Comet-y Central: “Your Name” Analysis and Haruki Murakami

After months of waiting, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) has finally been released in North America. In Japanese theaters, the film received critical acclaim and made over 320 million USD, and currently stands as the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan. In other words, it was impossible to go into the film without any expectations.

Being a longtime Makoto Shinkai fan, I knew I would encounter themes of human connection and be dazzled by stunning animation; those are his touchstones. In this analysis, I hope to examine Your Name’s theme of connections through time and space in comparison with another Japanese artist’s work, Haruki Murakami, through his short story, “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning, ” which covers a similar subject. This post will contain full spoilers for both works.

Your Name

Your Name tells the story of two high school students: Mitsuha, a girl who lives in the county who dreams of finding more in Tokyo, and Taki, a boy who who lives in Tokyo who dreams of the Japanese countryside. Through magic realism, they switch bodies on random days. However, the catch is that whenever Taki or Mitsuha return to their normal bodies, they forget the previous day’s events like a fading dream. Because this has become a part of their lives, they write notes on their smartphones to retain stability in their lives. Essentially, these messages allow them to learn about the person (their friends, interests , and personalities) so they can pass as the other when switches occurs.

yname
Taki (left) and Mitsuha (right), the body swapping leads of Maktoto Shinkai’s Your Name.

The film changes from a body swap comedy/drama to a thriller after Taki decides to visit Mitsuha in Itomori, her hometown. When he arrives, he discovers that a comet destroyed most of the village three years prior, killing hundreds, including Mitsuha. Additionally, all of the notes that Mitsuha wrote in Taki’s phone have vanished. Clinging to select fragments of information he remembered about Mitsuha and Itomori, Taki embarks on a metaphysical journey through time and memories to save Mitsuha and the residents of Itomori. This is accomplished through an encounter between the protagonists near a sacred shrine in Intomori. Here, Taki informs Mitsuha that the town’s residents can be evacuated in time.

After Itomori is saved through a series of body swaps, both Mitsuha and Taki forget each other’s names, which nearly severs their bond. Five years following the comet’s impact, Mitsuha and Taki stumble upon each other in Tokyo, driven by the strong sense that they share a distant connection.

Discussion of Taki and Mitsuha’s Relationship 

Long after Taki and Mitsuha’s memories fade, they realize they are searching for something they cannot define, which is their forgotten connection. In the final meeting scene, it is clear that a missing void is filled in the characters’ lives.

Interestingly, this concept of having a vague, but powerful connection to someone unknown is explored early in Your Name. When Mitsuha’s grandmother notices her acting out of character, she tells Mitsuha that she herself has foggy memories of a body swap occurrence as a young adult as well. This suggests that Taki and Mitsuha’s situation is not an isolated, strictly sci-fi event. It’s more of an instance in which a strong, mysterious connection between individuals exists which cannot be backed by reason nor science, existing only through dreams, ESP, or other abstractions.

The backbone of the film is supported by this concept. To further explain, I will refer to Haruki Murakami’s short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning, ” whose main character  shares a remarkably similar situation with Your Name’s leads, minus the comet and metaphysical time travel.  Murakami explains this connection in a more relatable and common way: by unknowingly passing your perfect match on the street.

The Haruki Murakami Connection

The narrator of “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl…” describes seeing a girl that stands out for some reason, and claims that she is the 100% perfect girl for him. Thinking she would never understand this connection, he does not say anything. The narrator cannot explain why he feels this emotional intensity, so he comes up with a story that might explain his confusion and help heal his disappointment.

mura
Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes, the short story collection in which “On Seeing the 100% Percent Perfect Girl…” can be found.

His story is something of a fable: a young man and woman run into each other the street, believe their meeting was destiny, and soon discover they are the perfect match. The woman calls it a “cosmic miracle.” Doubting such luck, the two decide to put their situation to the test. They part ways, reasoning that if they truly are 100% perfect matches, they will without a doubt meet again, recognize one another, then marry on the spot.

One winter, the two suffer from terrible cases of the flu, and lose most of their past memories. Eventually, they recover and work their ways back into society. Fourteen years pass, and the two enjoy some relationships, but nothing as perfect as their original pairing. They eventually pass each other on the street, just as they had done when they first met. Murakami writes:

The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fourteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever. (Murakami 72)

Unlike in Your Name, the narrator and his own character creation in Murakami’s piece miss their chance and do not say anything to their potential past companions as they cross paths, despite feeling a strong, yet enigmatic connection. Neither pursues this emotional inkling for fear of putting too much trust into something that cannot be concretely understood.

In Closing

The characters in Your Name break through this uncertainty and doubt present in Murakami’s characters by following their intuition and talking to the other. Even though Taki and Mitsuha don’t fully understand their connection, they realize that something vital to fully understanding their own selves lie in the other.

In one instant, Taki and Mitsuha have avoided a life of lingering doubt and puzzling emptiness.

 

Works Cited

Murakami, Haruki. “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.” The Elephant Vanishes. Vintage, 1994, pp. 67-72.

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3 thoughts on “Comet-y Central: “Your Name” Analysis and Haruki Murakami

  1. Really great analysis. As a huge Murakami fan, when I was sitting in the theater watching Your Name I began to wonder how much the director was influenced by Murakami, and specifically the 100% Perfect Girl story. I was floored while sitting there on how well the director really pulled off that tension visually. It also reminded me a lot of the last third of 1q84 — the dramatic tension on whether or not two people would actually meet or not was insane.

    I think part of the reason I loved this movie so much when I saw it was because I really felt the Murakami undertones — it made my personal movie going experience that much more enjoyable. Glad someone else caught on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Likewise, that”s great you saw the connection too.

      Shinkai’s screenwriting and directing definitely captures the Murakami feel. A common Murakami theme captured in “Your Name” is the idea of transversing time and dimensions to recover or form personal relationships, a la “The Wind Up Bird Chronicle” and others.

      As you mentioned, the cinematography and visuals of “Your Name” were quite powerful.

      Do you prefer Murakami’s more realistic fiction such as “South of the Border, West of the Sun” or his more metaphysical works such as “Dance Dance Dance” or “Wind Up Bird?”

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      1. Honestly I don’t really have a preference as both “types” have really resonated with me at different times.

        I do think Dance, Dance, Dance may be my favorite Murakami, though. It was super cool to see his main protagonist actually show intense emotion at some points. Also, Wind-Up Bird really caught me at a time when I needed it too, so there’s a for sure soft place in my heart for that novel.

        Liked by 1 person

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