Shinkai’s films are always an experience for me. While I haven’t seen all of his works, the ones that I have seen have completely changed the way I view anime films in general, but I suppose my perspective on anime films is a bit different than what would normally be expected from an anime fan.
It’s no secret (or if it was, it’s not anymore) that my experience with anime in general doesn’t extend far beyond the reach of prior 2010 works as I began watching anime in early 2012. It was a sort of time when Shinkai films were already well-known because of 5 Centimeters per Second and others being released around that time, but I had never gotten into any of his films until later in my anime “career” (around the end of 2014).
After I saw 5 Centimeters, as that’s probably one of the more iconic one of his films before your name, I could tell Shinkai’s style was something on a different level than anything I’d seen up until that point. Considering I never got into any of the core Ghibli films or any other popular anime films until the last year or so, Shinkai’s films were something I heralded (and still do) for a long while for the core concept of these romantic stories he loves to weave so much and does so well.
Shinkai’s films always seem to revolve around the ideas of “sekai-kei”, which has become a whole genre to itself, and Your Name follows through on some things that his stories had always touched upon within that genre. Based around someone’s relationship with another, in this case Taki and Mitsuha’s, some of the conscious decisions we make regarding still affect us in the grand scheme of things, despite the fact that fate intervening can sometimes throw a wrench in the works. But what’s most important about this is probably the most simple thing: our choices affect our actions.
This seems contradictory at first: how can decisions you make affect anything when you’re already destined to have a fated outcome when you have no control over the concept of fate or what it chooses for you? This may differ depending on how much you believe that fate influences your actions on a day-to-day basis, but I believe we do have some form of control over our lives with our choices.
I feel that Your Name is a bit more of a fantastical version of this same message, with many of its events sort of happen through sheer willpower of wanting to make a change for themselves, therefore it happens. I would personally say that Your Name is the first of Shinkai’s stories that I’ve seen that really pushed this idea of “fated encounters”, although other stories have involved similar elements. One of these being 5 Centimeters per Second.
As a small segue from Your Name, 5 Centimeters is a little bit less fantasy than Your Name was, although that in itself doesn’t really devalue or value either work higher than another. There’s a lot to dissect with the relationships within 5 Centimeters, you have relationships that fade away and never return, you have relationships that you never even learn about, and you have relationships that you can simply overlook in the breath-neck pace that life moves. The key factor though is that we do have these options available to us, and we are allowed to make decisions based on what we know at the time. Sure, we can always choose the less desirable ones for our future, but that’s part of what makes life exciting and unique to each of us.
Your Name takes a bit of a different approach with that concept though, and perhaps this is a small bias towards the more melancholic feel of 5 Centimeters, but I don’t think Your Name is bad for what it does. It’s actually positive and uplifting, contrasting to 5 Centimeters more realistic and less optimistic message. Your Name really focuses on making sure our decisions matter and that every once of effort that we put towards reaching what we want to reach is especially important, whether that be just knowledge of a situation or if it’s towards something we truly care about.
Taki and Mitsuha both in this story want to learn about each other, as they both continue to have dreams of each others lives and sometimes even living them as each other. It’s a very intimate story, in lots of ways that many other romance series cannot even begin to scratch the surface of, and I think that’s the beauty of “sekai-kei” stories. But they end up learning more about each other and their lives through their own desires and willpower of wanting to know more about each other, and through some of the stories more fantastical elements, they end up making it work for each other in the end, which is a pretty poetic story and displaying the exact qualities of the type of story that it is.
One of the messages that I pulled from this story isn’t the fact that we should wait on fate to carry us through our lives or anything, but that we should take charge of our lives, but sometimes things happen that our out of our control, and if we really want to reach our goals or what we truly desire, we must push through those events, even through the toughest of times. Even if the world is crumbling down around us. Even if everything seems impossible to accomplish.
Sometimes wanting to reach for the stars allows us to finally reach them.