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Trans Allegories in Film: 'Your Name' (2016)

Our protagonists perform as the opposite gender while still preserving the parts of their personalities that makes themselves who they are.

PX (1982)

5 / 5
4 / 5

Supernatural stories of transformations are usually the strongest contenders for trans allegories. But director Makoto Shinaki’s Your Name is practically literal instead of allegorical. It tells the story of two teenagers, Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu. Mistuha is a girl who lives in the rural town of Itomori but wants to be in a big city like Tokyo. She feels stuck in Itomori, and prays for a different life. Taki is a boy in Tokyo who is pursuing his high school studies and working part time to cover rent and living expenses. Due to some inexplicable reason, one day Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body and Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body. Over time, the two figure out a means of communication in the form of notes, phone memos, and even marks on their bodies. Then one day, Taki notices a beautiful meteor which splits into two parts on its way down, and ever since, he no longer switches bodies with Mitsuha. Confused, he ventures out in search of Mitsuha, using the sketches of Itomori he has drawn from memory to help find the place, because he doesn’t know its name. After a lot of days of seemingly aimless wandering, he finally finds out that a meteorite fell on Itomori three years ago, killing its residents. Realizing they had been connected across different timelines, he makes a desperate attempt to connect to Mitsuha by drinking the offering made at the Itomori shrine. When he finally sees Mitsuha again, this time in her body, he is able to warn her about the festival and they save Itomori. But unfortunately, Taki and Mistuha no longer remember each other’s names.

The story of Your Name isn’t directly a trans allegory, and at the end of the day, it is a very cishet romance which drives the story forward. But the experience of finding yourself in a body of the opposite gender is impossible to not interpret as a transgender story. Mistuha and Taki are both quite taken aback when they first switch bodies, and just like you’d expect an adolescent boy to do, Taki’s first response to finding himself in Mitsuha’s body is touching her chest. In fact, most of the potential of the story to explore the transgender experience goes away in genitalia humour, but even then, the film serves as a source of solace for some trans fans. Even though it’s played for jokes most of the time, the prospect of finding a different body is an encouraging story for trans people. It’s something most transgender people, especially those who suffer from body dysmorphia, dream of. The initial trepidation that both Taki and Mistuha feel when they realize they’re in a different body is something that people suffering from body dysmorphia feel when they’re in their own body. But the film also presents the phenomenon as a prospect. A prospect of finding a new body and understanding how it works and adjusting to it. A different body in which what you think are your strengths can actually flourish even more. Both Taki and Mitsuha’s social lives improve when the other is in their bodies.

They’re both initially annoyed when the other’s personality changes their lives, when Taki makes Mitsuha popular at school and Mitsuha finds Taki a date, but as their bond develops, they grow fonder of each other and one relies on the other’s strengths to help them out when they can. The way their friendship forms over time could also feel like forming a healthy relationship with your body. Moreover, even if it’s mainly the source of body humour, the protagonists do consistently live in gender-swapped bodies, so an actual trans experience unfolds on screen. Taki’s traditionally masculine personality expressing itself through Mitsuha’s body is a sight to behold. She’s known to be a timid girl, but he brings a flamboyance to her and makes her popular at school. On the other hand, Taki is often quite obnoxious and definitely disorganized. So Mitsuha’s orderliness and empathy makes him a better friend and co-worker when she inhabits his body. The film actually explores the performative nature of gender, which Judith Butler introduced in her iconic work ‘Gender Trouble’ because the protagonists are literally performing as the opposite gender while still preserving the parts of their personalities that makes themselves who they are!