Several fragments of a comet fall through the sky. Most of them won’t collide with Earth, but one breaks off and hurtles directly towards the town of Itomori. Soon, everybody there will be vanquished. The parents, the children, the teachers, the politicians, the businessmen will all be gone.
And that includes Mitsuha Miyamizu.
During these opening moments of Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), we don’t realize Mitsuha is going to lose her life. All we know is that Mitsuha and Taki Tachibana, despite not knowing each other and being miles away from one another, have somehow bonded over this celestial event that has captivated Japan. Together, they recite these opening lines:
“Once in a while when I wake up, I find myself crying. The dream I must have had I can never recall. But the sensation that I’ve lost something lingers for a long time after I wake up. I’m always searching for something, for someone. This feeling has possessed me I think from that day when the stars came falling. It was almost as if a scene from a dream. Nothing more, nothing less than a beautiful view.”
Immediately, Your Name opens with a cryptic, ambiguous scene—a trend that will continue throughout. Despite its charm, success, and visceral power, Your Name has a very convoluted story that’s difficult to grasp, that has left many wondering if it’s a mess of a movie that doesn’t work.
I’ve spent hours cycling through the questions people have posted about this movie, and yes indeed, there is PLENTY of crazy stuff to explain (which I’ll do) in this movie. But before I get into explaining the plot of Your Name, let’s remember that opening quote from Mitsuha and Taki and what it represents. Because understanding the movie’s intentions will help shape how we make sense of its complicated parts.
What is Your Name about?
I think it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the logic of Your Name’s narrative. Naturally, you want to pick apart every story development and plot hole to find out if the story’s foundation is sound. If a moment steps outside the movie’s logical structure? It triggers something in your brain. You start to focus on plot details, like how the Red String of Fate functions, or how Mitsuha’s and Taki’s realities could possibly intersect when they live three years apart, or how drinking kuchikamizake connects the two teenagers.
Essentially, you could become so enraptured with what all those elements represent on a rational level that we ignore the emotional core. So while many people on the Internet have attempted to explain the coherence of the plot, I think it’s essential to also include the human elements of the story. Like, what does this movie say about you and me? About the experience of finding love?
And our key insight into what Your Name is about? That quote from the beginning of the movie. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to two people who feel a connection to someone else…but don’t know who that someone is. There’s an emptiness both Taki and Mitsuha feel. There’s something missing. They are incomplete. They are, in that quote, expressing their desire to find their better half.
To find love.
Mitsuha and Taki’s description of what they feel when those comets fall through the sky isn’t specific, or logical, or definite—it’s ambiguous, and cryptic, and enigmatic. Love isn’t something you can explain, but it’s something you feel. And Your Name treats that feeling as an ethereal one. Love is not bound by space or time, but instead by the individuals who are inextricably connected no matter where they are.
I think this is an important mindset to have heading into a plot explanation of the movie. Because while all of the confusing plot elements of Your Name can be explained, I believe they gain power and even more meaning when we can connect those explanations to Mitsuha and Taki’s desire to find love—a feeling we can all empathize with.
A quick plot summary of Your Name
Part of the confusion people have with Your Name is it’s structure. Because Mitsuha exists three years behind Taki, and because the movie randomly jumps between those time periods, the story doesn’t flow in chronological order. Many times it can feel like Your Name is purposely leaving out information to trip you up.
But I PROMISE: all of the details are there. And I think the movie’s plot can be much better understood if we lay out all of its main components in chronological order.
Below is a timeline of the movie’s event in jpg form. You can use this for a bare-bones explanation of Your Name’s plot. I’ll also list all of this out in text form below the image if you’d rather read it that way.
The rest of the article will go into much more detail on each part of the timeline.
1. The First Comet Strikes
Hundreds of years ago, a comet struck Earth and created the lake that Itomori now rests upon.
2. Mitsuha’s Mother Passes Away
After the passing of Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s mother, their father becomes detached from them and engrossed with politics. Their grandmother takes over parenting.
