There’s a lot to be thankful for in 2016. Kimi no Na Wa is one of those things.
It’s grossed over 288 million USD in foreign markets; it’s raced past records in Japan. It’s at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s in our hearts.
As the year draws to a close, and I look back at the things that kept us warm, I think of Kimi no Na Wa. But there are a few things still bugging me about this otherwise flawless film. The better something is, the more it deserves proper criticism – it’s earned it by raising the bar so high. Kimi no Na Wa is no exception. Here are four strange plot points that I still can’t get over.
Warning : Heavy Spoilers Ahead.
4. Taki Forgets the Itomori Incident
Taki and Mitsuha realize they’re switching bodies with someone. They spend several days living each other’s lives, to the point where they can pass for the other without their friends knowing. Taki learns about even the small details of Mitsuha’s life. Then, when Taki tries to see Mitsuha in person, he finds out about Itomori.
When was the last time people forgot about local fires or landslides? What are the odds that a catastrophe like that would be forgotten? Taki is anything but an absent-minded dreamer who wouldn’t remember the incident being all over the news three years before he switches bodies. He spent days in Itomori. Besides, he saw the meteor falling on that night. How would he not remember the incident and realize what happened?
Chalk it up to absent-mindedness, but it’s the first flaw in a beautifully made film.
3. Phone Schedules
When Taki and Mitsuha realize they’re waking up in each other’s bodies, they make a system to keep each other in check: they use their phones to make schedules and send notes. Every aspect of their lives are directed, as far as possible, through schedules on phones. Somehow, though, they manage to ignore the year.
Quick, take any smartphone used in the last three years and try to make a schedule. You’ll see what date it is, sooner or later, and it’s impossible not to notice the year. With the time difference staring both of them in the face, they don’t see it. Both because of the meteor incident, and the fact that the two were often using phones, it’s hard to see how Taki could be so surprised at the plot twist.
2. The Meeting at the Caldera
Against all odds, Taki (in Mitsuha’s body) manages to convince her friends to help evacuate the town with explosions and the broadcast system. Few people will ever have the lives of a town on their hands like this. Children eager to go to the festival have to be convinced by a schoolgirl that their lives depend on leaving Itomori. At a time like this, what should Taki do? Plan the whole thing through? Carefully monitor every possible part of their plan? Try to convince people to leave?
He takes a bicycle and cycles a long way to the caldera, on a hunch that he might get to see Mitsuha.
This is actually one of the less plausible parts of the film. Taki isn’t irrational. The craziest thing he’d done till then was probably drinking the sake, which wouldn’t hurt him, and might help him save the town. But when he suddenly decides to see Mitsuha, he’s putting the whole plan in jeopardy. Not only could he mess up the plan, but he might exchange bodies without warning, leaving the rest of the proceedings uncertain. Cycling to see Mitsuha was a time-consuming and dangerous idea that came with little warning or motivation (beyond the romance angle, anyway). As much as we all love the following scene, the journey there is somewhat forced, so far as the plot is concerned.
1. The Name
What followed the cycling, however, was even more surprising. With time running out to save the town, and seconds to spare to write each other’s names, Taki just writes ‘I love you’.
The one time I was given a diary in a small shack in Tripura to write about my visit there, I wrote a whole paragraph, including references to Lovecraft’s stories, on the off-chance that someone who knows me might find my entry some day. Taki, our imbecile hero, can’t write his two-syllable name on Mitsuha’s hand? Not when they both desperately want to see each other again? Taki, what are you, dense? Are you retarded or something?
Taki is old and wise enough to know when time is short. He did so much to try to save Itomori. When he has to literally seize the moment and write his name, he complicates the plot by an idiotic show of emotion that predictably leaves the two protagonists separated. The film’s sad coda follows from Taki’s implausible, unnecessary, foolish, and unpredictable act of writing ‘I love you’ instead of his name.
All that being said, however, anyone who’s seen Kimi no Na Wa would agree that it’s great despite its faults. The plot, first and foremost, is well made: the scenes combine into an organic whole. The symbols used are cleverly employed in different senses, and the effect is a rich appeal to the intellect, not unlike Alan Moore’s works. The caldera scene, regardless of its necessity, will be remembered for decades to come.
Kimi no Na Wa wasn’t perfect. Neither was this year. And yet, I would rather have it than a perfect one.