Flash Review: Your Name [Japanese Movie]

When I read about the passionate response this movie was getting from its audiences and how it was basically breaking the Japanese box office, so much so that it spooked its writer-director Makoto Shinkai and caused him to come out and say he wasn’t satisfied with his movie and he hoped no more people would go see it because it wasn’t worth the furore it was creating, I knew I had to watch it, if only to see what the fuss was about.

Now that I have seen it, I just have to say: this is So, So Good, you guys. <3

THE PREMISE & GENRE MASHUP

Even if you’re not usually into Japanese movies or anime (like I’m not usually into Japanese movies and anime), I’d say that this movie is an easy one for a drama fan to love.

I mean, the premise itself could pass for the description of a fun fantasy sort of drama: a high-school girl and a high-school boy find themselves switching bodies and living each other’s lives when they go to sleep, but aren’t quite able to retain the memories of the switch, once they wake up.

There’s lots of room for fun and hijinks, but this movie is so much more than a cute case of body swapping. The themes that this movie explores are extremely varied, and read like a mishmash medley of drama genres and motifs: switched identities; the passage of time, and how the parallel passages of time can interweave and meet; high-school and coming-of-age; the search for meaning; the search for self. This is, quite literally, anime meets Queen In-hyun’s Man meets The Lake House meets Who Are You – School 2015.

The best part is, somehow, it all works. This crazy-sounding mashup is pulled off with such finesse that the watch experience feels seamless and easy, thanks in no small part to the fantastic writing and directing.

THE STORY-BUILDING

Even as a casual viewer, I found the story-building extraordinarily intricate and thoughtful. The threads of the fabric of this story, are all laid down from the very beginning, with meaningful intent.

Throwaway lines and little remarks during incidental moments aren’t ever quite really throwaway nor unimportant. Everything weaves together in due course, and it is gratifying, and even a little overwhelming, to see the threads eventually take their place of importance in the structure of our narrative.

The end result is one that I love, in that it all feels so whole. As someone whose drama miles were mostly earned on live-shoot kdramas whose narratives often took weird sidesteps to cope with the live shoot, this kind of storytelling feels extra precious to me. As I watched this, I could feel that the writer had lovingly conceived every line of dialogue and planted them in their places, pregnant with purpose and meaning, all of which would be brought to fruition in the watch process.

Guh. So good. This is how stories should be written.

THE EMOTIONAL PULL

My favorite thing of all, with this movie, is the surprisingly deep emotional pull that it has.

This movie has a distinctive emotional pull about it that is beautifully, profoundly visceral. As I watched this movie, my heart often responded, almost independent of the rest of me. Even when my head sometimes hadn’t grasped the full meaning of what was happening on my screen, my heart was way ahead, completely immersed, gripped in the throes of emotion.

It sucked me in so completely that at times, I felt my tears welling up instinctively, almost like the involuntary tears our lead characters Taki and Mitsuha experienced, after waking up from one of their switches. This heart-over-head thing is a strong theme in this movie’s narrative, so to have the viewer experience actually mirror that, is masterful indeed.

THEMES [MODERATE SPOILERS]

While this movie can be appreciated very well at just face value, all you’d have to do is poke a little deeper, and you’d find that there are so many deeper themes and ideas just waiting to be mined.

Here are the ones that reverberated through me, long after the credits had finished rolling:

1. The unimportance of labels

Taki and Mitsuha develop a deep and enduring care for each other, without being able to remember each other’s names. I love the underlying idea, that we don’t need labels in order to embrace or create meaning. That capacity and process, of building a strong connection with – and caring deeply for – someone whom you’ve never met, reminds me of almost all of my online friends, many of whom I’ve never met.

2. Creating meaning from fragments

Our lead characters Taki and Mitsuha consistently find that they have difficulty retaining the memories from their switches, but they so deeply want to remember, that they fight to create meaning from the little bits of clues that they do have. That struggle, to piece together meaning from the fragments that we have, is, I think, a universal pursuit / state of being that we can all identify with.

3. Listen to your heart

The idea that if you listen to your heart long enough, and follow where it leads you, one day, you will realize your dreams. I love the idea that sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – our hearts know better than our heads, and it’s worth trusting our hearts and following where they lead.