3. Mitsuha Performs the Kuchikamizake Ritual
Mitsuha and Yotsuha perform a ritual and create kuchikamizake, which they offer to their god at a shrine. She wishes to be a handsome Tokyo boy.
4. Mitsuha’s Body Switch
Mitsuha randomly wakes up as Taki, who lives three years in the future. This switch continues on random days for several weeks.
5. Mitsuha Finds Taki
Mitsuha tracks Taki down in Tokyo. Before being pushed out of the train, she manages to throw her red yarn bracelet to him.
6. The Comet Strikes Again
A fragment of another passing comet strikes Itomori. Taki watches from afar, while Mitsuha is vanquished.
7. Taki’s Body Switch
Taki now randomly wakes up in Mitsuha’s body in an alternate timeline three years before she passes away.
8. Taki Learns About Itomori
Taki decides to go looking for Mitsuha. He learns that she was from Itomori, which was destroyed by the comet three years earlier.
9. Taki Visits the Shrine
Taki visits the shrine he remembers from his time in Mitsuha’s body. He drinks the kuchikamizake. He then goes back in time and wakes up in Mitsuha’s body on the day the comet is set to strike Itomori.
10. Taki Tries to Save Mitsuha
Taki enlists help from Mitsuha’s friends to get everyone out of Itomori before the comet strikes.
11. Taki and Mitsuha Meet
At “tasogare-doki”, a time of day when different worlds blur together, Taki and Mitsuha switch back to their bodies and meet at the shrine. Taki gives Mitsuha her red yarn bracelet back, severing their connection.
12. Mitsuha Saves Itomori
Mitsuha travels back to Itomori and saves almost everybody.
13. Taki and Mitsuha Forget
Because Mitsuha never passed away, she and Taki now exist in present day. But because Taki gave Mitsuha back her red yarn, they forget one another.
14. Years Pass
As the years go by, both Taki and Mitsuha can’t shake the feeling that something (or someone) is missing from their lives.
15. Taki and Mitsuha Find Each Other
Taki and Mitsuha pass by one another on the train. They feel a connection and chase after each other. Finally, they meet, and each ask for the other’s name.
A detailed plot summary of Your Name
Now we’ll go through each of those events in more detail. By thinking about the movie in chronological order—as opposed to the jumbled order we experience when watching Your Name—I think we’ll be able to find a lot of answers to a lot of questions.
Explaining what the first comet strike means
It’s important to start from the beginning—like, the very beginning. Hundreds (or maybe even thousands?) of years before Mitsuha and Taki existed, a comet struck Earth.
It could be that two different comets struck Earth at two different points in time, but I’ll assume that, based on what happens to present-day Itomori, that the first comet split into several fragments as well. One of those fragments created the lake that Itomori would one day rest upon, and the other established a crater that houses the Miyamizu Shrine.
Even though the first comet isn’t given much attention in the movie, I think it’s important to address that first comet, as I think it shares both a divine and a metaphorical connection with the future comet that will destroy Itomori.
Think of the first comet splitting into two parts as a severed connection between two people—this is a key metaphor for the love shared between Mitsuha and Taki. The bond those two comet fragments share creates an otherworldly link between the lake and the shrine, and Mitsuha and Taki must use that connection to save Itomori from the future comet.
Explaining the Miyamizu family’s spiritual abilities
Early in Mitsuha and her sister Yotsuha’s childhood, their mother Futaba passed away. We learn this later in the movie when Taki visits the shrine.
From Taki’s vision, we learn that the death of Mitsuha’s mother devastated Mitsuha’s father, Toshiki. Blaming himself for not being able to save her, he becomes detached from the Miyamizu family and its traditions. One of those traditions was visiting their god at the Miyamizu Shrine. In effect, he abandons the Miyamizu family, leaving his daughters to be cared for by their grandmother and Futaba’s mother, Hitoha.
We later learn from Hitoha that all of the women in Miyamizu family line have spiritual ties with random people (which explains the link Mitsuha shares with Taki). However, for both Hitoha and Futaba, those connections faded over time and eventually became hazy memories. Essentially, nobody has ever come as close to meeting their spiritual partner as Mitsuha came to meeting Taki.
