Kimi No Na Wa is the 2016 Japanese anime blockbuster from Makoto Shinkai. This movie is an absolute visual treat. You get taken into a whole new world because of sceneries and landscapes in the film. Sometimes, anime end up being a little slow paced. Not this one. There is a lot going on in this film and you really need to pay attention to the details. If you haven’t watched it yet, stop everything and go watch. Come back. Read further. Here’s the Japanese anime film Your Name explained, spoilers ahead.
I’m going to destroy the brilliant non-linear storytelling by laying out the plot in chronological order. It helps understand the plot easier this way.
Around a thousand years ago, a meteorite strikes creating a huge crater. This lead to the formation of a lake over the years. The fictional town of Itomori is situated near this lake. This town is drawn so beautifully, you’d want to go there for a nice long holiday. Our female lead, Mitsuha, lives in this town with her sister (Yotsuha) and grandmother (Hitoha Miyamizu). She is from a family of shrine maidens. There is a family shrine that her mother’s side has taken care of for generations. When Mitsuha and her sister are very young, their mother passes away. Their father, Toshiki, has ambitions that are in the direction of town administration. He feels no connect towards the shrine and as a result, separates from the family. Years pass and he becomes the mayor of the town. Mitsuha hangs out with her two friends Teshi and Sayaka. There is a light hint of a mutual liking between Teshi and Sayaka that is shown in the film and confirmed towards the end of the movie. This is not too relevant.
Mitsuha is burdened by her boring life and the boring town of Itomori. She and her sister are Shrine maidens and perform the ritual of the sacred Kagura dance. As a part of this, they make kuchikamizake. This is where they chew on rice and spit it out into a container and let that ferment to become alcohol. This sake, once formed, is then offered at the shrine to the god. Mitsuha is embarrassed when other school mates see her doing the ritual. At one point she even wishes to be born a Tokyo boy in her next life.
What we need to understand here is that the Miyamizu family (the women) have a history of magically switching bodies with other people. However, they remember them as dreams and nothing more came out of it.
The Red Yarn Thread
The grandmother teaches Mitsuha and Yotsuha the art of knitting yarn into a special kind of thread. She explains how this is connected to the Red String of Fate. A belief where an imaginary thread connects and binds two people. No matter how life unfolds, the string brings the two together. She also explains how the thread also represents the very flow of time. While this part is very metaphorical, the long-story-short is that the red thread that Mitsuha is shown wearing through the movie, has the power to bind her to another. The other being Taki.
Mitsuha’s Body Switching
Around this time of Mitsuha’s life, she magically starts to switch bodies with a boy named Taki Tachibana who lives in Tokyo. While initially she thinks that they are mere dreams, she soon realizes that the switches are for real. When she is in his body in Tokyo, he is in her body in Itomori. A very important, and the central crux of the film, is that Mitsuha is switching with Taki from 3 years in the future. So when she switches, she is in Tokyo and 3 years in the future. But this is something that she doesn’t realize. She assumes that she’s switching with Taki in the same timeline. I’ll get to the details of Taki’s timeline and the switching a little later. Over the many switches, Mitsuha falls in love with Taki. She decides to go to Tokyo to meet him. She reaches Tokyo and looks for him. His phone seems to be not-reachable. She stumbles on to him in a train. This Taki she meets is still 3 years before he experiences any body-switching with Mitsuha. As a result, he has no clue who Mitsuha is. Upset, Mitsuha leaves the train. Taki asks for her name and she tells him her name and hands him her red thread. The red thread now binds the two of them.
The Comet and Timeline 1
During the events of Mitsuha’s switching, there is a comet that is passing by. Is the comet causing this rift in timelines to happen? While in movies like Coherence it is shown to affect timetimes, here the switching is shown to be something native to the Miyamizu family and the thread controls flow of time. A town’s festival is on the same day as the Comet’s closest proximity to Earth. Mitsuha cuts her hair to match the length of Taki’s as she’s now clearly grown very fond of him. She’s dressed in a kimono and meets with Teshi and Sayaka. They are surprised to see her with short hair. They head to a vantage point to see the comet clearly. Unfortunately, the comet splits and one fragment drops into Earth. It happens strike and kill hundreds of people in the town. Mitsuha, Teshi and Sayaka die too. The school is left unharmed and so is the shrine. This is how it ends for Mitsuha in Timeline 1. She dies.
