I was left feeling rather empty after watching Kimi no Na wa.. This isn’t to say that the movie was a bad experience–I think that it’s worth watching, even just to see what the hype is all about–but this is definitely not the 9/10, ‘currently #1 ranked anime on MAL’ productions that I’ve expected to see. Even without all the expectations, considering my priorities in story-telling (characterization and portrayal of intimacy), this movie was a 6/10. And as a reference, I give most CGDCT anime series a 7 because they at least provide a viewing experience without much to make a fuss about–they deliver on what they promise.
The main reason why the movie left me feeling empty is because it failed to execute the story it had set up in the beginning. At the start of the movie, I was really engaged by the premise: a story about a girl and a boy building a relationship through a series of supernatural body switching events. This was fun and interesting until a plot-twist revealed to us that the girl was killed in a tragedy. This tragedy was explored in such a way that split the narrative pacing of the movie into two parts; from a series of fun body switching hijinks to a dramatic post-disaster time-shift mystery. And because of this rather sudden shift in the tone, the movie felt emotionally manipulative. This, along with the ending, made the movie seem like a rather cheap, plot-driven romance (instead of character based).
With the movie’s emotional pacing, the characters felt fake. This to me is just as bad as a fanservice scene breaking characterization. The deep longing for something great that the characters shared is a great longing indeed, and it’s something that I think all of us can easily relate to. I even see it as a fundamental desire to know why we exist, to want to know God and to want have relationships with others. But to find such a resolve in finding someone that you met from fate seems shallow and too good to be true. There is no real substance or value in their relationship other than their magical encounter. In other words, the story was all longing and searching without the building or sharing. Take away the magic that brought them together and they have nothing. This kind of narrative makes it hard for me to empathize with the characters or feel a human heart from it.
When I watch emotional material like this, I can’t help but feel let down — I want something with real romance and relationships. It’s kind of like consuming MSG, it’s tasty enough but I only become more thirsty afterwards. To summarize my take on the movie, this movie isn’t bad, I just disagree with its praise. But It seems, however, that the director is aware of his movie’s shortcomings. Check out Tokyosaurus‘ 3 minute video called Shinkai tells people to STOP WATCHING Your Name/Kimi No Nawa.
Image is from Kimi no Na wa.