An unnecessarily deep analysis of the string motif in Kimi no Na wa
I really need to write about this.
Written on the spot. Some research might be nice but aint nobody got time for that. Also I’ve only watched it once so my memory might be dodgy.
Please note this is primarily an analysis for my own personal enjoyment, not a review. Also the views in it are purely my thoughts and opinions
Kimi no na wa is a friggin amazing movie. Beautiful artwork and solid characters aside my favourite thing about the movie is its brilliant storytelling. And I am going to deconstruct it through the string motif rn because I feel like it.
The plot for Kimi no Na wa is basically the red string of fate, but reimagined and extrapolated in a very creative way. The red string of fate connects two individuals and brings them together romantically but here it is not only geographical boundaries that are transcended, but time itself. String itself takes on multiple meanings within the context of the film. This is summed up best by Mitsuha’s grandmother’s quote, which I cbf looking for rn. Rather than string, though, the emphasis is on the term “musubi"結び. The term we use for knotting thread also means connecting/linking/binding. You can also use it to refer to tying up your hair or fastening something. It also means the end. This (conveniently) flexible term is the basis for the whole story and you see this in almost every aspect of the movie.
The start of the movie is a bunch of events told in a pretty confusing layout. In addition to the main characters swapping bodies, some of the events aren’t even in chronological order. This was evidently intentional, not only for dramatic purposes but I believe also for structural reasons.
The film is set out like a bunch of loose threads starting with seemingly unrelated events: There’s a rare comet appearing in the sky; Mitsuha and Yotsuha make kuchikamizake; Mitsuha and Taki swap bodies…But as the film progresses, just like the weaving of individual strands to make a cord, the pieces start to come together. I think the moment this truly becomes evident is right after Taki drinks the kuchikamizake. This is also the moment Taki and Mitsuha’s worlds truly intertwine.
Mitsuha making kuchikamizake binds a part of her soul to the sake. Mitsuha and Taki swapping bodies are a spiritual connection. This act binds their timelines together. The foundations of human relations, most notably love, is also based on the same concept. The film takes the motif of string and layers it through the connections of multiple events through musubi.
But what I feel truly makes this film brilliant from a storytelling perspective is the creativity employed in extrapolating this motif, especially in regards to the comet and the hairstyles.
The way I see it there are actually only two things that connected Mitsuha and Taki before the body swap. One is the comet. Three years ago Taki witnessed the comet that killed Mitsuha with his own eyes. The other is Mitsuha’s hair cord which is something like a time paradox. Mitsuha went to Tokyo to meet with Taki three years before he knew her. She hands him the cord in her hair and dies the next day but Taki kept her cord wrapped around his wrist for three years.
I’m going to start with the comet which is actually quite a complex symbol. I think everyone will interpret it differently so here’s my personal take.
My initial impression of the comet was something like a shooting star, because it granted Mitsuha’s wish to be reborn as a "handsome Tokyo boy”. Before watching the movie I thought the body swapping would be a miracle only possible while the comet was visible. When Taki and his senpai went to the Nostalgia exhibition at the museum on their date, they saw an aged photo of Itomori. That was my hint that Mitsuha was from the past. I didn’t expect them to be only three years apart though. I thought they would be a literal lifetime apart but then romance would have been near impossible without some bs miracle. Suffice to say, there was no miracle. Instead there was a goddamn tragedy.
The film’s explanation for the body swapping was that it was all to prevent this one disaster. Tbh that sounds a bit too far fetched for me. Instead I like the interpretation of the comet as an extension of the string motif.
When Taki learns the truth he attempts to turn back time by drinking the kuchikamizake. What follows is my favourite scene in the whole movie and it starts with a wall painting of the comet turning into a piece of string. With the visual connection I could then see the metaphorical connection. The comet is another form of binding the two main characters. The comet is closely tied to Mitsuha’s ‘world’ but Taki also witnessed the comet the day she died. Thus their worlds were connected. From a romantic standpoint the comet allowed two individuals to transcend time to be together (red string of fate parallel). But by killing Mitsuha the comet also destroyed the relationship it brought about. I think we can connect this to how the town of Itomori was made from a comet a thousand years ago but another comet ends up destroying the town and killing Mitsuha. Because of this I personally also think the comet represents time. Destroying what is created is basically time itself. Time is musubi. (Additionally, by overcoming the comet i.e. saving the town, the main characters overcome time and can finally be together, because Mitsuha’s lifespan is extended. You can see this as another take on the red string of fate.)
Mitsuha is metaphorically and spiritually saved by a string. I think it is important that in the timeline where she dies she is not wearing the cord in her hair, because she gave it away to Taki who she met in Tokyo the day before and who does not remember her. Her cut hair has multiple meanings. Originally I thought it was a sign of her giving up on Taki because he went on the date with his senpai (Tessie associates haircuts to breakups and I do too, at least in anime). Then I realised she cut it after she went to meet Taki and found out he didnt recognise her. While the “breakup” haircut interpretation still stands, ultimately I think she feels betrayed which is why she gives up the one thing she believes in, her connection to him, represented by the cord. This also becomes linked to her name, which she shouts at him as she leaves the train after throwing him the cord. If I were to continue with the red string anecdote, this is where the string is cut, fate abandons the couple and Mitsuha dies.
But it is the same string that saves her. Because Taki kept it for three years and it is how he remembers her even if he doesnt know her name. Once he learns she dies everything from her diary entries on his phone to her name in his memories disappears. But the cord doesn’t. And he passes this cord to short hair Mitsuha when they finally meet at twilight.
I’m going to digress for a bit to explain why I find this scene so important. The only time Mitsuha does not have the cord in her hair is when she is sleeping, performing the ceremony, the first time she swaps bodies with Taki, and of course right before she dies. The cord is a very obvious symbol of musubi. I also think the fact it changes form throughout the film is important. At the start when Mitsuha wears it she always puts her hair in a complicated bun with the cord in it. When she swaps bodies with Taki who cant make complicated hairstyles he changes the form of the cord by wearing it in a ponytail (though initially he did not wear it at all and made Mitsuha looked “possessed”). The hairstyle was an instant way to tell who was in Mitsuha’s body, and also became a representation of their relationship.
The cord starts to change forms drastically when the pair’s relationship takes a nosedive the day before Mitsuha dies. She takes it out of her hair and the cord changes from a hairtie to a wristband/bracelet. The form of “musubi” changes, from “doing up one’s hair” to a spiritual connection between the two. This is one way Mitsuha manages to live on, because just like the kuchikamizake, the cord is a part of her soul now.
Taki returns Mizuha’s cord when they finally meet. She has cut her hair but wears the cord as a hair decoration anyway. The red string is restored and its changed form represents a new step in their relationship. Throughout the film Taki and Mitsuha have had to compromise on each others’ lifestyles. Mitsuha’s new appearance seems to be a culmination of this: the boyish haircut coupled with the hair cord. She also gains Taki’s courage, seen when she confronts her father in a very similar way Taki did in her body previously. (Taki also experiences a similar change but it is not as pronounced. As far as I know he just got “kinder”.) This is musubi because their two souls have actually intertwined. From a romance perspective, I guess this is how couples change each other for the better.
And what happens after is classic red string of fate. Interestingly Mitsuha’s final hairstyle is a half ponytail. Analysing any farther would actually be overkill though so I’m just going to leave it as a design choice.
I don’t think I’ve conveyed even one tenth of what I actually wanted to say about the film. It’s so rich in symbolism just analysing it in my head was a ton of fun. Best film I’ve ever watched in my life. Definitely want to watch it again.