Taki’s Body Switching
He is a boy studying and living in Tokyo. He runs into a girl, Mitsuha, on a train one day and she hands him a red thread. The thread binds him to her. He wears it as a good luck charm. The following day he observes the comet. The destruction of the town is a news channel report to him. At this point, he has no knowledge of the town or the inhabitants. 3 years after meeting the girl on the train he magically begins to switch bodies with Mitsuha. Now, Taki doesn’t know he’s switching bodies with the same girl from the train. Taki also doesn’t know that he’s switching bodies with Mitsuha from 3 years in the past. He understands that he’s in a small town when he’s switching bodies but never bothers to find the name of the town he is in. All he knows is that the switching is for real. One fine day the switching abruptly stops. This is because back in the past, the comet has killed Mitsuha, Taki doesn’t know this. But he still has the thread and this continues to bind Taki to Mitsuha. He decides to go looking for Mitsuha.
Why do they wake up crying?
On the last day of the switch, they wake up crying. Neither of them understands why they are crying. This is because their link has been severed as the comet is going to end Mitsuha’s life. This is their last natural switch.
Update: Here’s a vital input from one of the comments below from GreenWyvern:
When they cross the river to visit the place of the god Musubi, Mitsua’s grandmother says, “Beyond this point is ‘kakuriyo’. It means the underworld. In exchange for returning to this world, you must leave behind what is most important to you. The kuchikamisake.” Taki (in Mitsuha’s body) asks, “The kuchikamisake?”. Grandmother replies, “You’ll offer it inside the god’s body. It is half of you.” When Taki crosses the river again three years later, he remembers that the other side of the river is the ‘underworld’. What will he leave behind that is most important to him? His memory of Mitsua. Likewise for Mitsua, when she wakes across the river in Taki’s body three years in her future. When she leaves the ‘underworld’, she also has to leave behind what is most important to her, her memory of Taki. Their connection has been severed. They don’t realize it but they tear up right after the trip to the Shrine.
First Day of Switch
Now let’s look at the events that happen during the body switching. The film shows Mitsuha waking up and looking all confused at her room. This is because it’s Taki waking up in Mitsuha’s body. He thinks it’s a very realistic dream and comments on how realistic the breasts feel. He looks in the mirror to confirm that he’s in a girl’s body. He learns that this girl’s name is Mitsuha. After this, we see Mitsuha coming out for breakfast. This is the next day. We don’t get to see Taki’s first day in Mitsuha’s body in the film. The next day people just tell Mitsuha that she had lost her marbles the previous day. She can’t understand why people are saying that. She obviously can’t remember anything because she was in Taki’s body. In the film, we are shown Mitsuha’s first day in Taki’s body. Taki (as Mitsuha) loses his way to school, has his friends Tsukasa and Shinta confused, enjoys a meal at a cafe and finally lands up for work at an Italian restaurant. Here we are introduced to Miki Okudera a girl who works at the restaurant too. It is shown that Taki and the rest of the guys have a crush on Okudera. An incident with a jerk at the restaurant results in Okudera being left with a torn skirt. Taki (as Mitsuha) stitches it up and adds a pretty design. Okudera mentions that she has never realized Taki’s feminine side. Later at night, Taki (as Mitsuha) goes through his phone to see memos and enters a memo about the day.
Both Taki and Mitsuha brush their odd experience aside thinking it is a dream.
The Day After The Switch
The next day, Mitsuha goes about her day when everyone is constantly telling her how weird she was acting the previous day. Mitsuha remembers her previous day as a hazy dream. She discovers a “who are you?” written in her notebook. Her teacher is explaining the concept of Tasogare-doki/Kawatare-doki. We’ll get to this later. She goes back home and knits with her grandmother. Taki too wakes up to a day where everyone’s telling him he was odd the previous day. At work, the other guys are angry that Taki made a move on Okudera.
Setting Up Rules
Days later, and after multiple switches, the two realize that they aren’t dreaming but are actually switching. They set a bunch of rules so that their lives are not drastically affected. They decide to put in a report of the day in their smartphones for each other to read. The two of them continue experiencing many switches over a period of time. They begin to get close and understand each other.
The Shrine Trip
One of the days of the switch, Mitsuha (as Taki) goes to the family shrine with Yotsuha and her grandmother. There they go to offer the kuchikamizake in the shrine. Her grandmother senses that who is with them is not Mitsuha. She asks her “you are dreaming right?”. The scene is cut and moves to the next day when Taki wakes up in his own body. He has tears rolling from his eyes but doesn’t know why. He looks at his phone to see that Mitsuha has set up a date with Okudera. He runs to the date. It turns out terrible because Okudera likes Taki when Mitsuha is in him. She mentions to Taki that she feels he initially had a crush on her but now likes someone else. Taki denies it. After the date, he tries to reach Mitsuha but the phone is not reachable. Remember, Mitsuha is long dead.
