Thoughts on the Looks of Your Name

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Friday, April 7th, I went and saw Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) in theaters. Going in, I didn’t know very much what to expect from the film, aside from what I’ve come to expect from any Makoto Shinkai film. I barely had read anything about the movie, watched no previews—let alone Reviews—, and for the most part I could tell by just the general Otaku population’s reaction that this was a movie I should probably go out and see. While Your Name did tick off most every box for a Shinkai film—revolves around a relationship, portrays relationship in a summary narrative style using montage, has gorgeous 3D rendered environments, and so on—there were still plenty of surprises to be had. So, to avoid those surprises, as well as to give myself more time to think about this film, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to speaking more about the visual aspects of Your Name, rather than delve into the delightfully clever narrative and the spoilers that stem from it. I definitely want to watch it again before I write any “official” review, but for now know that this film is worth watching (if for some reason you didn’t know already).

First, let’s talk about the 3D animation going on in Your Name. Makoto Shinkai comes from the realm of digital animation and has never (at least since before 2012) worked in traditional pen-and-paper format. The environments he creates are usually constructed in 3D, though framed and designed in a way that doesn’t make it stick out like a sore thumb. It’s through this design that his films can carry depth, so through pans, tilts, and other camera movements, shots are given realistic effect. Shinkai couples that with precise and abundant details typically found in 2D animation styles top create hyper realism, ensuring the audience’s enthrallment despite any possible lack of narrative intrigue.

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Something that seems to be important to Shinkai is that there’s movement within each shot. Because this isn’t live action, directors need to be wary of their work appearing dead or alive at any given moment, to match the purpose of each scene. Furthermore, depth is only provided through movement, and without it a lot of scenes can quite literally fall flat. Depth, in turn, helps create a feeling of space, further adding to the realism and visual appeal of the shot. Of course, the most crucial thing about movement when referring to pretty much any of Shinkai’s work, is that it conveys the essence of time.

Be it rain, snow, or the scenery passing by on a train ride, Makoto Shinkai uses plenty of different techniques to add to his career’s clear thematic fixation. Visually, we can only comprehend the flow of time from the movement we witness. It can come from the characters themselves, or it can be from their surroundings. The wind pushing the trees, grass leaning from the breeze, or on the more modern side of things, trains and cars passing by. As long as we can take notice of time flowing, we can also come to understand that time is running out.

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But now I’m getting dangerously close to talking about his narratives, so instead I’d like to bring attention to the shots, and patterns of shots, that I found interesting in Your Name. First and foremost, there’s the sliding door shots. In the film, whenever a character leaves their room (and perhaps this happens in other locations as well) we get a perspective from inside the doorway. From there we see thickness of the door sliding open, away from us into the wall across. It’s a quick cut, but it looks really neat and happens more than enough times for me to consider it having some sort of meaning behind it. What that meaning is, however, is currently beyond my grasp, which is one of the reasons why I must watch this film again.

Another pattern I took note of was the pedestal up from a character focused wide shot to an extreme wide shot of the landscape. For non-film students, which I presume some if not most people reading this are, allow me to quickly elaborate on some of this terminology. A “pedestal” is a movement that moves the physical position of the camera higher or lower, without changing the angle. Wide shots are simply shots that contain the entire subject within the frame of the shot, so if the subject is a person, you’ll be able to see from the bottom of their feet to the top of their head. Extreme wide shots are more for landscapes, as you’ll barely be able make out the subject from such a distance. They’re often used for establishing a location, but in Your Name, Shinkai moves up from a wide shot to an extreme wide shot to signify the end of a scene and transition to somewhere else.

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Then there are these awesome smash cuts—one shot abruptly cutting to another—that make pivotal moments hit extra hard, synced with audio being changed or completely cut. I won’t mention what these moments are, but they’re pretty fucking cool.

Finally, there are these beautiful arc camera movements that mimic the actions of the characters when they gaze at the meteor shower overhead. The camera is positioned at a low angle, meaning it’s below the subject pointing upward, and it arcs around our protagonists as they also turn to witness the awe-inspiring astronomical phenomena over their heads.

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All in all, Your Name was a magnificent experience for me as a lover of anime, story, and film. Hopefully you were able to learn something from this, and if I’ve piqued your interest in Makoto Shinkai, may I suggest checking out this [interview] about his experience with animation as well as this video below about Shinkai’s use of time in anime. As always, thanks for reading, and sorry for yet another late post this week. No excuses!

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