This is interesting, because it raises the question: was Toshiki actually “the one” for Futaba? Was Toshiki the person she shared a spiritual connection with? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the person you share a spiritual connection with doesn’t have to be your “soul mate”, but instead someone you simply share a deep bond with.
More importantly, though, this reveals the film’s underlying obsession about the consequence of abandoning tradition. In Hitoha’s mind, respecting traditions and rituals are important, even when you don’t understand them. She breeds that attitude in Mitsuha, but is unable to have Toshiki carry on with the Miyamizu customs. So even if Toshiki was Futaba’s spiritual connection, the fact that he abandons Miyamizu traditions keeps him from re-establishing his connection with her—unlike Taki, who visits the Miyamizu Shrine and retains his connection with Mitsuha even after she passes away.
I think this information about the Miyamizu family exposes a celestial link between the first comet and the second comet. The first comet created the shrine that the Miyamizu family uses to pray to their gods. And in that shrine, the Miyamizu women perform a ritual where they leave “half” of themselves to the gods by creating kuchikamizake—a rice-based alcohol that uses human saliva as a fermentation starter. That other half then connects with someone else after you perform a ceremony.
This gives the Miyamizu family’s mystical abilities an actual purpose. These spiritual connections existed for generations so that, eventually, someone would be able to alert the Miyamizus about the second incoming comet (or at least some sort of future danger). This is why Hitoha wouldn’t allow Toshiki to tear Mitsuha and Yotsuha from family traditions—Hitoha understood the importance of leaving these customs intact. Which is why Hitoha has her granddaughters perform a ceremony where they make kuchikamizake and twine a red yarn thread.
Explaining the red yarn thread and the kuchikamizake ritual
During the ceremony where Mitsuha creates kuchikamizake, she dances with a piece of red yarn.
Mitsuha’s grandmother explained the significance of the red yarn that Mitsuha was twining just before the ceremony:
“Listen to the thread’s voice. When you keep twining like that, emotions will eventually start flowing between you and the thread. One thousand years of Itomori’s history is etched into our braided cords. Two hundred years ago, sandal maker Mayugoro’s bathroom caught on fire and burned down this whole area. That shrine and old documents were destroyed, and this is known as (The Great Fire of Mayugoro). So the meaning of the festivals became unknown and only the form lived on. But even if the words are lost, tradition should be handed down. That’s the important task we at Miyamizu Shrine have.”
A couple things to take away from that quote.
First, on a plot level, this information tells us quite a bit. The Miyamizu family used to know a lot more about their abilities, but everything was destroyed by The Great Fire of Mayugoro. Which means their “knowledge” has continued to pass down through the traditions and rituals they perform. So while the Miyamizu women have continued to experience spiritual connections with other people, they’ve never known what the connections mean or how to act upon them (which is why they eventually just become “hazy memories”).
It just so happens that the second comet strike occurs during the annual festival. To me, this means that the festival was always meant to serve as a warning of the second comet. Perhaps the festival took place on the anniversary of the first comet strike? Perhaps it was always known the second comet would strike, and that knowledge was passed down from generation to generation? Who knows. All we know is that that information was likely destroyed in the Great Fire.
And second, we gain some insight into Mitsuha’s character.
Her grandma says, “When you keep twining like that, emotions will eventually start flowing between you and the thread. One thousand years of Itomori’s history is etched into our braided cords.” Mitsuha forms some sort of ethereal connection with Itomori’s history when creating that thread. She becomes one with its past and its future—she becomes one with her home. And because she’s given the red yarn thread to Taki, she’s capable of maintaining this connection with her home even when she’s dead.
Building a life with someone means inviting them into your home, into your life, and then building a new home and life with them. So when she hands that thread to Taki later in the movie, she’s not just creating a spiritual link—she’s offering half of herself to someone she shares a bond with.
Ah, young love!
Explaining the logic of Mitsuha and Taki’s body switching
While performing the kuchikamizake ceremony, Mitsuha’s classmates make fun of her. Embarrassed, Mitsuha runs away from the ceremony and screams, “Please make me a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!”
