Proceed with caution. Spoilers are included.
Makoto Shinkai is a director I hold close to my heart and I have always enjoyed this stories of love he has displayed in his various works. Five Centimeters Per Second tells a heartbreaking story of love not being bound by distance, Garden Of Words tells a story about love not bound by age differences, and his recent work, Kimi no na Wa, telling a story of love that is not bound by time. It’s a touching story of two star-crossed lovers and their story of trying to discover who each other is, and in turn, who they are.
This is the US theatrical release that we had all been waiting for, the film that took Japan by storm setting sales record left and right while us westerner could only imagine what all the rage was about. It took nearly a year for Funimation to localize the film for an American release so us fans had to sit tight and wait for April 7th. Now, was the long wait and months of hype justified?
If there was one word I could use to describe Kimi no na Wa, it would be “beautiful.” As we have seen in previous films by director Makoto Shinkai, the production quality is always top notch and Kimi no na Wa is no exception. The background art was simply beautiful and I couldn’t help but gaze in awe imagining the countless hours spent painting them. As a way to show off the beautiful background art, Shinkai used many establishing shots and panning shots through the film, but this is common of him to do based off his previous works. There was also the use of a few time lapse sequences which were a feast for the eyes. Seeing Tokyo and a small country town go through day and night cycles may have been some of my favorite way Shinkai visually represented the passage of time.
To compliment the beautiful background art, the animation was top notch as well. I’m no real expert in animation, but I can recognize sakuga when I see it. There were so many wonderful cuts where the skill of the animators really shines. One of the cuts that stands out to me was when Mistuha, our female lead, was standing on top of a hill and the camera pans around her. The level of detail in her hair and the fluidity of the animation was stunning!
As for the music, it cannot go without saying that RADWIMPS really put some good songs for the OST. Prior to watching Kimi no na Wa, I had stumbled upon this band while browsing /r/japanesemusic and found the “Zen Zen Zen” track there and throughly enjoyed it without even knowing its connection to the film. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this song played in the “opening” of the film. Overall, the soundtrack is very good and I liked the choice of music since the tracks were used in the right places to emphasize the emotions of the scene, specifically the RADWIMPS songs. I’m currently listening to the entirety of the OST while writing this blog, and it’s slightly above average as far as soundtracks are concerned. The RADWIMPS song’s certainly seem to steal the show, but some of the other acoustic tracks are quite comfy to listen to but aren’t to the tier as other exceptional soundtracks.
Since I saw the American theatrical release, I had to watch the dubbed version which actually wasn’t terrible. I tend to gravitate towards subbed anime since I prefer the Japanese voice acting better than the American voice acting more often than not. However, the cast for this film was believable, and there was no acting was terrible. Occasionally when watching a dub, there’s an actor that’s unbearable to listen to, but luckily Kimi no na Wa doesn’t suffer from that problem. One nitpick I have here is what was lost in translation. The reading of the Japanese kanji which meant “Magic Hour” probably was better understood in the context of the Japanese dub. However, the script was translated well to account for this which I found to be an adequate enough translation.
Now the meat of this film; the unique story. Prior to hearing about Kimi no na Wa, I hadn’t seen a memorable take on the “body-swapping” concept which is what I think is the most unique part of this film. The character’s react to the given situation believably, like any teenager would, which helped add immersion to the entire story. I have heard complains about this, but we have to remember that there are younger adults who are unable to understand the world and how to logically reason out solutions to some of their own dilemmas. I found Taki and Mistuha to be likeable characters, but lacking in some depth. It would’ve been nice to see more of their internal conflicts about this situation, but it most likely would’ve felt out of place in the atmosphere of the film.
There are also a few minor issues I had with the story, the first being the use of smart phones. I feel like this really cements Kimi no na Wa into the 20th century which may not necessarily be a positive thing. But my main complain comes with how the phones are utilized such as the use of the virtual diary. When the diary began to erase itself after Taki was awoken from his “dream” which seemed fine, but began to confuse my as I thought about it more. I feel that this film would’ve been a bit better if it didn’t rely very heavily on the use of phones, a notebook would’ve been much better and more grounded in reality which can help the believability of the magical aspects of the film. Aside from a few minor plot holes, the story was good, but short of great. This is actually quite impressive since I have seen other anime tackle time-travel poorly and not provide a reasonable explanation to why it happens.
Despite a few complaints about the story and characters, I genuinely loved Kimi no na Wa. I’m a romantic at heart, and I do enjoy a nice romance story more than I probably should. Because of this, I fell in love with the magical story of a connection between two young people trying to find each other across time. The animation and background art alone was worth the watch, but the cute story on top of that made the a rather enjoyable experience. Overall, Kimi no na Wa was worth the wait for me, and it’s the best standalone anime film I have seen in a long time. I recommend watching it if you haven’t already since not only was this film a massive hit in the anime community, but a worldwide phenomenon.