various things. Sharing food, sharing time, sharing physical touch, sharing space- all these little things bring people together and form relationships. Relationships are another thing that make life beautiful. Once again, the grandmother’s speech focuses on smaller things that people typically overlook, similar to how anime emphasizes small details that people often disregard. There are plenty of opportunities to find happiness and joy in the life you currently live.