Taki’s Search for Mitsuha
After this, they don’t switch again. Taki wants to know why. He uses his memory and generic image references to draw out the scenery of Mitsuha’s town. He doesn’t know the name. He decides to go on a quest to find this town. Tsukasa and Okudera decide to join him, they think he’s going to meet an online friend. They go hunting but aren’t able to find much. At a diner, someone finally recognizes the drawing of the time and say it is Itomori. It is disclosed that this town was destroyed 3 years ago by a comet fragment. This is the first time we, the audience, are told that the body switching between Taki and Mitsuha was happening 3 years apart. Taki is unable to understand how this can be. The crater caused by the comet has caused another lake to form. He pulls out his phone and sees the messages are disappearing. I’ll talk more on the disappearing messages later. They begin to read up on the town and locate a book that has the names of all the people who died. Taki sees the names of Teshi, Sayaka and Mitsuha. This is also where were shown that Taki has been wearing the thread, from the train, as a sign of good luck. He has no memories of how he got it or who gave it to him.
Taki Carries On Alone
Unable to explain himself he asks Tsukasa and Okudera to head back to Tokyo. Taki makes his way to the location where he remembers the Shrine to be. One part of Taki’s mind is telling him that he was just remembering a dream of the comet and the news connected to Itomori. The other part is telling him that there is a reality to all of this. He treks and finds the shrine. He realizes that it was no dream. He heads to the shrine and enters. He sees the kuchikamizake inside. While his memories of leaving the sake are only days old, the actual event happened 3 years ago. That explains the mould on the containers. Taki sips Mitsuha’s sake. He tries to get up. He slips and falls to the ground. He also slips and falls through time. Here. he sees the whole story of Mitsuha. Her birth, her mother, her father, her grandmother, her switching, her trip to Tokyo to meet Taki, Taki receiving the red thread on the train, the comet, her death.
Alternate path and Timeline 2
Mitsuha (as Taki) wakes up on the morning of the comet crash. This time she knows the comet is going to strike. She meets her grandmother who again realizes that someone else is inside Mitsuha. She also explains how it runs in the family. Mitsuha (as Taki) heads to school to meet Teshi and Sayaka. They are surprised to see the short hair. In Timeline 1 Mitsuha meets them in the evening. In Timeline 2 they meet in class.
The Evacuation Plan
Teshi and Mitsuha (as Taki) make an evacuation plan. They plan to place a homemade bomb at the electric sub-station. They also plan to hack into the town’s PA system from the school. Sayaka is part of the broadcasting club at school so she will make a false announcement saying that an explosion has started a forest fire. And this fire is spreading to town so the town’s residents need to clear to the school. The reason for the fake announcement is that no one would believe an information that the comet is going to split and destroy Itomori. Mitsuha (as Taki) is also to go and get her dad to help evacuate the town.
The plan is set in motion. Mitsuha (as Taki) goes to meet her dad. She fails to convince him. He thinks that his daughter has gone mad. Mitsuha (as Taki) meets Teshi and Sayaka and tells them that she couldn’t convince her dad. She tells them to continue with the plan and heads to the shrine. Taki realizes that if he is in Mitsuha’s body, she would be in his body in the shrine.
Taki (as Mitsuha) wakes up in the shrine and heads out to see that the town of Itomori is destroyed. Mitsuha doesn’t know that her switching with Taki has been happening 3 years in the future. Mitsuha (as Taki) arrives. They two start running and calling out to each other. Dusk is approaching. They can hear each other but can’t see each other. This is because they are in the same place but are 3 years apart. Here’s a note to make. You can see two lakes behind Taki (as Mitsuha) and one lake behind Mitsuha (as Taki). As the sun sets, twilight happens. They see each other.
Tasogare-doki / Kawatare-doki
Now we go back to the point the teacher was trying to make earlier on during class. Twilight, it’s not a day or night. The time is when the world blurs and one might encounter something supernatural. This is a belief which some communities have. The movie uses this element in this scene to take Taki and Mitsuha to a place independent of time. They also switch back into their original bodies. In the background, you don’t see any specific details on the number of lakes. This is because it is neither one nor two – a place independent of time.
