Archive | November, 2016

KIMI NO NA WA (Your Name) – (2016) Makoto Shinkai

5 Nov

My life is perfect. I know it. I don’t need other people to know it. I don’t even tell my friends how perfect my life is in order to protect it. They don’t need to know. Yet improvements continually occur. In Shinjuku tonight a leap was made. I took the Yamanote line—with the green trains—to the biggest and busiest station in the whole world. I came out the most convenient exit, then stomped across the road to a sushi restaurant. The seats with the view I sought were taken. The staff sat me round the counter with my back to the window from which a view of Kabukicho and its neon lit streets can be seen.

Outside the sushi restaurant, looking towards Kabukicho, lies one of my favourite urban scenes. Trains snake through buildings above the road, framed by electric signs and bright flashing lights, in linear chaos. I made my way to the movie theatre. Your Name is one of the most popular Japanese anime movies within Japan. I decided to add to the billions of yen in revenue it’s made. 16 billion yen to date. My theatre ticket was ¥1800. Does that mean 9 million tickets have been sold since it was released in August? That’s difficult to imagine.

The leap I took tonight was going to watch a movie entirely in Japanese. It’s an accomplishment. Obviously I might have not understood it all. I might not have understood any of it. In the end the gist was clear throughout the entire thing though the detail was lost in places. There were quite a few jokes I caught onto. A Japanese spirit entered my body and gathered the meaning without my having to translate.

Spirituality is rife in Japan. Shinto is Japanese organised nature worship. It comes from ancient tribal practices and consists of ritual spells and honouring spirits. It was outlawed outside officiated shrines. Shinto is widespread yet nobody owns it. Superstition surrounding a belief in spirits makes it prone to being laughed at. They don’t explain it so that the outside world can’t ridicule it. At its heart is purity. Everything involved in its rituals is kept special and sacred: pure.

Mitsuha and her younger sister are miko. They’re young girls, with pure souls, who channel the work of spirits. Somehow, after performing a ritual, Mitsuha and a boy called Taki find themselves in each other’s body. Taki feels himself up in Mitsuha’s body. Mitsuha as Taki emerges looking flushed from a bathroom experience. What would you do if you were a high school student in the body of the opposite sex?

Mitsuha lives in a traditional area in the countryside. Taki lives in Shinanomachi in Shinjuku. We can tell it’s Shinanomachi because we recognise the surroundings. We’re familiar with the Tokyo we see in this movie. Shinanomachi is one stop along from Sendagaya, where the Olympics are taking place, in fact when the new stadium is built it will probably be accessible from Shinanomachi too.

There is a place in the movie where a character is stood right by my work looking at the same view I have from the window. If they were to turn their head, they would be looking directly at me. This kind of appeal about the animation (anime) is widespread. It touches the heart of everyone in Tokyo. We’re acquainted with Roppongi and the National Art Museum. The parallel orange Chuo and yellow Sobu, the green Yamanote lines, the most idiosyncratic non-bullet trains in Japan. They’re like the Victoria and the Circle lines. Likewise the skyline of Shinjuku is loved by many people. Yes, there really are trees everywhere, and abandoned rowing boats. The shadows of skyscrapers pass over them and us.

Switching spirits is explored in the animation by creating shadows around birds flying above the lake. Birds are a universal symbol of spirit. Drawing attention to their shadows draws attention to the impression the birds make. Almost more important to body swapping is the impression the teenagers leave for one another. The pictures Mitsuha draws when she’s Taki. The writing Taki leaves on Mitsuha’s hand. Impressions are reinforced by a fleeting observation of a leaf falling to float on the water’s surface. Something bigger casts off our bodies and they come to rest in perfect unison together. Coincidence. Getting a glimpse of a loved one through train doors which align in perfect synchronicity.

Outside of Japan this movie will find appeal because it documents everyday life: breakfast time, leaving the apartment, wandering round Shinjuku. The images are utterly gorgeous. That’s what the interior of a typical classroom is like. That’s what the views from the mountains are like. That’s what a cafe in Roppongi is like. That’s the magic of Japan. Old Japan, countryside Japan, the new Japan found in a cosmopolitan city. Our lives, seen through our eyes, from the perspective of another person who is looking afresh at the way we live.

Within Japan I guess part of the appeal of the movie is how reassuring it is to see one’s own lifestyle turned into a beautiful animation. Japanese people strive so hard to make every little detail about their lives perfect. To see the way we live turned into fantasy is wonderful. Taki prevents Mitsuha from being obliterated by the comet. Life is fragile. Life is designed by some unseen force. We cannot take even being ourselves in our own bodies for granted. We can strive for perfection – though unforeseen change can strike at any moment.