Awkward Anime Episode 8.1: Kimi No Na Wa - The Red Thread of Fate
Director Makoto Shinkai was asked on numerous occasions when promoting his 2016 phenomenon Kimi No Na Wa about
the inspiration behind the unusual connection of Mistuha and Taki,
answering each time with the inclusion of a phrase that peaked my
interest: The Red Thread of Fate.
“In Japan, there is always this talk about the red thread of fate that links two people together and that is where the idea came from.”
The Red Thread of Fate is an East Asian belief originating from China which says that the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles of those that are destined to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. We see a red thread or cord as a massive symbol of the connection between the two timeline-crossed lovers throughout the entire film, yet there is never a need to explain the meaning behind this.
There was no need in delving into this as the people of Japan are aware of this belief in which the myth says that everyone’s pinky finger is tied to an invisible red thread or string that will lead him/her to another person with whom they will make history. Unlike the Chinese, the belief among the Japanese people is that this red thread is not limited to couples and that the two people will have an important story regardless of the time, place or circumstances.
Makoto Shinkai made sure that this connection was indeed the main plot as he has stated on many occasions about how “The main theme here is these two people have met and then meet again at the end”. Yet the additions of the comedic body-swapping and the “once every 100 year” comet was just as important as the main theme. These three elements make this into truly a remarkable film.
The flawlessly animated skies with the comet seemingly running across the horizon was a perfect way for Shinkai to tell of the connection between Mitsuha and Taki. As the animated feature rolls on, we see skies lit up with stars to emphasise the effect of this natural phenomenon, but we know that it was indeed a method for showing the braided ties which links our two main characters.
According to the Chinese Legend of the red thread of fate, the deity in charge of the red thread is believed to be Yue Xia Laoren(Yue Lao), the old lunar matchmaker God, who is in charge of marriages.
Strings are resembled from the shooting stars, a deliberate method by the Writer turned Director to symbolise the linked teenagers. The main focus from the start of writing in 2014 was the connection between the protagonist and romantic interest and every element that was put forward in this animated feature were cleverly used plot devices, from the body-swapping to the natural disaster.
Makoto Shinkai did confirm that the 2011 Earthquake in Japan was where the idea of using the comet as a blockbuster element originated from. While doing research in early 2014, he discovered that the specific Earthquake to hit Japan in 2011 is said to come approximately every 100 years. The story teller wanted that something to really enhance the plot and keep the audience on the edges of their seats.
“I thought that that a regular natural phenomenon could be the narrative tool I needed to tell the story”
All of these elements produce to me not a romance, but that of a story where one desires a certain life, that feeling of being in a normal town with normal friends and a normal family. Though what is normal? By saying “normal” I do not mean at all a “perfected” lifestyle where everything you dream of is your reality. We humans wander through life working and striving for something. That something, is familiarity. The feeling of yeah, this is my simple life and it’s natural.
Mitsuha throwing her red thread to Taki on the train clearly shows the dedication Director Makoto Shinkai put into researching to create a masterpiece. The circumstances of the main characters challenge the strength of that bond fate created. Time passes, personalities change and grow, but the one and indeed only one constant, is that Red Thread of Fate. The labyrinth of encounters and shared stories the two go through to only always be a thread away from each other.
“This is a story centred around the romance of Taki and Mitsuha, I wanted a symbol that connected the two of them.”
Please share if you enjoyed this analysis and remember to eat those tiny trees!
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