REVIEW: 'YOUR NAME' (君の名は) IS NOT A MASTERPIECE
Watching Your Name is like standing on the tallest tower with a 360° view of the entire world. You can see everything in Makoto Shinkai's latest film, with "LOVE" and "FATE" being shouted at us from all sides.
However, love and fate have their limitations. Shinkai juggles traditional Japanese spirituality, cheesy comedy and a lot of songs to varying degrees of success. Your Name is equally amazing, amusing and annoying. But when combined, it is all of these elements which restrict Shinkai's film from being a masterpiece.
Your Name is about two body-swapping high-schoolers, Taki and Mitsuha, who develop feelings for each other. After forgetting each others names over and over again, they find that they are connected by fate.
The strength of Shinkai's filmmaking lies in his art style. Few people could make the moon appear better than it does in real life, yet Shinkai captures this beautifully. This is certainly anime, but each character's facial expressions do not tread into exaggeration.
Doors have a special meaning here. Spiritual connectivity is weaved through traditional and modern life through the repetition of sliding doors, shot from the same angle. What we do in our past does not simply shape our present, but it can coexist.
Instead of providing Shiknai's characters with more life, he resorts to comedy that hinges on the awkwardness of being in another sex's body. Taki is a boob-loving, mood-swinging, curt but caring part-time job doer, and Tokyo high schooler who believes he is destined to be with Mitsuha. Mitsuha is an easily embarrassed but courageous at the right moments, reserved, countryside high schooler who believes she is destined to be with Taki. To the untrained eye, they seem to be full of character, but to the observant eye, they are just types of characters. Good comedy builds upon characterisation, take Toushirou Hijikata, from Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama, who is your smoking cool policeman obsessed with mayonnaise. The body-swapping as a vehicle for humour has long been a staple in anime humour, e.g. the body-swapping ark in Gintama. This kind of unoriginality disappointed me as an avid fan; even if Shinkai planned to twist the audience’s expectations of the meaning behind the body-swapping, I bet a lot of sales came from the body-swapping comedy. If you want to include a classic comedy like body-swapping, you must include original comedy; otherwise, it is a copout.
Makoto Shinkai really wants to build a window into modern love by using an unrealistic phenomenon, body-swapping, to enforce that love is fate in 2016 society, i.e. reality, making the love in Your Name based on cheese. Body-swapping is a cheesy unrealistic phenomenon; therefore, it would make sense for the love to be acknowledged as unrealistic. Instead, Shinkai decided that it must be fate, and anything that seems to happen randomly, e.g. Taki being involved, is fate. Mitsuha needed to save the town, but she could have body-swapped with a girl and the town would still be saved. Shinkai likes love stories. Body-swapping is only a sufficient reason to fall in love if the people are naïve and sentimental. Yes, people can feel intimate with the person whose body become theirs, but what real connection can they share if they have not spoken in person.
Other irksome things I leave alone: memories of each other fade because of time-travel and their strings unravelling, too preoccupied to write down their names, and they meet because of fate. But body-swapping comedy is cheesy and cheesy comedy is built on split screens. The split screens made the film too cheesy to handle. Other sentimental repetitions of narration, where one person repeats the thing the other said, made me cringe. The dual narration of them announcing that they are looking for someone, accompanied by an upward tilt to the sky, was just too much. The love shared after sharing intimacy is only maintainable when both are naïve and sentimental, and determined to stay together; besides, why does Shinkai use an occurrence that rarely happens outside fiction to relate to our love stories? Is he not going for relatability? Is he joking? Did he start off by saying, “let’s do something with body-swapping?”
Your Name is not a masterpiece; of course, the cinematography was amazing, but that is not the focus. Your Name’s success owes greatly to its spirituality and beautiful art style, its basic humour and Makoto Shinkai’s hard work. Masterpieces should never rely on basic humour as a selling point, and the film’s singing did not mix too well. Nevertheless, I must say, “thank you, Shinkai, and gunbatte!”, because I’m a fan!
PLAYBACK RATING: PLAY IT ONCE/ PLAY IT AGAIN / DON'T PLAY