Remember: the kuchikamizake represents “half” of Mitsuha, and the red yarn carries with it Mitsuha’s connection with Itomori. The ceremony then triggers the connection between Mitsuha and Taki. Because Taki is three years in the future when Mitsuha is dead, the body switching then becomes Mitsuha’s “next life.”
SIDE NOTE: A lot of questions have been raised about how Mitsuha never realized she was three years in the future, or how Taki never realized he was three years in the past. Of course it’s never explained in the movie, but I think there are plenty of simple explanations for why this happens:
- First and foremost, please remember: THEY ARE SWITCHING BODIES. That would make any normal person go insane…which makes me think you probably wouldn’t notice that the day you think it is (say, August 22, 2013) isn’t the day it actually is (August 22, 2016).
- To repeat a point from above: I don’t think it’s super unreasonable to never check what year it is? 2013 looks like 2016, if you ask me. I mean, how often do you see the current year printed somewhere, or have to write down the year? Maybe if you’re writing a check or something. But I don’t think it’s that crazy for neither Mitsuha or Taki—who are, once again, VERY DISTRACTED BY THE FACT THEY’RE IN ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY—to not really worry about if it’s the same year.
- One last point: what if they DID know they were three years apart? That’s never stated in the movie, but it also might not be relevant information to them. That would only be important to Taki if he knew Mitsuha was from Itomori (he didn’t), and if he knew Itomori had been destroyed by the comet (he didn’t).
SECOND SIDE NOTE: There’s also confusion about how Taki never realizes Mitsuha lives in a town called Itomori…I wish I had a good explanation for that one! Seems hard to defend. The only defense, I guess, is that body switching is a stressful event, and he had other things on his mind than checking what town he’s in?
Explaining how Taki restarts the body switching with Mitsuha
Even after the body switching ends (that’s why they both start crying when they wake up), Taki remembers Mitsuha. He can picture her face. He can sketch her hometown so well from memory that people recognize it as Itomori. Even though Mitsuha is dead, Taki’s connection with her remains—all because of that red yarn thread.
Remember: that thread carries with it Mitsuha’s connection with Itomori. So when Taki returns to where the town once stood, he knows to return to the shrine where Mitsuha left her kuchikamizake.
Also remember: Mitsuha created the kuchikamizake, but it was Taki in Mitsuha’s body that offered the kuchikamizake in the Miyamizu Shrine.
When Taki arrives at the shrine in Mitsuha’s body, Mitsuha’s grandma says:
“In exchange for returning to this world, you must leave behind what is most important to you—the kuchikamizake. You’ll offer it inside the god’s body. It’s half of you.”
So Taki isn’t leaving behind half of himself, but the half of Mitsuha that Mitsuha had created with the kuchikamizake. This is what severs his body switching days with Mitsuha.
But back in the future where Mitsuha is dead, Taki is in his own body when he visits the shrine and drinks the kuchikamizake. This re-establishes the body switching and allows Taki—who then inhabits Mitsuha’s body the day of the comet strike—to save Itomori.
I believe this to be a poignant commentary on love. Even when someone is gone…they’re never truly gone from your life. You remember how they move, how they talk, how they act. And I think that Taki’s passion for finding someone he shared such an intense bond with represents how that kind of love can transcend time and space.
Explaining how tasogare-doki allows Mitsuha and Taki to finally meet
The climactic moment of Your Name is when Taki and Mitsuha finally meet. You might wonder how their bodies are suddenly able to transcend time and space to meet in the same spot, but this meeting was actually set up much earlier in the movie.
The first day after the body switching, Mitsuha wakes up in her body with no recollection of the previous day. Everybody keeps talking about how strange she was acting. And while she’s trying to piece everything together, she looks down in her notebook and reads a message from Taki: “Who are you?”
In a movie called Your Name…I mean, c’mon. This is an important moment, right? It’s the first instance of Taki and Mitsuha trying to figure out who the other is. The question isn’t necessarily “What is your name?” but instead “Why have I formed this strange connection with you?”
