‘Member her name? Pepperidge farm remembers.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m no fan of Makoto Shinkai’s work. I’ll admit that I haven’t related to any of his characters or works which people have said is why. Even so, I shouldn’t have to relate to anything in a film to like it. Good characters/plot/story are good characters/plot/story. While Shinkai’s projects seems to be liked by a lot of people, they’re still a more limited appeal compared to a standard good action anime or movie. I’ll never take anything away from his directing style and animation/art quality of his projects, both of which stand out. If you like his works because of those aspects, I agree. I just think he’s a bad writer. Garden of Words was the one I liked most not that it was anything spectacular. I REALLY didn’t like 5 Centimeters Per Second… The line to tell me that “You just didn’t get it” or “You didn’t watch it correctly” starts over there.
The movie has an opening sequence straight out of any anime with scenes that weren’t in the movie itself. This was a really odd choice… Why does a movie need this? There’s no narration, no dialogue, and no progression. It’s literally an opening sequence. This movie has two songs by the same group/people. Including the end credits, these songs were used five times together. I couldn’t tell you which was which but that’s a little excessive. I guess someone really wanted to shill these guys.
Our main characters are really bland. It’s hard to say they’re unlikable because there’s nothing to like or hate about them. Time is spent giving us the girl’s (Mitsuha) family situation and some flashbacks for insight. Are they integral to her character? No. Does the film utilize these in any way? No. Why? Why did the audience need to sit through these scenes then? What we have here as a result is an incomplete character. The boy (Taki) works in a restaurant and is REALLY good at drawing buildings and landscapes which is random for a high schooler. Do they explain why he has this skill/interest? No. Is there anything else to this guy? No. In his case, we don’t even have a semblance of a character much less an incomplete one.
This is a problem because this is a love story, right? It’s hard to buy a romance when I don’t understand anything about them as people and can’t describe their characters. If we cut the romance out, the movie wouldn’t suffer for it. I would’ve been fine if through the film’s events they became super best friends with a common goal and it’s up to the audience to imagine if they’d end up together in the nonexistent epilogue. It’d be better to focus on the main event if the romance angle isn’t done well. As it is, I have to believe they’re in love because the film needs me to, not because I genuinely do.
This tried to be two things: a body switch story and a film with a somewhat exciting climax. While they aren’t incompatible with each other here, neither are fleshed out properly. For one, our leads don’t really care that they’re swapping bodies. They don’t try to figure out why this is happening or try to stop it. You’d think either would be priority #1 in any body swap story. The only reason I can think of for this omission is that figuring this out would spoil the “long distance” angle which ends up being a plot hole and more bad writing. The audience never finds out why this happened either. Instead the film spends time on boring philosophical and religious jargon that as far as I can tell wasn’t integral to understanding the film’s events. They’re there to pretend this movie is deeper than it is and to force in a macguffin that makes the impossible possible when really “A wizard did it.” They should’ve spent this time on the characters/romance. This might be where you say “You didn’t watch it correctly” and/or “You just didn’t get it”.
Speaking of an impossible possibility, the climax hangs on Mitsuha convincing her father to do something. The first try with Taki in Mitsuha’s body fails horribly. It wasn’t because Taki was in her body either. It was established earlier on that the father’s a butthole. Mitsuha herself tries later and *SPOILER ALERT*, it turns out that she was able to do it… offscreen. That’s just sloppy writing. I guess Shinkai couldn’t figure out how Mitsuha did it either but the plot required her to, so she did.
This could’ve been a character arc for Mitsuha where her history ties into standing up to her father and he realizes the error of his ways. Nah… then she might be interesting. It takes me out of it when there’s such a glaring omission of something that should obviously be here but isn’t to keep the climax result a mystery which is more bad writing. By the way, the aftermath was ridiculous. Nobody died from that? Even if Mitsuha convinced her father, there was enough time for EVERY PERSON to make it out alive? That’s the biggest coincidence I’ve ever seen in my life.
I can’t say this is a bad movie. It really is the best of Shinkai’s that I’ve seen. However, it’s clear that it’s not as good/strong as it could’ve been because of the writing incompetencies. With the careless plot holes that require you to ignore/forgive them, unbelievable romance between bland and poorly handled characters, EXTREMELY convenient offscreen climax, and mistaken priorities, this gets a 7/10. I was entertained for most of it but as good as this film looks, bad writing stands out to me more.