The Music of Your Name.

How RADWIMPS’ soundtrack was a pivotal part in the film’s success and resonance.

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.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

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.

Your Name: flaws

Turning a blind eye to advance the story

Today, I saw Your Name. again, this time in cinema (I didn’t plan on seeing it today; I just happened to see it listed in the paper). With my first viewing being what I think may be a bootlegged version on KissAnime, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Shinkai’s vision on the big screen. Having lauded it and its way of greatly emotionally impacting its viewers before, I decided this time to focus on the film’s flaws; namely, the plot holes that were required to drive the story forward. The following are what I believe to be the two devices to achieve the emotional impact that this film had.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Now the saddest part of Your Name. is easily the climax of the film, set to RADWIMPS’ “Sparkle”, where both Taki and Mitsuha forget the other’s name while Mitsuha desperately tries to save Itomori. However, to achieve this heart-wrenching moment, several things had to happen. Firstly and most importantly, neither Taki nor Mitsuha wrote the other’s name anywhere else. The film never reveals whether or not their contact information remains in their smartphones (though it’s possible they disappeared along with Taki’s memos, or Mitsuha’s phone was destroyed). Moreover, each character’s interaction with their friends and family must have left some impression (in fact, it’s repeatedly shown that they become completely different people); how hard would it have been, for example, for Taki to tell Mitsuha’s grandmother his name on the final day? Or anyone else? All it would take is for someone to remember the name.

Secondly, both Taki and Mitsuha had to be oblivious. Since both were high school students in their respective timelines, both likely had the date written at some point. Had one of them noticed the incorrect date, perhaps some arrangement could have been made (though Mitsuha would have died in the original timeline anyway). Taki is also a complete idiot, apparently deciding that being smooth trumped actually reminding Mitsuha of his name.

Your Name., then, has two interpretations: 1, a more analytical interpretation of the plot and how parts of it seem stupid or suffer from lack of foresight, or 2, accepting the plot for what it is and turning a blind eye to the flaws and plot holes – after all, neither of the devices listed above are impossible. Of course, with much of the film going unexplained – while you can wipe a character’s memory, you can’t wipe the audience’s memory, for example – it’s difficult to tell exactly what Shinkai wanted to come across. Regardless, though, Your Name. remains my top animated film – and one of my top films of all time.

Your Name. (continued)

All dreams must end.

Now that I’ve slept on it, I think I’m able to look at Your Name. a little more rationally (and less rant-y).

In case it wasn’t clear in my post last night (and honestly, I’m not sure if it was), the most heartbreaking part of the film is the uncertainty that the two protagonists will meet and stay together. This is despite the unique and incredible chemistry the two have, despite meeting across time during twilight, and despite successfully averting the death of Itomori’s citizens. Frankly, it’s quite tragic. The ease of how each person’s memories slip away like dreams is cruel, and we as the audience are left wondering if both of their experiences were real, or if they will ever remember.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of memory loss stories, especially if it happens to be a story’s conclusion. I tend to associate and empathize with protagonists a lot, so if a story ends with memory loss it breaks my flow and distances me from the writing. Besides that, memory loss makes the entire story feel like an enormous waste of time.

Granted, one of the central themes is the elusiveness of dreams and the inability to hold onto specific details. With the body switching only happening after going to sleep, this allows the movie to use the mechanics and characteristics of dreaming to advance its story, and, unfortunately, it makes logical sense for these memories to slip away at its conclusion – at the end of the dream.

I’m not sure I can ever fully accept that. Artemis Fowl left me in a similar way with its very open-ended conclusion, and I’ve never been truly satisfied. Now, I’m hit with a wave of sadness every time I think about Your Name. and the events that transpired. At any rate, this feeling will eventually pass. It’ll soon become another memory, and someday I’ll be mentally and emotionally repaired enough to watch the film again.

Your Name.

A beautifully crafted film with hope and heartbreak

Never have I had the urge to write about something so soon after seeing it.

As I start this, I am literally just coming off from watching Your Name. (or Kimi no Na wa) for a friend’s birthday; we finished it about ten minutes ago. And honestly, I hate what it’s done to me.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

The premise of Your Name. starts off fairly simple. A girl in rural Japan named Mitsuha is fed up with country life and wishes to be a boy in Tokyo in her next life. This wish is granted to a certain extent: Mitsuha actually swaps bodies with Taki (a boy in Tokyo) randomly several times a week, and the two intervene with the other’s life. After a while, the two suddenly stop switching bodies, and the film becomes about trying to find the other.

