The film Your Name features teenaged high school students Mitsuha and Taki, who live far apart from one another and wake to find that without warning or reason, they switch bodies a few times a week and have zero recollection of how their time is spent during the separation. Thus, the two must resort to using pen and paper, diary entries written in their phones, and the accounts of their friends in order to piece together what happens when they swap places. With limited time to convey the details of their day-t- day, Mitsuha and Taki struggle at first to figure out how to talk with each other. If we remove the fantastical element of the film for just a moment, we see two young people who have met under difficult circumstances and are now forced to interact in a new way. Without having met in person, they lack the advantage that comes with physical communication–this makes their written words carry much more weight when it comes to forming a relationship.
When the two teens do switch bodies for the first time, it’s an incredible shock. Just like the start of a new relationship, the two are confused but excited. They both lead different lives, and this new experience is interpreted as a dream. We follow Mitsuha while she inhabits Taki’s body, watching as she finds a diary kept within his phone. She decides to leave an extensive entry, detailing everything she did that day along with photos and emoticons to add more context. Since this takes place toward the beginning of the film, the two have not yet realized what’s going on. The next day, Mitsuha wakes up in her own body and goes to school, only to find a cryptic message written into her notebook. “Who are you?” it reads. Nothing more, nothing less. In contrast to Mitsuha’s diary entry, Taki offered very little in return. Over time, as the two come to terms with what’s happening, they relay information back and forth through these diary entries. They learn more about each other and in the process, become better at communicating with their limited time and resources.
Online friendships and romances are no longer considered a strange concept, especially with the millennial generation having grown up on the Internet and used smartphones to facilitate conversations. More common are long-distance relationships, which can be easier to maintain with the introduction of new technologies. Depending on where your friend or partner lives in the world, there’s a certain window of opportunity where the two of you meet the criteria to talk face to face as opposed to through text: you’re both awake at the same time, and neither of you are busy. In Your Name there’s a similar concept: a very short period in which Mitsuha and Taki are able to interact without the assistance of a screen. It’s called “kawatare-doki,” which can be loosely translated to “twilight”. In old Japan it was thought that supernatural occurrences were possible at twilight, which is fitting if your communication during this time isn’t good. Kataware-doki can mirror how it often feels as though you’re talking to the ghost of a person, especially if the two of you are separated for a long time and haven’t interacted much.
At one point in the film, they try calling each other–but fall into playing a game of phone tag, not able to talk within the same timeline. However, the importance of good communication is heightened with the kind of long distance relationship Mitsuha and Taki posses. They switch bodies for an entire day, which leaves a 24-hour gap in their memories. Because the teenagers interact mostly through reading diary entries on their phones that recap their day, this makes it crucial to be clear and direct, so that they can retain a sense of normalcy after returning to their “usual” routine.
Technology is a fantastic vessel to facilitate creating bonds and carrying conversation, and it’s often looked down upon when young adults have their nose stuck in their phones. But Your Name shows us the importance of forming relationships outside normal conventions by giving us Mitsuha and Taki, taking their bizarre situation, and using it as an example of how connecting with another person on an emotional level (especially when long distance) requires effort and transparency, and is definitely possible.
What did you think of Mitsuha and Taki’s relationship? Would you consider it long distance? Let me know in the comments below!