Disclaimer – This is my oldest article, and contains several errors. I personally was proud of this work, but I hate reading it now. I may revise this piece later or publish a new, better piece and delete this one. However, feel free to enjoy reading.
When the massively successful anime film Kimi no Na wa finally released in the U.S, I was more than excited to witness this supposed masterpiece. And after watching the movie, I can say without a doubt that it was indeed a great film. While it may not be the “savior of anime”, the film boasted gorgeous visuals, a phenomenal soundtrack, and a nice set of characters to support the well-structured story. However, what surprised me the most about the movie was not just the visuals (as people praised it the most), but the mysterious amount of depth that the movie had. For me, the movie did not seem to be just any romance film, however well made, but something much greater, with a more significant theme in mind than simply the beauty of love. So after looking back at the movie and doing some research, I came to understand the message the movie held for me. Of course, everyone would interpret the movie differently, but to me, Kimi no Na wa is not a story about discovering love, but a tale of growing up and discovering what truly identifies an individual. With that said, let us begin from the very basics.
The Meaning of Names
Kimi no Na wa has quite the simple title, but it’s definitely not an irrelevant one. The title, translated officially to “Your Name.” in English, is referred to constantly throughout the movie, and it also holds symbolic meaning for the characters in the movie, which I will talk about later. But first, let’s analyze the literal meaning of the title: especially the “Name” part of it.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “name” as “a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing”. I, for one, would agree with this definition. Everyone we know has a name, and the name we use distinctly defines each of these individuals. For example, a person named Robert might be referred to as Bob, Robby, Rob, and much more. However, each of these names are very much valid, since they all refer to this Robert and him only. Names could also be longer and more personal. You may call some friends by nicknames that only few people would understand the true meaning of. In short, names are used to uniquely identify one person by the speaker. However, it is important to note at the same time that these names, no matter who created them, all relate and center around one person: the person the name is given to. This will be important soon as we see how names are used in Kimi no Na wa.
Changing the Name
If names define a person’s identity, the question of changing the name comes to mind. If one changes a name, does that change who they are? Does a name transcend a mere calling sign to become part of the personal identity? In the real world, the common answer would be “no”, as names change on the internet and in real life quite often, and only sometimes does a person change with it. However, in the case of Kimi no Na wa, the answer would be “yes”, and to explain this, I must talk about my favorite scene (that, admittedly, got some tears from me).
The lake shines bright, with pale red light reflecting off the calm surface. It reflects the night sky, one that is different from normal. In the night sky is a comet. A radiant pink comet flies over a small village, breaking into two luminous fragments, being witnessed by the entirety of Japan, and one young girl, running desperately for an unknown reason. On the ground is Mitsuha, a young school girl who is desperate. She is desperate to save her family, her friends, and her village. But with all that weight on her shoulders, a void in her memories continues to gnaw at her insides. She tries to remember him. She looks up, looking at the deadly spectacle, and trips, still trying to remember someone’s name, with little coming back to her. A memory flickers in her mind: “So we don’t forget each other when we wake up, let’s write our names on each other”. Mitsuha opens her hand, and on her palm are the words, “I love you”.
Mitsuha does not remember Taki Tachibana from this point on (at least until the end), but instead remembers “I love you”. What I find so amazing about this scene goes back to the definition of names. If a name is used to distinctly define one person, Taki, knowing that what he writes down will be the only words Mitsuha will associate with him as time passes, puts down “I love you”. In other words, between Taki and Mitsuha, Taki is now defined by his love for Mitsuha. His distinct identity, in its core, did not lie in “Taki Tachibana”, but instead in his connection with Mitsuha. Neither Taki nor Mitsuha knew when they would see each other again, and perhaps they thought they never would, but for Mitsuha, she will always remember the love Taki had for her, which, even after five years, is shown not to have faded between either of them.
But that is merely the beginning of the grand theme behind the names of Kimi no Na wa. Earlier, I mentioned that names always refer to the person it is given to, in both identification and definition. As you might have guessed, this is no longer true for Taki. By changing his name – his identity – to his love for Mitsuha, Taki has changed the very definition of a name. In the eyes of human society, a name is connected solely to one person. In Taki’s case, his name, which means “waterfall”, defines only him, and whatever the context of “waterfall” may be, it will never be used to bind another person to its definition. However, by changing his name to “love for Mitsuha”, Taki now uses a name that defines both him and Mitsuha. Taki has broken the basic standards of society.
Growing to See the World
However, this simple, albeit well done, confession scene holds even more meaning than just that. In one decisive frame, this scene also summarizes Taki’s journey throughout the movie and shows the audience Taki’s growth both as a character and also as a human being. So, just as this scene summarizes Taki’s journey, let us go back to the beginning also to see how Taki grew throughout the movie.