If you go to MyAnimeList’s top anime list right now (November 13, 2016), you’ll see that Your Name. has actually dethroned FMA:B as the top anime of all time. And for good reason; it plays with the heart in so many different ways, weaving a different tale at each twist and turn. It starts off innocuous enough, evoking laughter and grimaces from the visual humor (Taki groping himself/herself every morning was particularly amusing) and awkward scenarios, but at the end of the second act it suddenly yanks you along, keeping you off-balance and on your toes until the credits roll.

And it does this by appealing to the heart. Despite its fantastical and theoretical setting, Your Name. resonated with me on a deeper level. It’s clear by the middle of the movie (and to a certain extent, in the beginning) that it’s about searching for something fulfilling. Throughout the entirety of its run, this fulfillment is teased at every corner, but withdrawn at the last moment. The movie settles on a routine of body switching at random intervals, telling the other about the events that transpired while said bodies were switched, scolding the other for the actions they took without permission, etc. Then the switching stops, and apparently Taki is convinced that the events were dreams. Later, we learn that their timelines were actually misaligned; though the magic of movie editing led us to believe that Taki and Mitsuha were switching bodies at the same time, Mitsuha was actually having these events happen to her three years before Taki. The two manage to meet across time due to kataware doki (part of a phenomenon explained in the film) and resolve to write their names on the other’s hand as to not forget, but Taki writes “I love you” and the moment ends before Mitsuha could write her name. This sort of bait-and-switch happens again and again throughout, and yet never feels old. In the end, due to events that transpire, both Taki and Mitsuha forget the other’s name. The film ends with the two running into each other in Tokyo and asking the other’s name, thinking that there’s a familiarity between them.

As I said, this film resonated with me on a deeper level. Not to sound overly dramatic or world-weary, but we are all looking for something fulfilling, yet will almost never be able to find it. Your Name. ended in a similar way. We soon learn that there are two separate timelines: in the original, Mitsuha was killed when half of a comet falls on her village. Taki learns about this in his time, and desperately looks for a way to save Mitsuha. The two succeed in saving the village, but instead of taking the easy route and ending on a happy ending, Your Name. hits us with Taki and Mitsuha’s “first” meeting. Ultimately, it’s a reflection on life. By definition, there was a happy ending: both Taki and Mitsuha survive, and years after their events occur they manage to find each other, but there’s a certain empty, bittersweet tang that stays with you when the credits roll. It’s as if reminding us to keep searching to fill that hole in our hearts – that perhaps the resolution we want isn’t necessarily the resolution we need.

Of course, this sort of emptiness gives rise to frustration and despair. How many times can we have our emotions toyed with when all we want is to see Taki and Mitsuha find each other? I’ll admit, I ship them extremely hard; though they’re technically a canon pair I wanted to see it go further, especially with the chemistry and developing bond that was so cruelly stripped from them. There’s even a variant of the red string of fate in Mitsuha’s hair ribbon/Taki’s bracelet (they’re the same object). In my desperate mind, I came up with a number of theories: why didn’t Taki just write his freaking name instead of “I love you”? Why didn’t he tell his name to the grandmother, who apparently knew exactly what was going on? Why didn’t Mitsuha write her name when she visited him three years in his past? The theories go on and on, though another, more pessimistic theory has me rationalizing that both Mitsuha and Taki sacrificed their connection to each other in order to leave the underworld (in accordance to the grandmother’s words). There are also logic questions (although normally you kind of skip those when time travel’s involved). If each person’s personality changes were characterized by the other’s body switching, what sort of memories do they have from that time – do they just attribute it to shifting hormones? How do the two timelines line up? In what way were each person’s memories changed?

Eventually, I’ll accept it. I read somewhere that Your Name. is a film led almost entirely by the heart rather than the head, and the way my emotions raged and ranged prove that, even in smaller yet equally poignant scenes. In a similar way to how I had to accept theNendings of Avatar and Kindred Spirits on the Roof, I’ll make my peace with the ending of Your name. It may take me a week, or it may take me a month. If need be, I do have fanfiction, though I know that if I go there I’ll be beating myself over this for far longer.

In closure, Your Name. is a bittersweet experience dealing with an everlasting, yearning search for fulfillment. In this case, it’s a certain special person. This film is not for the faint of heart; it will certainly play with your emotions in a brutal way. It’s wrecked me from an audience standpoint, forcing me to watch these two well-crafted characters be unable to reach a final closure with each other, and it’s forced me to think about life in whole. That being said, it’s a beautiful film, both in concept and in art (I realize I didn’t talk much about that, having focused on the content more than the presentation, but the visuals are gorgeous). I think Your Name. is a must-watch for any anime fan.

Also, I’m sorry if this post is rant-ier than you’d like (I did register this website as The Ranting Gamer). I wanted to get all my thoughts on paper (on screen?) before they faded.

…much like how they did in the film…

Dammit.

*Your Name. is coming to American theaters for a shot at the Oscars.