4. The struggle to make a difference

In the last stretch, both Taki and Mitsuha are shown doing all they can, to evacuate the people from the impending comet crash, and it is a monumental task. That idea, of striving to achieve something so much larger than yourself, even when the universe seems stacked against you, is one that I found deeply stirring.

5. Capturing meaning from moments of surreality

This is the precise struggle and process that Taki and Mitsuha go through, to capture the “dream memories” before the moment of surreality passes and they’re fully in their own world again.

In a similar vein, we all know those fleeting moments of inspiration, where we have amazing thoughts and ideas, that, if left uncaptured, will drift into the forgotten recesses of our consciousness, once our attention is directed elsewhere.

I love what this movie does with this idea. It essentially takes seeds of possibility from the deepest recesses of our consciousness, and delves into the what ifs, of forgotten memories remembered. Why are our hearts drawn to things that our minds don’t remember or understand?

So very intriguing and thought-provoking.

THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]

What a satisfying ending, that manages to satisfy not only the audience desire for a happy ending, but also stays true to the mythology of the drama world. That’s skillz, considering that the mythology has set up Taki and Mitsuha to have absolutely no memory of each other, despite their best efforts to capture the memory of each other’s names.

I do love that in bringing about this story’s happy ending, that not only does the writer stay true to the mythology, but even leans deeper into the themes that have already been running through the movie: the idea that their hearts knew something their heads didn’t remember; the idea that if they saw each other, they’d know each other. It all comes together so well – and yet, until the very last moment, I felt like I was on the edge of my seat; I didn’t actually know for sure, that we would get a happy ending.

In the end, we don’t get to see Taki and Mitsuha actually having a conversation; all we see is each asking for the other’s name, agreeing that they seem to have met before. Yet, despite what on paper looks like mere breadcrumbs of a happy ending, this moment felt satisfying to watch.

I love that their longing for each other endured through all of those years after the comet incident, through the vacuum of silence and separation. And I love that it was precisely their longing for each other, that heart-knowledge of each other, that eventually enabled them to finally make a connection in the everyday world, beyond the mystical magic of twilight.

THE FINAL VERDICT:

Surreal & beautiful, yet meaty & thought-provoking. Grabs you by the deepest heartstrings and doesn’t let go.

FINAL GRADE: A+

TRAILER:

MV:

51 thoughts on “Flash Review: Your Name [Japanese Movie]

    1. Lehar

      Your reviews are always so nice. I wish to watch this movie but am not able to find it online. Can you help me please ? Where is this one available ?

      Reply
      1. kfangurl

        Hi there, it looks like this movie is currently available on Netflix France, which you can access with a VPN, if you’re not in France. If you follow the instructions in this post, you can also use Opera’s built-in VPN to set your location to Europe, to access Netflix France. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Lehar

          Thank you so much … i tried everything except VPN. will look for that. I am from India so most of the things are not working for me.

          Reply
          1. kfangurl

            Perhaps try the Opera VPN hack that I listed in the post.. I’ve tried it, and it works, and there’s no additional cost of paying for VPN either! 🙂 Just choose Europe as your location, and I believe you’ll be able to watch the movie on Netflix France. 🙂

            Reply
            1. Lehar

              Thanks for your help!! Now that I have finally watched it …I jut wanna say I loved it . I was not sure at first but second half took me by surprise and I rewatched. Also songs are so nice specially “sparkle”. Thank you for suggesting this.

              Reply
      2. merij1

        Here in the US at least, it’s $3 (or $4 for HD) on Amazon. I’ll post the link in a separate comment so it’s not held up for moderation.

        Reply
            1. Lehar

              Hey merij1. Thank you so much. Again it’s not available on Amazon India 🙁 . I hope either amazon or netflix bring it to their platform.

              Reply
  1. Pingback: Review: A Piece Of Your Mind | The Fangirl Verdict

  2. merij1

    Our millennial child asked us to watch two anime films with them that they’d already seen many times. This was the first of the two. It’s been about six months since we saw it so it’s not fresh enough in my mind for me to give a detailed response, but I will add my voice to the chorus: Great movie. And I too don’t normally go for this kind of thing.