In the beginning of the movie, we see that Taki lives a relatively normal life. After Taki, controlled by Mitsuha, wakes up late, we see that Taki’s father and his friends are not surprised by his late attendance to school. His interaction with others, however, reveals a lot about Taki’s lifestyle. Taki, being controlled by Mitsuha, confuses his father and his friends for his politeness and innocence. More importantly, taken over by Mitsuha, Taki’s fellow waiters in his workplace notice him for the first time. His hard work and passion in helping others, shown when fixing Okudera’s skirt, surprises the other waiters. These scenes show us that Taki is normally extremely quiet, and his lifestyle is quite dull compared to Mitsuha’s lively and beautiful life in the country. He has few friends and little connections with others, but most importantly, we learn that Taki does not care about others as much as he does in keeping the bare minimum in society.
Move forward in time a bit, and now we start to see Taki changing. After switching with Mitsuha for a while, Taki starts to enjoy interaction with others by living in a small village full of close connections with others. He appreciates his time with Tessie and Sayaka, and slowly, he starts to become more passionate in his own body. With assistance from Mitsuha, Taki befriends Okudera, and the audience finds what should be a boring city life to be lively and endearing. However, Taki’s growth is shown most clearly only after Mitsuha stops switching with him.
After losing contact with Mitsuha, Taki, with a new passion, draws a detailed sketch of Itomori based solely off memory. He immediately searches for Mitsuha, with no clear plan in mind, and when he finds out that Mitsuha, Tessie, Sayaka, and the rest of the village are gone, he continues his search, traveling into the ruins of Itomori in vain effort. What I find most amazing about these few scenes is that I realized how absurd Taki’s actions were only after looking back at the movie. Would the old Taki have searched for a girl he had only seen in dreams? The answer is, of course, “no”. Makoto Shinkai, director of Kimi no Na wa, builds Taki’s character so naturally that the audience does not question his actions at all. Taki has come a long way, starting from an uncaring student but gradually growing into a passionate friend, looking for a girl whose memory fades by the moment. He has realized the importance of personal bonds, and has come to appreciate his time with others, even if they only exist in his dreams. In addition, his growth is also shown in his mindset throughout the journey. From the point of seeing the Itomori ruins and onwards, Taki’s original goal of finding Mitsuha rapidly changes to saving the entire village. By climbing all the way up the mountain in a crazed downpour, Taki shows us that he does not care about his own life anymore as much as he cares about the lives of others.
All of this, of course, comes back to my favorite scene. By writing down “I love you” instead of his actual name, the audience also sees Taki’s growth as a human. Beginning as a dull and lethargic individual, he gradually changed into an individual who appreciates his connections with others, and eventually, he gives up his own identity to encourage a friend at the darkest of times, resulting in the salvation of hundreds of people. To me, Kimi no Na wa is not simply a story about love, but one about growing up and appreciating connections with others. Our names – our identities – are not simply about us, but are based on our connections with others, and by realizing this, we can grow to achieve dreams even we did not know about.
Kimi no Na wa – The Importance of a Title
As I close, I want to end by talking about the importance of the title, Kimi no Na wa. The title, unbeknownst to many foreign viewers, does not mean “Your name”, but actually means “Your name is ____” (Kimi no Na, to my understanding, means “Your name”). What I found most amazing about the title is that it ends in a period. In English, “Your name is ____” would normally be a question, but in this case, “Your name is ____” is a statement. In other words, the blank is intentional, and the speaker left it unsaid on purpose. The explanation of this choice in grammar is quite meaningful in my eyes. Throughout the movie, both Taki and Mitsuha are shown saying these words numerous times. However, the statement is never used in the same way as it is used in the title. To me, the title, Kimi no Na wa, portrays how the characters view each other in the end. After a long journey, the characters finally realize that neither of them have a name they can simply say in a blank. They understand that their names, or their identities, lies in their connections with others, and not in a single word. No, the characters do not leave the blank because they do not know each other’s names. Instead, the characters leave it unsaid because they both understand that there are far too many names for either of them to simply say. Most importantly, they also know that to each other, they have no need to say their names, because between Taki and Mitsuha, who they are, most importantly, is their love for each other.
“Kimi no…namae wa?” These are the last words that Taki and Mitsuha say to each other. Mitsuha does not remember “Taki”, and Taki does not remember “Mitsuha”. However, they remember their connection to each other, and even if their memories have faded away, they know that their love for each other remains. Perhaps these last words were not meant for each other, but actually for you, the audience. As his masterpiece ends, Makoto Shinkai wants you to leave knowing that your connections identify who you are. You are not based solely on yourself, but on your memories, bonds, and connections to others. Whether it be friendship, brotherhood, or love, he wants you to leave with but one question…
“Your name is…?”