Your Name
"Your Name" tells of heartbreak found in the stars. (Illustration by Emmalia Godshall, Columbia University)

‘Your Name’ Puts a Beautiful Twist on a Worn-Out Tradition

In an unusual entanglement of heartbreak, stars and destiny, the wildly popular Japanese animated film incorporates the supernatural in its story of two lovers fated to be together.

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Your Name

In an unusual entanglement of heartbreak, stars and destiny, the wildly popular Japanese animated film incorporates the supernatural in its story of two lovers fated to be together.

Warning: Spoilers for Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)!

The idea of a “red string of fate” is a tale as old as time. It is a legend known in many cultures as the story of fated lovers conquering some obstacle to their love. Though it may feel as though the storyline of lovers who are almost supernaturally connected is overdone, new life was breathed into the ancient legend in 2016 with the release of the award-winning film “Your Name.” Until watching “Your Name” I had never seen a film so beautifully explore themes of the fleeting essence of youth and the power of destiny.

“Your Name,” also known as Kimi no Na wa, has become a wildly popular film that is celebrated for its magical visual design and story. The surreal, wondrous artwork crafted by the artists is juxtaposed by realistic, complex protagonists Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana. Director Makato Shinkai and his team developed the film as a fresh take on classic themes of love, youth, tradition and destiny from the perspectives of teenagers living in the modern day.

Though the film garners the majority of its praise for its stunning visual work, the true beauty lies between the lines. The poignant themes of “Your Name” exist fluidly alongside the symbolic visuals of the film. I first saw the movie in 2018, and it is only now that I understand the elusive, but brilliant, themes Shinkai used to revamp an overused storyline.

A Twist in the Red String of Fate

The concept of fated love, or “red string of fate,” is nothing new, but “Your Name” refreshes this trope by creating an extremely unconventional universe. “Your Name” is built on the premise that protagonists Mitsuha and Taki are destined to be together, but are kept apart as Mitsuha lives in a 2013 timeline and Taki lives in 2016. Beyond the time discrepancy, the pair must find a way to turn back time to prevent a tragic comet from taking Mitsuha’s life before the two can learn each other’s names.

The Preservation of Cultural Traditions

A key part of Mitsuha’s character is her family’s strong ties to preserving the Miyamizu family cultural traditions rooted in the Shinto religion. Her family is known in the quaint town of Itomori for being the most prominent observers of these traditions and Mitsuha is picked on in school because of it. As we are introduced to her character, the audience relates to Mitsuha as we observe her sense of boredom with her repetitive life and how she longs for escape to a big city much like Tokyo, where Taki lives. The characters first become aware of each other when they begin intermittently switching bodies during a traditional kuchikamizake ritual. Though Mitsuha desires to separate herself from her family’s traditions, it is ultimately the spirituality in her family that finally guides her and Taki to each other. What was once something that bored Mitsuha blossoms into something that helps her find her soulmate.

The Essence of Youth and Coming of Age

One of the most significant themes in “Your Name” is the progression from youth into maturity. Regardless of Mitsuha and Taki existing in two different timelines, both characters accurately show the trials and tribulations of growing up — specifically, the concept of coming of age and realizing how our actions shape our futures. The most prevalent example of this theme in “Your Name” is the progression of Taki’s personality and how it affects Mitsuha. Taki begins the film as someone that is helpful and diligent in both his schoolwork and creative ventures, but can also be quick-tempered and reactive when faced with conflict.

Taki’s personality acts as a foil to Mitsuha’s more reserved and patient nature that prevails even in situations where she wants to speak up. When the two begin to swap bodies, Taki uses his sociable and more outgoing personality to help Mitsuha be more liked by her peers. Despite the wild nature of the story, it is the little moments like that interspersed throughout the film that truly immerse viewers in the strong theme of youth in this story. If you strip away all of the magic and mystery of the film, you see that Mitsuha and Taki are characters meant to encompass the universal feelings of youth and blossoming into the people we are destined to be.

The Universe-Bending Power of Love

The “red string of fate” plot line is based on the idea of love breaking through boundaries to unite the lovers at the opposite ends of the “string.” But the film’s theme of love is much more complex than the classic concept. Taki and Mitsuha quite literally have to change the universe in order to unite in the same timeline. The true heart of “Your Name” isn’t the romantic love between Taki and Mitsuha; it is the unyielding perseverance to find each other throughout the film. The characters had never spoken prior to the body-swapping, but they are determined to find each other as they grow immersed in an inexplicable desire for the other. As the two switch bodies, they fall in love by learning about each other through experiencing each others’ lives. When Taki and Mitsuha initially fail to prevent the comet from striking Itomori, all of Taki’s memories of body-swapping with Mitsuha are erased and he is left feeling an unexplainable sense of loss. He finishes high school and searches for a job to fulfill the void inside. As the film arrives at its resolution when the two are finally united, an overwhelming peace fills Taki’s heart. The film culminates in the heart-stopping moment where they finally get to learn the names of their true loves.

Shinkai and his production team did a wonderful job building a world that carefully balances fantasy and meaningful, grounded symbolism. This film is absolutely remarkable, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys rewatching intricate films to see what new themes or messages can be unearthed. “Your Name” is a film that has left my mind turning for two years now, and I feel that its timeless story is one that will continue to leave me mesmerized for years to come.

“Your Name” is a beautiful spin on magical realism in romance stories. Mitsuha and Taki are characters that brilliantly portray young people grappling with a fate that is much bigger than themselves. The world of film is no stranger to stories of love, youth and fate, but “Your Name” captures all of these themes through an unconventional story that finds love in sacred traditions and the stars.

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