    The other, btw, was Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress (2001). That too is a hauntingly deep film which I highly recommend.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Hi there MeriJ, always great to see you! 😀 How lovely that you watched this very excellent movie, and with your family, no less. <3 Your millennial child does seem to have excellent taste! 😉 Thanks for the recommendation on Millennium Actress; I've added it to my list! 🙂

      Reply
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  4. MC

    Oh this show! I re-watched it today and despite it being a re-watch, I still feel all the feeeeelzzzzz. Sobs. I don’t know how you reviewed this coherently, I’d probably have just put a million crying faces and “EVERYONE MUST WATCH THIS” and end off the review in that way. I so agree with every single word you wrote. Everything is perfect, especially how it is written and drawn. Every aspect of this show felt like it was truly a labour of love – every sentence, every idea was seeded and brought to fruition so beautifully at the perfect timing. I remember the first time I watch it, how my heart was so caught up in it despite not fully understanding. And when I did understand – wow. This show truly grabs you by the heart and wrings it dry. Love it. <3

    On a side note, I read the comments and if you've not watched Spirited Away you should! It was good. Though I think I still prefer this. Also, if you want a mindblowing heart-grabbing kind of movie I would recommend Arrival (it's a Hollywood film about aliens but similiar to how this is not just a body swapping show, that show is not just about aliens.) The show is a couple of years old but I recently watched it and loved it 🙂

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Aw, thanks MC.. I’m so glad you enjoyed this review.. This movie really did bring on ALLL of the feels for me, and what you said about putting a bunch of crying faces and saying everyone should watch this made me giggle, coz, once upon a time, that’s pretty much what I said in my Chuno review – that I wish I could just wave my arms about wildly, tell everyone to watch the show, and call the review done. 😆😆😆 You might be my writing soulmate? 🤣

      The funny thing is, I’ve come to realize that the more a show makes me feel, the more inspired the stuff I write as a result, turns out to be. It’s a quirk that I’m grateful for, because so many readers have expressed their thanks, for my putting their feelings into words. Truth be told, I couldn’t do it if the shows themselves didn’t actually make me feel. Which is basically the long way around, of saying this movie made me feel, so much. I remember pulling out my laptop on the plane with tears in my eyes and my throat all choked up, because I needed to find a way to process it all – and to tell you guys about this amazing movie that everyone ought to watch 😉

      This one really is so lovingly conceived, and brought to fruition so beautifully. <3 Such care! Such thought! Truly breathtaking. 😍😍

      I have Spirited Away on my list, but haven't gotten around to it – like so many other shows on my watch list! 😅 I do plan to check it out at some point, so there's that. Thanks for the recommendation of Arrival – I will keep an eye out for that one too. 🙂

      Reply
      1. MC

        HAHAHA writing soulmates I wish! I think you write so beautifully and really putting what we all feel into words that we can all identify with. Being able to write like you would be an honour!! 😀

        Oh yes what you said is so true. Many writers write from a place of feelings after all (actually not just writers, all creative persons who create works of art). I really think that because we feel it (the creator’s emotion and heart and love), we can relate and then we can write about it. And when we write, we just hope that our words do justice to the work.

        In line with doing justice, being able to write out your feelings is a hard task – so many times when I want to write or explain why I feel so strongly about something (examples like my mega long comments about My Ajusshi and Misaeng, shows that I really felt so much for and loved so hard), I feel that I’m just writing in circles, and I’m not able to precisely put into words why and what I loved so much. So your ability to put our feelings into words – thank you for that 😀

        Haha I can imagine your to-watch list is supremely long and sorry for adding to it too! If you ever do get around to watching Spirited Away/In The Mood For Love/Arrival, I would love to know your thoughts on it !! 🙂

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          Aw, you are very kind my dear. <3 Thank you for enjoying the stuff that I write – that makes me very happy indeed! 😀 You're so right, we call create from a place of feeling and emotion, rather than a place of thinking and analysis. Heh, I guess that explains the wide range of quality when it comes to my reviews.. if I loved a show, or if I hated it, the posts tend to pop more. If a show is just meh to me, there's a lot less that I want to say about it. I guess that's just how it works. 🙂

          Yes, my watch list is impossibly long! I have an actual Excel file to keep track of it all. And the fact that I'm watching more than just dramas from Korea just makes it even longer! 😅 Realistically, I will never actually get to everything on my watch list, but somehow, I still keep trying! 😆

          Reply
          1. MC

            I fully understand, I think that I’m the same too. If it made me feel and think a lot (good or bad) then I will have more to say about it!

            HAHA I also have a list of shows I’ve watched and shows to watch!! It’s on a Word doc rather than excel but I totally feel you. May you find time to watch as many of these shows as possible!

