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Your Name

Your Name is a Japanese animated feature film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai that is currently doing extremely well in Japan. It was released in August, and when I went to see it with my nine-year-old daughter on Sunday, the cinema was full. It is, apparently, the second-highest-grossing Japanese animation in Japan, behind Spirited Away, and as it is still showing it is possible that it could become top. It was shown briefly in Los Angeles earlier this month, in order to qualify for the Oscars, and won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Animated Film.

So, the first reason for mentioning it is that both I and my daughter really enjoyed it, and it will have a US release next year, so you should go to see it.

The reason for mentioning it here is that Shinto themes are quite important in the film. One of the central characters, Mitsuha Miyamizu, is the heir to the line of hereditary priests at a jinja, Miyamizu Jinja, and her service as a miko at the jinja, while only occupying a fairly small part of the film, is very important to the plot. Although the film is a fantasy, it is one in which there are a few elements of fantasy in a realistically drawn contemporary Japan (indeed, the windows of the office where I used to work appear briefly in one scene), and the portrayal of Mitsuha’s life in her hometown gives a good idea of how Shinto and jinja fit into normal Japanese society.

Another interesting point from my perspective is that there is an extended explanation of “musubi” as a central idea of Shinto, and of the film. “Musubi” is a term going back to the earliest recorded forms of Shinto, although it is thought that it was originally pronounced “musuhi”. It was the term for the power of creation and growth, and appears as an element in the names of several kami, including two of the first three kami to appear in the creation myth given in the Kojiki, the oldest account of Japanese myth. However, because it is homophonous with the word for “knot”, it is also used to refer to strong relationships between people; as I discussed in my Patreon essay about matsuri, “enmusubi” matsuri, at which people pray for good romantic relationships, are very popular these days.

Although I had heard of the film when my daughter said she wanted to see it, I wasn’t aware of the Shinto elements in advance, so that was a pleasant surprise. In addition, the animation and design are beautiful, the characters are interesting, and while the plot will not radically overturn the expectations you form from the trailer, it is solid and not completely predictable. As I said before, I highly recommend it.

I have a Patreon, where people subscribe to receive in-depth essays on various aspects of Shinto, about once per month. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a look.

2 thoughts on “Your Name”

  1. I could as well travel to Japan to see it as the USA, but with luck it will come to the UK also. Thank you for the recommendation.

  2. Pingback: Spirituality in Anime – Musubi, Twilight and Your Name – krisesandchrosses

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