Your Name: Space, Time and Transience

I am WAY behind on the Your Name bandwagon, partly because it was never available where I was and partly because I’m stubborn and wanted to see it legally, in good quality. But I recently got the opportunity to watch it on Blu-ray, so I thought with awards season approaching, now is the time to write about Makoto Shinkai’s current and most dazzling project. I hope to cover how Your Name portrays transience and the separation and simultaneous integration of time and space throughout the film, since this fascinated me so much and I wanted to devote some time to unpacking it.

Chronological Time

For those who have watched Your Name, it’s no surprise that the film delights in not following time chronologically. Mitsuha and Taki exist in different years, and their fates are connected despite Mitsuha’s apparent death when the meteor strikes Earth. Not only does Taki and Mitsuha’s relationship exist across timelines, these timelines will often intersect and break apart. The complete disregard for one continuous timeline is a very effective way to show how transience works within the film’s structure. There are many instances where Your Name connects these two timelines with match cuts, or uses the same setting in different timelines, such as the many exchanges that happen on the bridge in Tokyo.

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Time flies by through the speeding up of a single location, tying each day together in a single shot.

Another stylistic way to connect time is to speed up shots so that days pass in seconds, grounding the space, but shifting time in the process (I have really enjoyed ripping apart postmodern approaches to space and time so the “fastforwarded” shot where movement is shown in a single take over time stands out to me!). In a way, the very act of Taki travelling by train to Itomori is reminiscent of a form of time travel, since he travels to the remains of a town that was once alive, bringing his memories of how it was in the past.

Creation and Expression

Taki’s architectural interests really take shape here, since he draws the town in vivid detail, which in itself sends him mentally back in time, the experience of his alternate reality clearly visible in his timeline through pencil and paper. The characters interact through media via leaving messages for each other -even going so far as to write on each other’s faces while they are body swapping. The connection Mitsuha and Taki have through physically and visually interacting with each other crosses over logical time. As a result, their interaction introduces another dimension of the film’s timeline which encourages the audience to engage with it, not just observe.

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Taki’s architectural interests help him to connect the past and present timelines he experiences through drawing.

I should just briefly point out that the screenshot above is from a scene where Taki is in Mitsuha’s body doing a drawing in her art class. So this particular image does a really good job of showing the mingling of time and space through one shared skill. When Taki’s drawing starts his search for Itomori, he comes across a couple where the husband was originally from Itomori. In showing him the drawing, Taki and the man are able to connect in the present over something in the past, which Taki experienced vicariously and the man experienced in real time.

Mitsuha’s weaving is a motif that literally ties Your Name’s various timelines together.

The interweaving of time in Your Name is not only evident through pen and paper, but also through a literal weaving of materials. Mitsuha’s documentation of time, as opposed to Taki’s representations of Itomori, is done through the ceremonial weaving of cords at her family’s shrine. The cords represent the flow of time, according to Mitsuha’s grandmother. Taki wears Mitsuha’s cord on his wrist from before he knew her, and only pieces together who gave him the cord by the end of the film, returning it to its rightful owner. In a body swap experience with Taki, Mitsuha shows her skill at sewing by patching  Okudera’s skirt, literally weaving her experiences and knowledge into Taki’s present from her past. This also blends Taki and Mitsuha’s experiences together. Both Taki and Mitsuha develop a sense of what Itomori looks like and its significance to them and the larger world through art.

Musubi and Shinto

Mitsuha’s weaving brings up another very important part of Your Name: religion. Mitsuha’s red cord, the fluidity of time, and the world as the characters know it is shown in musubi, roughly translated as the god’s interconnected creation in the world in Shinto religion. Her connection with Taki through her red cord literally ties the two of them together and serves as a way for Taki to recognize her when he searches for her later on in the film. Mitsuha’s involvement in Your Name’s transience through her weaving is therefore not just visible in her own personal life with her family and her shrine, but also in how her small actions impact the larger world through religion, and by extension, across time.

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The kuchikamizake that Mitsuha makes connects her to all areas of her life: her spirituality, her town, and to Taki.

