The essence of beauty has become something so abstract to any individual that one can’t seem to describe it without relying on what has been told through prior discourse. What one might find beautiful another would find mediocre. While some may dig deeper into the metaphorical mine to find the most precious of shiny stones, others see a decrepit pit of darkness and monotony and don’t bother taking the time to see it any further. Movies are a testament to those willing to find that inner beauty through the creativity and dedication of a director, producer, or whoever else involved. Of course, not every movie has that amount of effort put into every frame. Even so, sometimes beauty can come in the form of the most basic qualities such as character interaction, development, and execution of story. A commitment to establishing symbolism and depth into a visual spectrum is more than appreciated by those both within and outside the mainstream audience, but to make a film work as well as it could, one must make everything pop; a task no doubt difficult to overcome.
I have to bring this up, as I’m sure many others would, but the popularity of this film is mind-blowing. Within a few days of its release to anime-streaming sites, it shot to #1 overall in terms of average rating on MyAnimeList, past series such as Gintama, One Punch Man, and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood. As of now, according to Box Office Mojo, it’s accumulated $174 million in Japanese currency. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an average rating of 8.3/10; 8.8/10 on IMDb. Both financially and critically, this movie has been an overwhelming success. Was this a surprise? Maybe. The director, Makoto Shinkai, is known for other films such as 5 Centimeters Per Second, a well-received film in its own right. The amount of praise garnered for this film is more than I’ve seen in a long time, even more than Erased, One Punch Man, and now, Yuri!!! on Ice. When a film becomes that prevalent, that universally-accepted, cherished as a modern masterpiece of animated film making among the heights of Studio Ghibli, there’s no doubt I won’t be intrigued to the highest degree. No matter the subject, anything that can shoot to #1 that fast is on my radar.
Kimi no Na wa is a film that has a lot of what people enjoy in animated features (I think). Teenage girls, teenage boys. Body-swapping to authorize another’s perspective. THE POWER OF EMOTIONS! Destined lovers. Fantastical elements (but only to a degree). Great visuals. Humorous side characters. There’s a lot of elements at play here and there’s a lot of charm dedicated to making them seem as brightly stylized as possible. The important thing, however, is whether it all works when put together in a long, Tom & Jerry-esque contraption served to capture something. In this case, capturing the viewers’ hearts. There’s a lot of praise going towards this film for its ability to manipulate the hearts of its viewers. The emotions involved with the characters and their efforts to remain with one another under horrible duress. It’s all understandably relatable, but as always, the concept is debatable.
Haven’t really said much about the film at all, have I? Allow me to alleviate this.
More than anything, I believe Kimi no Na wa is above average in almost every aspect. Characters, story, drama; though animation is little less than spectacular. There’s a lot of emphasis on pacing and setting up the scenes in the background that help the movie feel like an actual, progressing story—something most anime struggle with tremendously. The first half of the movie is intriguing with its focus on the characters and their improbable situation. Setting up a relationship with the use of body-swapping is something of a strange twist, though I acknowledge that it’s been done before. I enjoyed the interaction between reality and fiction, and the humor that arises because of it.
Characters in general are fairly believable and likable. Interactions have a genuine aura of familiarity and comfort, something that others would try to overemphasize with physical intimacy and feigned gleefulness. Little quirks and actions also show a heavier emphasis of intimacy between the characters present that may not be discernible to those not paying attention. This isn’t the type of film where the characters are going to blow you away with outward charisma, but there’s something to look forward to when characters appear onscreen. It’s a sort of relatableness with the characters and their desires to escape from a place or pursue an interest (or person) in their own way. One could say the characters are successful in remaining within the atmosphere of their situations, while showing their true spark under the most strenuous of situations.
Artistry is a fun thing. It allows people to do whatever they wish to do so long as they have the tools to do so. With animation, it provides a much broader spectrum than most live-action can. Kimi no Na wa has a lot of artistic spectacle to its name, both in a realistic and metaphorical sense. The overall quality of animation is fairly good, ranging from decent to amazing depending on what’s happening in a particular scene. Transitions of time fast forwarded to show the sky changing shape and lightness is a thing of beauty, and certain tense scenes have characters moving with a fluidity that feels almost uncanny valley. The animation has a tightness to it that boosts it past others, while the design of the environment and settings around the characters inevitably leaves quite an impression. Many view the film’s overall art direction as among the greatest of the greats seen in anime cinematic history, though I feel that’s going a tad far (limited experience as I have). It definitely has a say among the best-looking anime films of the last ten years or so, but I’d rather not pretend it has anything rivaling that of modern Disney films or Laika.
Events that unfold and the manner at which they occur are where the film begins to show its mediocrity. I’ve mentioned in past entries where fantasy or media that employs fantasy elements can either abide by the rules set by what they show or simply do whatever they want under the guise of “It’s fantasy.” Kimi no Na wa falls slightly within both categories. The manner with which the two central characters switch bodies is never really explained, nor is the reason behind it. However, it is shown that the switching is methodically constant and triggered by a certain action. This is fine, as with time, things will begin to unravel themselves. Unfortunately, the unraveling relies almost solely on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS! and begins to go rogue soon after. No reasonable explanation for how or why things happen, they just do. Because fantasy. For someone who enjoys logic (or at least an attempt) in insightful stories, this doesn’t suit well for my immersion. If one can ignore this, it’ll likely pass right over their head.
One other major flaw I see with the film is the impact of the romance. With one of the defining genres of the film, romance would certainly be something to look forward to. And I really like romance. To my chagrin, I felt the romance of Kimi no Na wa was incredibly lacking, with the relationship that had developed between the two central characters to be not just underdeveloped, but almost out of nowhere. Upon each character’s corresponding “I realized I’m in love!” scene, I couldn’t help but squint in confusion. The only means of communication they had with one another was leaving messages and changing their lives however they saw fit (Good thing they happened to switch with kind-hearted people, huh?). I find it a bit of a reach to have them develop feelings for one another over the course of three weeks based on being in one another’s bodies/arguing with one another through bi-daily messages left on body parts/phones. Because of this, a lot of the empathy I could feel for the destined pair goes moot, especially during the climax. Thankfully, the emotional explosion of said climax was enough to garner some tugs at my heart strings. All two of them.
Somewhat of a quick note, but I actually found the comedy of the film more entertaining than the romance. There are the occasional running gags and character reactions that are actually decently funny, adding both to character charm and entertainment value to the film. It’s not stark enough to feel overbearing nor does it feel forced into the situation. It’s almost as fluid as the animation. If anything, I think this would do well as a slice of life flick.
The success that this film has amassed over the past few months is almost unprecedented by a major anime film (other than Ghibli). However, based on my own interpretation, it’s yet another film that feeds upon the demographic’s easily manifested emotional peak by adding in just about everything that’s appropriate enough to entice them. Little comedy, little fantasy, little sexual hunger, and lots of emotional dependency… with great visuals. Despite my snarky perceptions, the film stands on its own with a number of different positive attributes, including characters and their interactions with one another, an intriguing start, and great artistic style and animation. #1 overall is hilarious. Within the top 100 is also a stretch. Anywhere within 300 or so is about where I see the quality of this film compared to what I’ve seen. Which, setting everything aside, is still a pretty good standing. I’d recommend it as an analytical study-piece, but for those with a similar mindset, it’s not exactly fulfilling entertainment. Unless you adore all those little symbolic notes that I hardly declined to mention.
The rating for these titles and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.