Makoto Shinkai’s new anime film Your Name. (original title: Kimi no na wa.) opened in Japan on August 26. It has drawn a large audience and it has received a lot of praise (especially through Social Media) not just from the fans but also from people of the industry and many creators.
According to official sources, the film is released in 301 theaters in total, the largest number of theaters held by a work created by Shinkai. It earned 1,277,958,800 yen in its first three days (the weekend of August 27, 28 and 29) with a total number of 959,834 attendees.
Anime fans and those who have been checking out Shinkai’s works already love it, but the film is even appealing to different types of audience. Its director, Shinkai, used to work for Nihon Falcom Corporation. He has experience working as an animator for PC games’ openings and endings and his works appealed to narrative-focused gamers that enjoy adventure games.
It’s interesting to point some of the most appealing points of the film from the perspective of Shinki’s personal history and the route that led to this film.
◆What is Your name. about?
Shinkai’s works are characterized as having “the power of beautiful description where you can even feel the aerial feeling in the film”, “complex web of teenagers’ feelings”, and “sentiments that waver very subtly”.
For example, his independent anime, She and Her Cat that was created between early summer to early winter 1999, described the subtle distance between a couple and their changing relationship, and how she tries to face forward through the perspective of her cat. Shinkai made a lot of fans because of that anime.
Moreover, his outstanding depictions have a certain uniqueness; She as a human, her living space, her town, the elevated railroad and the train cars are all drawn very detailed and realistic, while her cat, Chobi, and Chobi’s girl friend, Mimi, are deformed in their designs. Not everything is realistic and that makes the work even more attractive.
It’s been 17 years since he started creating She and Her Cat, and now he has released Your Name. throughout Japan. All these years of achievements and experiences have surely built up his current competence, but his ability of blending visuals and narratives that nobody else can imitate still stands firm as his core foundation.
The film is set in modern day, conventional Japan. The only thing unconventional is that Mitsuha, a female high school student living in the countryside, and Taki, a male high school student living in Tokyo, have for some reason their bodies switched. The two are perplexed, sometimes fighting, other times enjoying their new experience. But one day, this weird body-switching stops all of a sudden.
Taki, who faces up to the reality of suddenly losing this awkward relationship, decides to go meet Mitsuha, his special friend he had never met before. However, he does not know the unexpected truth waiting for him at the end of his search.
It’s not the first time Shinkai has created a work that describes teenagers crossing paths and then missing each other. Another work of his, Voices of a Distant Star, illustrated a long-distance relationship between two friends who tried to reach each other by e-mails, fighting against time. Your Name. is part of Shinkai’s favorite genre of juvenile narratives and describes the passing and long-distance relationship of two young adults who switch bodies. The physical distance between a small country town and the metropolitan Tokyo frustrates the audience even more, and shows the director’s outstanding talent to express emotions through imagery.
It’s that blend of realism and the supernatural that makes Shinkai’s world relatable. He has an excellent sense of balance that he expresses through a beautiful trinity of visuals, sentiments, and narrative.
◆The superb cast and producing staff suppor Your Name. and its extended world
Shinkai is not the only person that worked hard for this film. The animation is produced by CoMix Wave Films who have worked with Shinkai in 5 Centimeters Per Second.
The character designer is Masayoshi Tanaka, known for The Anthem of the Heart and Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, and the animation director is Masashi Andou, an experienced animation director who has dealt many film works, including Ghibli films.
The voice actors Ryuunosuke Kamiki (Taki Tachibana), and Mone Kamishiraishi (Mitsuha Miyamizu) add their own flavor to the movie. Kamishiraishi won the role by an audition, and I’m sure you will hear why at the theater.
There are many more great cast members, ranging from a veteran actress to a popular voice actor, including Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, and Aoi Yuuki. Having a number of carefully hand picked people irrespective of their career (VAs or not) is another special trait of this film.
The film Your Name. also has its original novel published before the opening of the film. Shinkai himself wrote it and he describes more of his world. There are still no plans for translating the novel into English, but if you are proficient in Japanese, you have to check it out. There is another novel written by Shinta Kanou, Another Side: Earthbound .
◆The Director Shinkai’s close connection to the game industry
As we said, Shinkai used to work for Nihon Falcom Corporation. Back then, he worked on the opening movie for their signature game series, Ys. The beautiful visuals and the direction captivated the players’ eyes.
In particular, the footage for Ys II ETERNAL got into the news and it was praised for its outstanding direction, smooth and detailed visuals, the well-balanced harmony of the game scenes and animation, and its general quality. Unfortunately, the footage isn’t officially available to the public, and it is only distributed through downloads with its memory capacity reduced. The downloaded version’s quality of the visual and music isn’t as high as the original. If you have an opportunity, please watch the original version of it. You can find the download version in the URL below.
■Nihon Falcom Demo Movie Free download (Select 『イース II エターナル』 from the left column on the page below）
After resigning from Nihon Falcom, Shinkai started working on anime films: Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and 5 Centimeters Per Second. Meanwhile, he also worked on several opening movies for games released by Minori. Every footage he created, he tried to make it worthy of the game’s world.
After Minori, his connection to the game industry became weaker, but in Your Name. we saw a scene that proved that he still shared a bond with gaming.
In the scene you can see Sharp’s home computer X68000, GameCube, Sega Saturn, and the very first PlayStation. A lot of people talked about it on the internet. There is also a game package that looks like Metal Gear Solid!
Shinkai has influenced the game industry as well as the anime industry. Knowing his contributions, you can watch the film from a very different perspective.
◆“The present” Shinkai, the director
I have mainly talked about the film and Shinkai’s career in the past so far, but Shinkai of “the present” is not all about films and novels. In the present we also have special commercial ads released one after another, as collaboration work between the movie and the products of a beverage company, Suntory Tennensui (natural water) and Suntory Yogurina.
The ads are directed by Shinkai, produced with its theme “Synchronicity”, and in accordance with the world view of the movie The first volume “Mitsuha’s wish” features Mitsuha, and the second volume “Taki’s wish” features Taki. They stare at their own selves and express their feelings. The third volume features both Mitsuha and Taki, and shows two teens overlapping in sync, vividly illustrated.
The two teens express their feelings that overlap each other against some beautifully drawn scenery. They seem fresh and young because the Suntory products bring that pleasant and fresh feeling.
Check them out below!
■Suntory Tennensui × “Your name.” special collaboration site
I tried to mention both Shinkai’s past record and present works to get you more interested in his works.
The film has been running at theaters affiliated with the Toho group all over Japan, and it gives the best viewing environment compared to any of the past works directed by Shinkai. Since anime feature films take a considerable time to produce, we will probably have to wait for some time to see his next work. Some people may not like the idea of climbing on the bandwagon, but sometimes it’s fun to take advantage of an existing opportunity.
Fortunately, there are only a few days till the next weekend. If you haven’t got plans yet, go check it out at a theater. If you don’t really feel like watching it at a theater, it may be a good idea to read the novel. It may be fun to check out his past works spending the whole weekend too.
Please enjoy your weekend in your own favorite way!
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