|Kimi no na wa (Your Name)
|Kimi no na wa (Your Name)
|June 10, 2015
Review: The dazzling panoply of Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie, Kimi no na wa (Your Name), spares no expense in leaving you in awe by the impeccable visuals and invested in the characters and narrative that grows bigger with each passing minute. All of those aforementioned elements are mesmerizing. I sat there spellbound by what the movie delivered. And yet, Your Name‘s music felt like an afterthought; when I got up to leave the theater, I couldn’t remember a single note.
No, I’m not talking about “Sparkle” or “Zenzenzense” or any of RADWIMPS’s other songs. Those I’ll talk about later. It’s the background music that really bothers me. For a director who’s built a sterling reputation for tying together the music with the visuals and story, calling Your Name utterly unmemorable is pretty damning. Ask me about Voices of a Distant Star, 5 cm/sec, or even Garden of Words and I’ll readily whistle a tune from any of those productions with ease. Ask me to do so with Your Name and I’ll blank out.
Based on what RADWIMPS’s Yojiro Noda delivered, his focus lay squarely upon the pop rock fare scattered throughout the movie. Your Name‘s background music becomes a casualty, an unremarkable slush of mediocrity. The first few tracks aren’t bad. I found “Mitsuha’s Commute’s” cheery string section striking quickly like a wake-up call to my liking, enjoyed “Itomori Highschool’s” unwieldy meanderings in its depiction of the day to day, and loved how “Their accident’s” pop rock chords charged forth to command my attention with its optimism, seizing life with gusto. The other noteworthy track, “Theme of Mitsuha” (and the accompanying “Date” tracks), lets the piano take the reins and weave together a quiet, nostalgic melody that grows more hopeful as the piece proceeds. Together, these pieces capture the film’s blossoming emotions and I don’t have a problem with them, by and large.
Where Your Name struggles is in the remaining tracks that, yes, suffice in capturing the emotions on screen, but doing so in such a way as to be nondescript. “Object of Worship” more than fits that complaint, with a dreary melody that’s repetitive to the extreme, without the kind of development that would stir the soul. “The Town that Disappeared” falls into the category of ethereal, otherworldly fare that’s pure atmosphere, with no melodic heft to make it memorable. “Kuchikamizake Trip” is also too atmospheric for its own good, with the repetitive harmony sparking the tension in a way that comes across as having been phoned in. While it echoes Taki’s desperation, it’s just not an interesting piece outside its context.
When the majority of the tracks falls into uninspiring aural blah, Your Name‘s soundtrack needs something to lift it out of its self-inflicted melodic doldrums. Its savior comes in the form of RADWIMPS’s songs. From the way they turned out, Yojiro Noda is far more proficient and interested in nailing the movie’s pop-rock flavor than penning immersive, memorable BGM.
For instance, “Dream Lantern’s” opener piques at your curiosity with RADWIMPS’s pleasant, longing delivery. The mood doesn’t stay static; the song’s emotional reach opens up with a wave of energy that charges forward with abandon, surging its way into a grand adventure! “Zenzenzense” takes “Dream Lantern’s” lingering energy and turns it into a ball of fiery determination that reaches beyond the boundaries of time and space. Its relentless energy is a joy to behold and I’ve no qualms with labeling this the catchiest anime song of 2016.
As the movie winds down, “Sparkle” comes in to provide a sharp contrast to all the energy that preceded it. The song opens softly and RADWIMPS’s delivery gives it the feeling of a bittersweet ending. So while the song has its heartening moments, the longing, nostalgic tones flawlessly capture two souls, separated by the rivers of time and space, bidding each other goodbye at twilight’s confluence. Last, but not least, the album closes out with “Nandemonaiya” which appropriately evokes a sense of finality. While a hint of grief circulates its way through the lyrics, RADWIMPS ends the song on fittingly wistful notes that leaves a satisfying aftertaste.
For all the praise heaped upon Kimi no na wa (Your Name), none of that will be on account of the largely dull and forgettable BGM. While the strength of the soundtrack lies in the mix of energy and heartfelt moments in its pop-rock songs, RADWIMPS’s Yojiro Noda never makes full use of those motifs to tie the package together. Arrangements in the vein of “Katawaredoki” (an arrangement of “Dream Lantern”) would have gone a long way, but alas, alack. That they didn’t exploit them is puzzling and the result is somewhat maddening, making Your Name‘s musical execution a tremendous missed opportunity.