Japanese Novel Review: 君の名は Your Name

 

Last year, I did not watch animated films often. I think that I didn’t have enough knowledge of anime to find movies that I would be interested in.

I remember when I first started hearing about the movie Your Name. I saw it mentioned a few times in the news about breaking records in ticket sales. I read articles that mentioned that people loved the movie so much that individuals were going to the movie theater multiple times to see it. Even then I didn’t really look into it. I just figured that it would be too new to be available in America. And the fact that anime fans saw it multiple times? My image of anime fans is that they watch their favorite series on repeat. So I didn’t really see the big deal about that either. But I was wrong, and now I am a repeat watcher of Your Name as well.

I started watching it with no prior knowledge of the story line. I really enjoyed the music and the scenery shown in the movie. I did not expect the plot twist at all and over all really enjoyed the movie! This movie inspired me to start looking into other animated films as well and I have found a few that I really enjoy.

I purchased Your Name at Kinokuniya in Chicago for 10.99. Kinokuniya also had copies of novels based off of other popular movies directed by Makoto Shinkai.

Story review:

For those who have yet to see the movie, here is a short summary.

This story is based around the relationship between Mitsuha and Taki. Mitsuha is a high school girl from a small country side town with limited opportunities. Her family owns a shrine and Mitsuha is expected to uphold traditions and preform ceremonies that no one remembers the exact reason for anymore. She wants to get out of her small town and movie to Tokyo and experience new things.

Taki is also a high school student, but he lives near Tokyo and lives with his father. He works a part time job to help support himself and pay for the expenses that come with hanging out one’s friends in a big city.

Both start having dreams of living a completely different person’s life. Mysteries things start happening and both Taki and Mitsuha cannot remember what happened the previous day. Their friends make fun of them for being so out of character. Due to the reaction of friends and notes that the two started leaving for each other, they find that their dreams were real and that they have been switching places. Despite making rules for each other to follow, each person tends to do their own thing while switched and they end up changing each others life for the better. They learn from each other and start to change the ways that they approach their own lives. One day, the switches suddenly stop and Taki goes on a journey to figure out why.

While the basic premise of the story line seems very basic and uninspired, the story telling style and plot twist take it to a new level. I really got into the story and felt myself encouraging the characters on until the finish.

I loved the idea of ‘Musubi’ and the way that they described the beliefs of their shrine. It did make me rethink how I see basic every day things such as eating or sharing drinking with a friend. Its a very romanticized view of time that I would like to start incorporating into my own life. It also made me feel there is somewhat of a magic to thread and repairing my clothes as become a more thoughtful experience.

The story is the same in both the movie and book, so I do like both forms of the media. But I do prefer the movie and I will get into the reasons why in the next section.

After watching the movie Weathering with You, I realized one point in the movie that I wasn’t able to connect with. While I find it a great story, I just don’t really understand the romance behind Mitsuha and Taki. I guess this is due to my own experiences in the real world, but I cannot imagine falling in love with someone that I had such little interaction with. While I am sure that they would be able to grow a deep understanding of the other from switching bodies, in my mind I do not see how that would lead to a romantic relationship. I felt more emotional about the relationship in Weathering with You because it felt so much more real and I was able to relate to the feelings of the two main characters.

My experience reading this book:

This was the second novel in Japanese that I was able to read until completion. I liked the writing style and was able to read the book in one week.

I did find myself a little bit unsatisfied with the contents of the novel. I guess my expectation is that the novel would add depth to the story line. While there were a few ideas that added elements to help the readers better understand the extent of the relationship between Mitsuha and Taki, the book overall felt fairly shallow.

But now that I know the nature behind novelization of movies, I think my expectations from this book were unfair. I think most fans would be happy reading this book despite what I see as too much story-line loyalty. I do have one more copy of a anime novelization by the same author, Weathering with You. I think this will be the last time that I purchase this type of novel.

But for the exact reasons behind why I did not fully like this novel, I the story line loyalty will make other readers excited about reading the book. Starting out reading books in another language is very challenging and intimidating. If you know the movie, you know the book. I think this will give a lot of Japanese language learners the confidence to tackle this book and read it to completion.

Level Preface


Just to give some background to my current level. I have been using Japanese for a long time now, but just decided somewhat recently to be more serious about gaining fluent literacy. This year I have finished reviewing over JLPT N2 materials and have started on N1. I am planning on taking N1 in July 2020.

Kadokawa Bunko(角川文庫) edition cover of Your Name

Vocab: N1-N2 student level

There are a few different versions of written media that were made based off of this movie. I will be focusing on the novel. As far as the novels go, there are two different types. I read the ‘normal’ publication, Kadokawa Bunko(角川文庫) which is made for adult readers. In this version, there is limited use of furigana, so you are expected to either know the readings of the kanji or to research the readings yourself. There is also the Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko(角川つばさ文庫版) publication. This publication is geared more towards younger readers and will give you the furigana over the words so that you will not have to look up any of the readings on your own. Both have the same story.

Both types of publications can be useful to language learners, so take the time to think about which one will suit your studies needs the best. I wrote an post explaining Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko(角川つばさ文庫版) publications over here if you are interested in doing some more research to find the best edition for you.

I came into this book expecting it to be an easy read, but I did find the vocabulary more changeling and worth while them I expected. The first chapter in this book was a bit of shock. It felt to me almost as if the author was using a thesaurus.

The dialog was relatively easy, but I did end up finding a lot of new terms in the descriptive areas of the book. The language was more flowery, choosing more poetic words over basic terms.

