With the release of Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, your name., the mainstream have declared him to be Japan’s next Hayao Miyazaki. Shinkai isn’t the next Miyazaki, he’s the current Shinkai, and we love him because of that.
My first exposure to Makoto Shinkai was from The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭) at Reel Anime a few years back. It blew me away from the animation, storytelling, and overall visual style. It was something I’d only seen glimpses of in the works by Naoko Yamada at Kyoto Animation. Not even Studio Ghibli looked as nice as The Garden of Words. As usual, I gobbled up as much Shinkai as I could, which included 5 Centimeters Per Second (秒速5センチメートル) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (星を追う子ども). The last one being the most Miyazaki-esque film from Shinkai, and my least favourite. Why? Because Shinkai isn’t Miyazaki, nor can he be.
Makoto Shinkai shouldn’t be compared to Miyazaki, it’s just not fair
If we’re talking about making a buttload of money at the Japanese box office, then sure, Makoto Shinkai is very much a Miyazaki figure. In terms of films, Shinkai is very different to Miyazaki, even to the point that Shinkai distances himself from those comments. Empire Online even states, “If any film has the right to be called this decade’s Spirited Away, it’s this one.” If you’re talking about domestic gross for an animated film, they’d be right, but in terms of widespread acknowledgment, it can’t be. your name. winning an Oscar would be great. Though without the backing of Disney that Spirited Away had, or that some voters think anime films are just “freakin’ Chinese f**kin’ things”. I just don’t see this happening, especially not in a year that has Zootopia and Moana.
It doesn’t just boil down to Oscars, there’s a real fundamental difference between Hayao Miyazaki and Makoto Shinkai. One creates films, the other creates anime films. Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli cast aside the last 20 years of Japanese animation influence and create films that are inspired by the likes of Walt Disney. Miyazaki even says that the anime industry is “full of otaku” and that it’s a problem. Ghibli breaks down the content they’re adapting, dilute the material, and make it accessible for mainstream audiences. Whether that material is Japanese in origin, or English.
Makoto Shinkai doesn’t do this.
While your name. is the most accessible film Shinkai has ever created, it’s still very distinctively Japanese. From the Shinto ceremonies to a teenage boy going on a date with an older woman, Shinkai doesn’t hold back in how modern Japan is portrayed in your name. None of the characters in the film are dulled down, and they feel almost too realistic. But they still have those little anime-like quirks you’ll see all to often in your regular late-night show. The leads, Taki and Mitsuha, could fit perfectly into this seasons Sound! Euphonium and no one would bat an eyelid. Any of Miyazaki’s characters would look, and act, out of place.
When was watching your name., there was a distinct difference in reactions from the audience to certain scenes was almost comical. (I’d like to note this was a press screening of the film, not your regular audience one). It was clear that some people in the cinema hadn’t seen much anime. Gasps occurred when Taki grabbed Mitsuha’s boobs when he woke up as her, and when they slowly panned up her body while Taki gazed at his new body. Meanwhile, others laughed at this, and the following “baka” from Mitsuha’s little sister. While a scene like that could exist in live action, it wasn’t something the audience had seen in a serious animated film before. This is what Shinkai has to overcome to become the new mainstream. Don’t be Hayao Miyazaki like you were in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, be the Makoto Shinkai of your name.
Like a comet in the sky
Your name. came and went in what seemed like a blink of an eye. I absolutely enjoyed every moment I was watching your name. It was almost the perfect anime film. While the film doesn’t deal with themes that aren’t new to Makoto Shinkai, he’s perfected the use of said themes in such a way that you don’t care if he reused them over and over again.
Makoto Shinkai’s name is only one being bandied about, but your name. couldn’t have happened without a team behind him. Tanaka Masayoshi’s character designs helped blend Shinkai’s very detailed style with a simpler character design. Without it, the film probably would have taken much longer to have come out. The themes by RADWIMPS are seeped into the film beautifully, even if it does the whole anime style opening credits.
Longing is a major theme in all of his films, and the perfect way to sum up how to feel. I long to watch your name. again.
Thank you for reading this little piece on Makoto Shinkai’s your name. currently in theatres across Australia and the UK. Coming sometime in 2017 for you Americans. You can grab tickets at yournamefilm.com.au. (Australia)