It just so happens that while Mitsuha is reading this message from Taki, her teacher is explaining the meaning of “tasogare-doki”.
“‘Tasokare’ means ‘who is that’ and is the origin of the word ‘tasogare-doki’. Twilight, when it’s neither day nor night. When the world blurs and one might encounter something not human.”
She then has an interaction with a student that you may not have caught, or may not have thought much of—but it’s important:
Teacher: “Old expressions include ‘karetaso-doki’. Karetaso/Kawatare = Who is that and ‘karetaso-doki.’”
Student: “Question! Why not ‘kataware-doki’?”
Teacher: “Kataware-doki? I think that’s a local dialect. I’ve heard that Itomori’s elderly still use classical language. We’re in the boonies, after all.”
When Taki and Mitsuha finally meet, their bodies travel through time to finally converge in the same time and space. This occurs at twilight (aka tasogare-doki) when their worlds blur together. Even though they’re three years apart, the connection between the first comet and the second comet that destroyed Itomori has allowed for two different timelines to merge—the world with Itomori, and the world without Itomori.
And that interaction the teacher shared with the student shows that tasogare-doki has carried different translations with it throughout time. The old expression, kataware-doki, is a “classical” language, meaning it was a term used often by elderly members of the community.
So why would the term kataware-doki be so prevalent at one time? Remember: that term is a local dialect. And it was substituted for tasogare-doki, indicating it had a similar meaning: a combination of “who is that” and the time of day when worlds blur together. At one time, the idea of different timelines merging was so important to the people of Itomori that they created their own word for it.
But, again, everyone has forgotten about the term kataware-doki. I think this, once again, exposes the film’s underlying message about the importance of tradition. This is why Toshiki was never able to retain his connection with Futaba after she passed away like Taki was able to retain his connection with Mitsuha—Toshiki rejected tradition, while Taki embraced it. Toshiki refused to visit the shrine and carry the Miyamizu tradition, while Taki decided to visit the shrine and re-establish his spiritual link with Mitsuha.
The abandonment of the word “kataware-doki” is symbolic of the history of Itomori being abandoned, only leaving behind elderly’s grasp on tradition. Taki and Mitsuha’s embracement of tradition allows them to retain their connection, regardless of time or space.
With all that in mind, I think that because the documents contained in the Miyamizu Shrine were destroyed by The Great Fire of Mayugoro, the knowledge of the phrase went with it. That term lived on as long as it could through the generations, but now only the elderly even remember the term.
I assume the word was created because the Miyamizus once understood the importance of the spiritual connections they shared with others. They knew that the land where the first comets struck was sacred, so they built a shrine there and housed all of their documented beliefs there as well.
Remember my theory about the first comet? That it shares both a divine and a metaphorical connection with the future comet that will destroy Itomori. Just like Taki and Mitsuha, the past and future comets that will strike Itomori are bound together, regardless of space or time. Just like there is a link between the lake and the shrine, there is an unbreakable bond shared between two young people in love.
This gets at the title of the movie, and highlights the importance of the classroom scene when Mitsuha sees the message from Taki. The movie is not about two people finding out each other’s names—it’s about truly understanding someone else. When Taki writes his “name” in Mitsuha’s hand, he doesn’t actually write his name—he writes “I love you.”
Love is hard work and requires two people to invest in one another. So even when Taki gives Mitsuha back her red yarn thread and their memory of one another is severed…they never really forget one another, right? They have this feeling that the other is still out there. And at the end of the movie when they pass by each other on the train, they know something is there and chase after each other.
So in that final shot of the movie, when Mitsuha and Taki ask for each other’s name, what they’re really doing is starting their life together. It takes a lot of courage to invite someone into your life like that, and you only do it when you feel something special with that person.
In effect, the entire movie becomes a defamiliarization of finding your true soulmate. You never know the name of the person you’ll end up with—but you know the person, right? You know the kind of person that will make you happy, that will become your other half, that will complete you. All you need is the courage to finally invite them in when you find them.
Editor’s Note: If you have more questions about Your Name, or if you have a theory of your own, hit me up in the comments section!