Based off of this authors writing style, the vocabulary repeat value in this book is low. So if you pick up and new words from this book, you might only see them being used once or twice as opposed to some authors that tend to reuse words in connection to certain themes in the plot line. Since many terms were not repeated often through out the book, so if you are looking to retain these words, pairing this book with SRS flashcards.

When I am writing reviews, I use the website jisho.org to look up a few of the words I found because it has JLPT ratings for some words. I found that a lot of the words I was looking up were labeled as N1. I try to look up unknown words whenever possible, and even with this I was able to get through the book at a good speed. I think N2 readers who have seen the movie shouldn’t struggle too much with this novel, but being at a N1 level would help reader understand the story without as much dictionary usage.

I don’t think I would say that the vocabulary in this book falls into any specific specialized subset. If there was any group of terms that stuck out to me, it might be Shintoism. But overall the vocab used in this book is very general, everyday terms.

Grammar: N2 student level

This book is written in first person, which is a good thing to look out for when picking a novel. First person perceptive novels tend to be more dialog heavy as opposed to description heavy which makes it easier to read. It also introduces language learners to phrases that they can use while speaking in everyday life.

Based off of what I saw while reading this book, I believe it would be a good choice for someone who have started working on N2. The are a good amount of N2 grammar points used, but I think students who have a good handle on N3 material should be able to understand the story line and use it as an introduction to new grammar points. Those at an N2 level, won’t find this book challenging grammar wise.

As anyone who has seen the movie would know, not all of the dialog in this book will be written in standard dialect. As far as dialects go, the one presented in this story is pretty basic. There are not very many local words that are incorporated into the story. The main area effected by with dialect is the conjugation of verbs. If you are familiar with the word, you should have an easy time trying to figure it out. While it is something that might be off putting at first for those who do not have experience with dialects, I think this would be a great first introduction. There are many dialects in Japan that reflect similar changes in verbs. If you are planning on taking your Japanese to an advanced level, this is something that you are going to have to be familiar with.

Cultural References

There are no references to current media personalities, music or other modern cultural topics. I don’t think you have to be too familiar with Japan before reading this book. Maybe just know that Shintoism is a traditional religion in Japan and this story partly takes place in a Shinto Shrine. Mitsuha was born into a family who has a long history of taking care of the local shrine in Itomori. Mitsuha and her sister are shrine maidens who play a role in preserving the shrine and taking part in traditional ceremonies. While Shintoism has a big part in Japan’s past, the story line in this book would seem more magical then religious to the average Japanese person as they tend to have a non-religious view point of the world.

The two main cities mentioned in this book are Tokyo and Itomori. Basically, you should know that Tokyo is the largest city in Japan and Itomori is a small lake-side city in the country. There are a few times references to famous areas in Tokyo are made, but I don’t think you need to be familiar with them in order to understand the story.

One interesting cultural point that the book touches on, but doesn’t go into is family names. In Japan, traditionally the wife will take her husbands last name. In this story, Mitsuha’s father actually took on his wife’s last name! In this instance, it is done in an extremely traditional Japanese way. While not discussed, it is likely that Futaba, Mitsuha’s mother, did not have an older brother to take on the family business. This left it open to Futaba’s family to take over and care for the Shrine for the next generation. In marriage, if the wife’s family has a well established business, or in this case a shrine, the man is considered adopted into the family and will take on the wife’s family name. There is even a word linked to this cultural practice, Mukoyoushi(婿養子), which means adopted son-in-law.

Who should read this book?

Anime fans who are at a N2 or N1 level and looking for a novel with a story line that they know well already.

This is not the best choice for a first novel.  But in the end, language learners should follow their heart.  If you want to read it, please buy it and read what you can regardless of your level.  Just do not feel disappointed if the book is difficult for you.

Due to the level of the vocabulary, I think the book overall might be difficult N3 level language learners. But I think it will be worth the challenge for most N3 level students if they really love the movie. I think fans will be able to push through any difficulties they face with this book.  But do not expect this book to be an easy read just because you have seen the movie.

Since this is a book based off of a movie and not the other way around, the plot line is extremely loyal to the movie. There are a few times where the author does introduce ideas that deepen the characters relationship to each other, those are few and far between. This might cause some readers to get bored with the book.

Length: Short

At 262 pages, I would consider this to be a short novel. The size will make it non-intimidating to beginnings and easy to carry around. It should not take too long to finish this book.

Related media:

The director and author of this book has other creations that fans might be interested in. His animated movies are also usually accompanied by a novel that is created in a similar style to 君の名は. I think it is worth it for fans to check out both the movies and novels if they find that this style of language learning works well with them. Here is a short list of a few examples of other movies from him that I have seen and enjoyed.

言の葉の庭
秒速5センチメートル
天気の子

I will also be adding a review of Weathering with You later on to this blog. I have not read it yet, but reading it to completion is one of my goals for this month.

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

3 thoughts on “Japanese Novel Review: 君の名は Your Name”

  1. Thank for your insights and review on this novel. I do love the movie and watched it more than once too but I don’t know if I would buy the novel to read because I thought the novel would be more detail into the character, their thoughts which may not be able to show in an anime film but reading your review, I am still undecided whether I should buy or not. Hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s hard to decide what books to invest time and money into! I thought the same thing, I wanted to know more about their relationship or friends or something! Yes, if you are looking for a novel with extra information I think this one might bore you. The extra information provided in the book is not what I would label as depth.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s