Finally, the two converse in person. They have their moment to express their feelings. Mitsuha calls Taki a pervert when he mentions drinking her sake. Remember this sake is made from her saliva. The act of drinking her “sacred” sake looks to be indicative stealing a kiss. Of course, he does it to save her and Mitsuha eventually laughs it off. Taki gives back Mitsuha the red thread for her to keep. He suggests that they should write each other’s names on their hands so they don’t forget one another. Taki writes. Mitsuha begins to write but twilight ends. Taki is back in his time. He forgets Mitsuha’s name before he can write it on his hand. This is because he returns her thread. So this time the effects of the switch end instantly.
Importance of the Thread
Remember, Taki has had the thread all this while for 3 years. This has helped in keeping them from forgetting each other after every switch. Had it not been for the thread, the memo on his phone may also have gotten erased soon after each switch ended. The thread helped to prolong every memory over a longer period of time, maybe weeks. Mitsuha’s grandmother remembers her switches as a fuzzy dream. She probably never gave anybody a thread and as a result, the connection was never strong enough to remember. Had Mitsuha not come to Tokyo to meet Taki and give him the thread, their switches would have remained hazy memories and nothing more. See that lovely little predestination paradox there? Her action of handing Taki the thread helps her remember her switches more clearly in the past. This helps her find Taki to give him the thread.
An update here after the input from GreenWyvern in the comments is that the thread only helps delaying the process of them forgetting each other. The reason they start forgetting each other is the trip to the Shrine. They leave behind what is most important to them – their memory of each other. The thread helps preserve Taki’s memory for long enough to find the town of Itomori.
Back in the past, Mitsuha now knows the dangers of the comet. But she begins to forget Taki. When she sees her hand, she realizes that Taki has written “I love you” and not his name. She joins Teshi to plant the bomb in the sub-station. The explosion causes people to worry. Sayaka makes the false announcement of the forest fires. But she is soon caught. Teshi is caught too. Mitsuha runs to her father’s place to try to convince him.
How does Mitsuha convince her father?
In the film, they only show her enter his place but nothing after. We’re going to have to assume that after all that she’s been through, she has a certain conviction to stand up to her father and make him listen to her. Their relationship has been very formal but this moment is emotional for Mitsuha and perhaps connects with her father at an emotional level. Besides, in the sky, the comet has already split into two. Mitsuha (as Taki) has already mentioned this to her dad early on. Now he sees proof. He orders for the evacuation of the town.
The comet strikes, the town is destroyed. But since everyone has evacuated, the news reports this now. Timeline 2 has no deaths.
Back where Taki is (3 years in the future), we still see two lakes because the comet does strike. He is in Timeline 2 now because his last switch has made the difference. But Taki has no more memories of what he’s doing there. He just makes his way back home.
Ending Explained and the reason for “I Love You”
Now it is 8 years after the comet strike. Which means 8 years have passed for Mitsuha since she’s met Taki. 5 years have passed for Taki since he’s last met Mitsuha. Mitsuha has finished up with school and has eventually found a job in Tokyo. Taki too has graduated and is looking for a job. These are the opening scenes of the movie.
Over all the years, Taki and Mitsuha are left with a feeling that they are looking for something or someone. Though they can’t recollect any of their switchings, they sense a connect. This is amplified by the “I love you” that Taki writes on Mitsuha’s hands. In their last moment together, Taki expresses his feelings for Mitsuha and not just his name. Also, Mitsuha wears the thread which Taki has kept for 3 years and during their switches. A combination of the thread and their mutual feeling for one another leaves them in a state of a subliminal hunt for each other. We see Taki and Mitsuha walking past each other through various moments in Tokyo. Taki even happens to be in a diner where Teshi and Sayaka are eating. Looks like the two of them are now together and live in Tokyo. Taki faintly remembers their names but the two leave the diner. Okudera comes to meet Taki. She’s now married. The two of them talk and mention that they can’t remember much from the day they head to Itomori. She wishes him good luck and leaves.
Taki and Mitsuha finally see each other from their respective trains. They run around looking for each other and finally find one another. On the stairs, they continue to pass by without speaking. After all, both are finding it awkward to randomly talk to a stranger they’ve never met. But Taki breaks the silence by asking Mitsuha if they’ve met before. She replies by saying she thinks so too. Their connection is reestablished, they shed a tear, they ask for each other’s names. The film ends.