Ever wake up and dreamed that you were someone else? That’s the journey two teens named Mitsuha and Taki take in the anime Your Name, directed by Mikoto Shinkai. This unexplained phenomenon begins after a comet shoots across the sky; the pair themselves switch bodies every couple days. At first, there is a lot of confusion as they both struggle to comprehend what is happening to them. Then, Taki leaves questions in Mitsuha’s school notebook. After that, they begin leaving messages on each other’s cell phones, each filling the other in on what occurred during the body switch.
Of the two lead characters, Mitsuha is the better developed. She lives in a rural town called Itomori, but dreams of living in a big city like Tokyo. Her father is running for mayor and likes to embarrass her in front of others. As a miko, or shrine maiden at the local Shinto shrine, Mitsuha participates in a tradition called kuchikamizake. Kuchikamizake is the process of using human saliva in the fermentation of the shrine’s sacred sake. In one scene, she is shown in traditional dress during a ceremonial dance. Her eyes contain sadness and you can see how restrained she feels by tradition.
Taki has what Mitsuha dreams of: he lives in Tokyo. He also has a part-time job in an Italian restaurant. Knowing very few details about Taki made it harder for me to connect with his character. I would have almost preferred the story to be from Mitsuha’s perspective alone.
This anime reminded me a lot of the movie Lake House that starred Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. That film was about people who were stuck in different times who leave letters for each other in mailboxes. In the end, they hope that the past and present can connect them in the future. In Your Name, the characters leave notes in notebooks and text messages as a way to communicate. At one point, Mitsuha sets up Taki on a date with his co-worker that he has a crush on. While on the date, Taki realizes he has developed feelings for Mitsuha. Shortly thereafter, the body switching ends and both are left wondering how they can bridge the gap between them. It’s Taki that starts the search to find Mitsuha based on the fragments of knowledge he was able to glean from being in her body.
As a big fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work, I can see a common theme that runs throughout his anime. He seems to be interested in ideas of communication. How do people communicate? How do they reconnect when obstacles are put in their way?
There are frequent scenes of train doors opening and closing, signifying that life is a game of chance and that timing matters. All it takes is a shutting door to prevent someone from making that connection. This reminds me of a scene in 5 Centimeters Per Second, Shinkai’s second anime, where the lead characters Takaki and Atari keep missing each other.
I highly recommend the anime Your Name for any library collection. Teens will find the body switching hilarious, but will also be drawn into the love story that develops between Mitsuha and Taki. This is one of the rare anime that after the last frame, I just wanted to rewind and watch again.
Directed by Mikoto Shinkai