Fantasy as Poetry, Fiction as Metaphor in Shinkai’s YOUR NAME

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Your Name is a heartfelt, modern love story with an intricately layered narrative spanning philosophy, mythology, romance, and teenage fantasy within a science fiction melodrama. It is a brilliant feature anime, and the best I have seen since Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013). With Your Name, Shinkai certainly joins the ranks of anime masters Miyazaki and Takahata, though his film seems to gesture towards a new wave of anime, one which combines the fantasy and mythology of tradition with a modern sense of change and self-realization. This transition may be seen in Miyazaki’s final effort, the Wind Rises (2013), but it appears to be further demonstrated as a movement with Your Name. Perhaps instead of mythological films which attract children and adults, we will find ourselves with contemporary films which attract the full demographic including teenagers and young adults. This is to be seen.

Now, If you check out my latest post, you will see that I recently watched the critically acclaimed film Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987) and could not buy the premise. The key problem of the film is that it conveys elements of fantasy not through metaphor but through liturgy and statement. The ideas inherent in Wings of Desire are magnificent, but their presentation is lacking. These ideas include for example the beauty of two people becoming one with each other, to fall in love and to become indistinct from one another. It also involves the idea that spirits are amongst us inspiring hope for us to continue through life during times of grief.

These ideas find themselves poetically manifest in Your Name—without all the Christian worship, without the liturgy, without self-serving statements which occlude all other considerations. Your Name is a fantasy-fiction film which, first of all, accepts that it is fantasy. Reality inferred in its viewing comes by way of metaphor, because the fantasy speaks poetically about the natural world. The idea of two people becoming one is not just stated here, as it is in Wings of Desire, it literally happens. Taki and Mitsuhi become one by actually living some of the days of each other’s lives.

It feels like a dream because life itself feels like a dream.

This occurs due to a comet, a freak incident, but what happens has more to do with the energy which surrounds them, with the power of their own human spirit and its entanglement with the spiritual energy of the natural world around them. The power of the spirits and energy compelled this to happen, much like how the angels in Wings of Desire surround the living, but in this case it is not so plain and simple or obvious as an anthropomorphic angel walking amongst us. Your Name thus conveys the power of love, the human spirit, phenomena of the natural world, and the beauty of unknown aspects of life by genuine, albeit ambiguous, means. It displays unknown phenomena in the world rather than telling us about it, and It does this by speaking metaphorically through the beautiful narrative which develops before us.

Essentially, Your Name uses poetry and fantasy to tackle the most significant philosophical questions of our lives, and it does this underneath what appears to be a mere fantasy-fiction romance story. With such depth, this fun-to-watch anime is far denser that first appears, but because of Shinkai’s subtlety it can be viewed in number of differing manners. From the pleasure seeking fantasy to the romance drama to the philosophical inquiry of life itself, Your Name is a brilliant example of multi-layered cinematic poetry.

94/100 – Masterful.

5 Stars

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About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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