One of the vital parts of this film is how music plays an enormous role in evoking emotion. Earlier this week, I mention how one such moment is the entire segment set to RADWIMPS’ “Sparkle”. In fact, somewhere I read that your name. was directed and produced in tandem with RADWIMPS’ soundtrack; the entire epilogue section wasn’t even storyboarded until “Nandemonaiya” was finished.
At any rate, I don’t believe this film would have done nearly as well without the music. RADWIMPS managed to create a soundtrack that is so masterfully done both in its subtlety and its bold statements, and the following are just some things that I really appreciated. I won’t be going in-depth into all of the soundtrack, as many tracks are more inconsequential background music (like “Itomori High School” or “Library”) and don’t stand out nearly as much as others.
The tracks we’ll be looking at today are (in their English-listed names, found here) “Dream Lantern”; “Zenzenzense”; “Date”, “Date 2”, and “Theme Of Mitsuha”; “Katawaredoki”; “Sparkle”; and “Nandemonaiya”. The last time I did a soundtrack analysis I went pretty far into music theory, but this time it’s more of a conceptual discussion. In most cases these tracks will be paired with their respective scenes.
First up is “Dream Lantern”, or “Yume Tourou” in Romaji. This song serves as the opening, and is played against a fairly typical anime-style montage, taking some scenes from the film itself and some others that only appear here. What’s interesting here is how the song and its visuals catch the audience slightly off-guard; all sorts of marketing at this point really push towards the body switching as a central issue or conflict, yet so far up to this point all we’ve seen are two people separately expressing the emptiness and pain they feel on a daily basis. The song itself is somewhat vague in its tonality, neither joyous or depressing, giving off a sort of melancholic vibe. It’s not enough to completely fake out the viewers, especially because the real meat of the film starts off quite comedic and more in the vein of the trailers, but it serves as a hint of the emotional roller coaster to come.
Next up we have “Zenzenzense”, which plays as Taki and Mitsuha try to get a grip on the situation (and explain it to us, the audience). The fast tempo and definitively major key makes us all but forget about any sort of heartache (if any) produced by the beginning of the film, though if you were to pay attention to the lyrics you’d find them to be surprisingly mournful and yearning. It’s a good fit, as we’re introduced to the funny parts of Your Name. in preparation for the emotional gutting that would come later, while the song’s theme and lyrics fit the vision of the film.
Now here we have “Date”, “Date 2”, and “Theme Of Mitsuha”. These three tracks are masterfully done, in my opinion. Note how all three share the same melodic line. Further note how while “Date” and “Date 2” technically play during Taki’s meetups with Okudera, yet they share the same melodic line as “Theme Of Mitsuha”. I really like the subtlety here. First of all, I see it as Taki finally being aware of his interest shifting away from Okudera and towards Mitsuha. Second of all, both “Date” and “Date 2” have subtle differences between each other. “Date 2” has an extra major seventh thrown in (music theory), creating a little bit more tension and representing Okudera’s engagement and Taki’s emptiness. On first view through the film, you may not really notice these subtleties since their similarities make them seem as normal background tracks, but the minute differences that become apparent through subsequent views and listens make the film all the more magical.
“Katawaredoki” is in a similar vein to the previous discussion, where its melodic line and chord progression are very close to “Dream Lantern”. The eponymous scene is perhaps the most tender in the entire film, as Taki and Mitsuha meet for the first and only time (with their memories intact). The stripped down, sensitive soundtrack is perfect despite its “four chords” progression (Am – F – C – G), and the way it throws back to the beginning of the movie and ties the prologue to the events of the film brings on a sense of closure, even as there are still 20-30 minutes left in the film.
Finally, we’ve reached “Sparkle”, which I consider to be one of the most masterfully crafted pieces of film music I’ve ever heard. This song has four sections: 1) the opening, melancholic, running line; 2) the triumphant march-like section; 3) the more retrospective and glorious section; and 4) the quiet bridge. I would love to get into this song more theoretically and technically, but for now let’s talk about how it perfectly matches the climax of the film. First of all, the running piano line and the rising bass line contribute to a sense of simultaneous desperation and heartache, matching both Taki and Mitsuha’s respective situations as kataware-doki ends. The subsequent triumphant marches add to this desperation with their thickening of texture, and the way it keeps its lonely and minor tonality reminds us of how both Taki and Mitsuha will eventually go on their lives in pain for years. The sudden shift to the 4th section (matching Mitsuha’s heartfelt “I can’t remember your name with this”) is tender and heartbreaking, yet Mitsuha somehow finds her resolve and the song transitions back into the 3rd section and finishes out. This song always wrings my heart, no matter how many times I listen to it and no matter how much I try to intellectually decompose it.
The last song on our agenda is “Nandemonaiya”, which serves as our closing song. As I mentioned above, the epilogue was storyboarded after “Nandemonaiya” was written; it’s more like the visuals were written for the song than the other way around. It’s especially evident if you watch this scene again, noting how faster sections correspond to Taki and Mitsuha racing to find each other while the more introspective sections correspond to the “What am I doing” scene on the stairs. I’m personally not an enormous fan of this track as a standalone song, but I cannot deny its effectiveness as a film soundtrack.
In closure, Your Name. is perhaps one of my all-time favorite films, even among creations like Fury or Star Wars. I strongly think that a large part of this is due to its music, especially in relation with its visuals. RADWIMPS did a spectacular job in scoring the film, bringing out laughs and tears alike, and though there will always be a hole in my heart from watching this film I thank them for their contribution in creating an unforgettable experience.