Mitsuha’s grandmother explains musubi to her and her sister while they hike to deliver sacred kuchikamizake to the shrine at the top of the Itomori mountain. Mitsuha’s sake is actually a surprisingly useful way of illustrating musubi, since the ritual she is a part of involves taking rice, putting some of herself into it, and then transforming that into sake, where it awaits another purpose. Later on, Taki drinks this sake to return to Mitsuha’s timeline and save her from the oncoming meteor. Taki’s partaking of Mitsuha’s sake connects them in a visceral as well as spiritual way, since both of them visit the sacred mountain, and both ingest something that represents half of the other.

As Taki falls backwards in time from the kuchikamizake, there is a stunning sequence that reminded me of watercolour concept art which shows Taki visions of the world and how it connects to Mitsuha’s life. This, I feel, is the best representation of musubi in the whole film. Your Name is technically entirely musubi, and how we watch Your Name is also musubi, but this sequence just captures it so perfectly- especially the first few seconds which record a meteor transforming into a skipping stone, making its mark on Itomori and then causing ripples in the world which form into an embryo (Mitsuha).

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Taki’s flashback sequence links him to Mitsuha’s life by showing the connections between the larger world and little moments.

The film clearly states that everything is connected, and Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship is bound by this concept. The fluidity of beginnings and endings in Your Name proves that everything impacts everything, and that Mitsuha and Taki are connected in a deeply personal and yet global way.

Doors

Your Name opens up connections between time and space in its use of doors, passages, and structures. Many times throughout the film, there are floor-level shots of various types of doors opening: the traditional doors in Mitsuha’s house, the Tokyo subway and train doors, Taki’s apartment door -almost any form of passage from one room to the next is noted in this type of shot. I think that the doors in this film are a powerful reminder of the transient space, and what forms such transience can take.

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Low-level shots of doors opening and closing signal how time connects and separates.

While the doors are very literal in that they bring a person from one space into another space, they are also metaphorical. They stand for the changing of ideas and the passing of one form into another, very similar to the body swapping that connects Mitsuha and Taki. Stepping into this other space through a doorway can also show religious ties, such as Shinto gates in shrines, or the natural door to the cave in the sacred mountain in Itomori. Each time the doors in Your Name open, they bring with them a change that will impact the characters’ fates. One of the more natural forms of doorways in Your Name is the concept of tasokare, where a gateway to a new time opens for the characters.

Twilight (tasokare)

Right near the beginning of the film, Mitsuha is given a lesson in class about tasokare, or the twilight period. Their teacher describes this time of day as being mystical, where “one might encounter something not human.” While Your Name doesn’t deal with alien invasions, it does explore the idea of the encounter, perfectly shown when Mitsuha and Taki are able to see each other in the flesh for the first time at twilight. After interacting through time and space, Taki and Mitsuha are finally able to see each other in real time, and interact at the same time. However, tasokare is limited, and only exists between time. The transience that tasokare represents can also be seen as a form of musubi.

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Twilight brings Taki and Mitsuha together, as well as their timelines.

Your Name uses time in a very loose and inconsistent way, but that doesn’t just include timelines. It also includes the time of day. The characters exist in each others’ bodies starting as they wake up and return to their bodies when they go to sleep. Tasokare occupies a unique space in Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship, connecting them in the grand worldly sense, but also in its ability to bring them intimately face to face.

Transience through Film

As you can probably see, a lot of these points I have made are connected to each other. The links between doors, twilight, drawing, and even the meteor event stitch together Your Name’s narrative are exactly what makes the film so transient. It exists between things; it has a very clear theme and structure, but it proves all of its points unconventionally. Each way that the film interacts with time and space complicates it, to the point where transience is the movie! Your Name is complication of time, showing time as something that is easily bent and moved, but also as something that has profound impact on people and how they define themselves.

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Time and space is finally collapsed when Taki and Mitsuha encounter each other in real time.

There is so much more to Your Name that is worth discussing and if I’m being honest, there is also certainly no reason to give any of these points the amount of attention that I did. But by looking into each aspect of Your Name’s exploration of time and space, we are then able to look at the larger picture the film presents, and come to conclusions about it.  Despite its hype, Your Name is not just another pretty face. It reflects on the world and our place in it through animation and its inherent creation and collapsing of space, which is just about as transient as you can get.

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