            Reply
  5. cathyrambles

    This is such an amazing and in depth review! Love it! I’ve been hearing about this lately, seems to be taking audiences by storm, those who regularly watch anime and those who never have. I can’t wait to finally watch this! And thank goodness for your thoughts on the ending, makes me more anxious to watch knowing there’s a HEA. Brilliant review!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I’m so pleased you enjoyed this review, Cathy!! 😀 I hope you enjoy your watch of this, when you get a chance! 😀 I’d love to hear how you found it 🙂

      Reply
  6. phl1rxd

    Hi Kfangirl!!

    After I read this blog post I was intrigued and did some homework. I researched Makoto Shinkai and even watched some of his other works. There are occasional lines in his films that are so doggone profound, I just start crying. Really deep and powerful. However, I was a little concerned about the ending.

    After patiently waiting, the movie opened in US theaters today and I just got home. Wow – as an artist I was stunned by the gorgeous, and I do mean gorgeous, backdrops. The use of light on water and in the forest was spectacular. Even though I am not a big fan of anime, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Whew – I was relieved – the ending was very good. So glad I brought tissues! If you are going, be sure to have some with you as you are going to cry. I also loved the pacing – not a dull moment! The theater I went to has a subbed and not a dubbed version – I was happy about that as I wanted to hear the audio in Japanese. As a KDrama addict I can almost read subs without ‘reading’ them LOL!!

    It was so worth the wait and so great to be able to see this in a movie theater. Thanks Kfangirl – drum roll please………”Once again you are so spot-on! A perfect review!” So grateful I had this beautiful experience!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Aw, phl, I’m SO glad that this review helped point you towards a memorable movie experience!!! 😀 HUGS. <3 <3 <3 I didn't get to see this on the big screen, and yet, even on my little in-flight entertainment screen, this one had such a profound effect on me. I can't recommend this movie enough, and would definitely watch this again. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Ann

    The ending! 😍😍😍😭😭😭 it ended exactly how it needed to
    Thanks fangirl for always leading me to a good watch😘

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I’m so glad you ended up checking out this movie, and loving it like I did, Ann! Those emoticons say everything. This one made me cry, but in the best way possible. 😍😍😍😭😭😭

      Reply
  8. neslinin

    Thanks a lot for this review. I would never heard of this beautiful movie otherwise, because I have never watched japanese anime movies before. I liked it a lot.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I’m so glad you ended up checking it out, neslinin!! I don’t usually watch Japanese movies or anime, but I loved this one so much that I just had to share! And knowing that this review led you to enjoy it too, makes me glad that I wrote this! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Ellie

    I love this review!
    I watched this a couple months ago and was so entrenched with the emotional ups and downs that I laughed and cried and laughed and cried, over and over again. I don’t easily cry in real life, mind you. But there’s something about movies or dramas that calls upon the inner dreamer inside of me.
    And this one definitely, superbly, brought out all the feels.
    Your review, was all the stuffs I wished I could say about this movie, and much more.
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Aw, thank you Ellie, I’m so glad you enjoyed this review, and the movie too! I do agree that there’s just something about this movie that triggers all the feels. I found myself crying for these characters too, and sometimes, my tears came before my brain could even register why. Just, so good. ❤

      Reply
  10. cinnamonxspice

    I watched the movie straight after reading your review (you were that persuasive!! Haha) and I must say, I’m absolutely blown away by the amount of thought and care and painstaking attention to detail that was so evident in this show. It was nothing short of breathtaking, from the cinematography (or is it a different term for animated films?) to the palpable emotions that engulfed me completely. And I really appreciated the funny moments that gave us some time to catch our breaths – especially the running gag of Taki and boobs😂 But in the end, it’s really those themes that you mentioned which linger in my mind long after the movie was over. There are so many ideas and thought-provoking questions to chew on in this movie, I feel like it’s worthy of being studied in literature lessons!

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I am so happy that this review managed to persuade you to check out the movie, cinnamonxspice!!! 😄😄 This pleases me very much. Not only does it make me feel super useful, I honestly feel this movie deserves all the love and then some. You are right that the movie feels classroom-study worthy! I took a couple of film modules in college and this movie would fit right in – and be head and shoulders above many of the other offerings, particularly in the animation field. So much loving care, and such deep thoughts clearly were sown into this – I just want everyone to watch it! ❤

      Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Glad you loved this movie too, dez! I can see why you’d want to write it a review! I myself felt so compelled to write, even as the credits were rolling before my eyes – and I’ve never reviewed anime before! 😉

      Reply
  11. Lady G.

