“Your Name” is a brilliant Japanese animated film with an unconventional story. Its brilliance lies not just in the originality of its story – which is a gem to be cherished in a world filled with recycled narratives – but also in the way its story challenges time and the laws of the known world.
The film is about two high school students, Mitsuha and Taki, who meet up and unwillingly switch bodies through their dreams, but haven’t met each other. Mitsuha is a girl from a small Shinto village in the countryside whose family is from the Musubi tradition, which is known as the spirit of creativity, a deity responsible for the creation of all humankind. People in this tradition believe that time works in the same way as the process of making a traditional string – it twists, turns and unravels.
Taki, on the other hand, is a boy from Tokyo, who actively lives out Mitsuha’s dream. In some ways, however, he lives in a society that deprives itself from any sort of interpersonal contact.
Mitsuha’s and Tika’s destinies are cosmically interwoven when a comet from outer space passes Earth and can be seen from Japan. Both of their tasks are to find out the meaning of their subconscious acquaintance and work together through time, dreams and memories to achieve one of their many purposes in life.
This type of narrative is unique beyond time. It’s a narrative that could only be achieved outside of the confinements of Western world. By being exposed to beautiful stories like these, my belief that the Western story arc is nothing more than another prison, reflective only of the ethnocentrism of Western social life, is confirmed. It is a narrative that melodically merges culture with modernity. It embraces both and negates neither. I have never had the honor of visiting Japan, but I can imagine that its culture must have a fascinating and enigmatic clash between high-end technology and millenary cultural traditions, both of which are sketched out in this film and form a beautiful story that transcends our notions of storytelling and how time works in our universe.
Of course, this is not to say that no Western film touches upon this multi-perspective of time. Two American films popped up in my mind. One is Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” whose treatment of time and its emphasis on language and communication make it a successful example that has portrayed time as something different.
Another film that tried to do this but failed was Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” Unlike “Interstellar,” “Your Name” doesn’t include gimmicks like an epic score, great visual effects or extreme and selective narrative overexposure. In “Your Name,” we are enveloped by this different approach to time and dreams right off the bat, and it is strengthened by its intricate narrative structure. The film is, in and of itself, the Musubi analogy brought up by the film in relation to time; it twists, turns, takes unexpected paths and in the end, it unravels beautifully before our eyes.