    Now I’m seduced to watching this from your sweet review. I’m normally not into body switches and the last real anime I’ve ever seen was Vampire Hunter D 20 years ago. I had a brief anime spell in my teens and then felt it wasn’t for me. That did, however, draw me to want to know more about Japanese culture. I realized how lovely and deeply faceted it is. it’s not all manga and pink hair and Sailor Moon (My sister’s favorite). haha

    This looks like a well-thought out story with funny and serious undertones, not just the usual hijinks you might find in live-action drama. Knowing Japan, they probably already have a live-action version in mind. Maybe. Some things are better left alone and can’t be reproduced.

    I can understand the writer’s fears. He may struggle to live up to this work now since the fan response is so rabid. It can be scary when you’re tasked to create more hits. He will always be compared to this movie if others flop. :/ And it’s usually the story you’re not so sure about that everyone else loves, but the one you do love, is not popular. If that makes sense. LOL.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Oh yes, do check this one out my dear, I do think you’d enjoy it!! It’s definitely not the usual hijinks you might expect from a body swap sort of story. It’s so deeply thoughtful and heartfelt, I can feel the love that was poured into making this. I think you’d be able to feel it too, as a writer yourself. 🙂

      And yes, your explanation does make sense. Given what a big hit this turned out to be, it would be natural for people to compare all his future works with this. Also, in the interview, I think he mentions that he thinks the works of his seniors are better, and therefore his movie doesn’t deserve this much attention.

      Reply
  12. sarkassas

    The music is what hooked me completely. Then movie was gorgeous and the story absolutely worked just like you described.

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      I need to watch this again where I can actually get better audio. I watched this on a flight, and the background roar of the airplane engines definitely compromised my audio experience of this movie. But even then, this movie left an indelible mark on my heart, and that’s impressive indeed! ❤

      Reply
  13. thoughtsramble

    Loved your review, so well written! I was obsessively reading up on this movie during my transit – I loved the cinematography, the twist (so mindblowing!), how different details are woven together to form a coherent narrative and the ability to have rom-com elements amidst a sombre mood. Btw, do you know that it has overtaken Spirited Away?

    Reply
    1. kfangurl

      Thanks thoughtsramble, I’m so glad you enjoyed this review!! This movie just totally blew me away; the thoughts were reverberating in my head and starting to spill out even as the credits rolled, and I knew I had to review it, even if I never write about (or even watch, really) Japanese movies or anime. I loved everything about it, it was so well done!

      I didn’t know that it overtook Spirited Away! I haven’t seen Spirited Away, but I know that one is a hugely popular one, so that is a big accomplishment indeed! (I think I ought to look for Spirited Away now, lol)

      PS: So sorry this reply is coming to you so late 😛 I’ve gotten terribly behind on everything, thanks to a combination of factors.

      Reply
      1. thoughtsramble

        It’s okay I understand how it feels when life just catches up!! You’ve got to watch Spirited Away, it’s special in its own way which I think no other animation movies have yet replaced!

        Reply
        1. kfangurl

          I will most definitely watch Spirited Away – it comes so highly recommended! 😀 I tried to find a copy of it but haven’t been successful so far. Might have to find a streaming source instead. Either way, sounds like it’s a gem not to be missed! 🙂

          Reply
  14. Mary D

    Thank you, Fangirl!! I am going to try to find and watch the movie before reading your review…….all I need to know is you loved it enough to give it an A+ (wish me luck…..)

    Reply
    1. Mary D

      I finally found a subbed version online; I love the work of Studio Ghibli and consider Grave of the Fireflies to be a masterpiece, so I was primed to love this work……… and it was everything you said it would be. Thank you for the recommendation!

      I will definitely see it in the theaters when it opens here in April, and here’s hoping the songs will be subbed as well. I’m sure they’ll add deeper meaning to the story.

      Reply
      1. kfangurl

        Ah, I’m so glad you managed to watch it, Mary!! It really is wonderful, isn’t it?? ❤❤ So affecting, and so very excellent, all-around. How lovely, that it will be coming to theaters near you – I’m sure the big screen experience will take your love of this movie to another level!

        Reply

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