Recently Mitsuha Miyamizu hasn’t acted herself. For friends and family it’s obvious that something has changed in her behavior—leading to worries about the teen being possessed by a fox. The truth is even stranger: Mitsuha’s body is being periodically possessed by a teen boy from Tokyo, Taki Tachibana. For those familiar with the original Your Name, this story weaves the greater picture of the town and people in it leading to those events.
Your Name Another Side: Earthbound is a single-volume sequel to Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, and contains four short stories from the perspective of multiple characters. It was written by Arata Kanoh and features illustrations by Masayoshi Tanaka and Hiyori Asahikawa. Yen On released the book in November 2017, with English translation by Taylor Engel.
Although the first novel for this film was written by Makoto Shinkai himself, that doesn’t mean that the author Arata Kanoh is an outsider to the work. Kanoh worked on the script development for the original film, and has also previously written the novelizations of Shinkai’s films (5 Centemeters Per Second: One More Side and Voices of a Distant Star). Unlike the first, which was a straight adaptation of the movie script with negligible changes, this book contains four short stories about the oddly-behaving Mitsuha that was omitted from the film itself.
I made mention in my review for the first novel that it was a purposeful choice by Shinkai to focus on Mitsuha’s time in Tokyo living as Taki—giving her the freedom she had always wanted outside of her life and responsibilities in Itomori. Now, we finally get to see Taki’s struggles with living the life of a shrine maiden in small-town Japan, with years of tradition and notoriety influencing her position. There’s humour throughout the book, as expected whenever body-swap fish-out-of-water hijinx happens in media, but the core themes of expectation, inheritance, grief and acceptance all work to make this a serious addition to the franchise.
The first story is from Taki-inside-of-Mitsuha himself, as he struggles to understand the girl who he’s regularly switching with. Aside from the expected boob humor and his unsuccessful attempts at fastening bras, the main focus of the story is when Taki notices a discrepancy between the reserved, mature girl that her classmates see; and the flustered, over-the-top hysterical girl of the diary entries he’s been left. It makes him question who she really is, which self is her real self—and whether his influence in her life has changed (or realized) something fundamental in both of their personalities. It’s fun to see some of the comedic moments of gender difference in this that we never did in the film, and the moonwalking is something I never knew I needed until it happened. It’s a strong start to the collection as a whole, introducing the cause of Mitsuha’s odd changes and giving Taki the chance to learn about the people of Itomori as well.
The second story of the book is from the point of view of Tesshi, Mitsuha’s male childhood friend. Like her, he’s expected to inherit the family business once he becomes old enough, living with the knowledge that his life is inexplicably rooted to Itomori. It’s interesting to see his perspective on how if he can’t escape the responsibilities of his family’s business, that he’ll change the town as much as he can for the better. Starting with the building of wooden furniture as an outdoor cafe, we can see how much he wants to shake free of the tired cycle of building the towns foundations, and then building the support for the mayoral election. His relationship with his father is understandably strained, supplemented with the introduction to an odd “older brother” character who seems like both the needed source of rebellion and a bad influence every teen boy needs. It also gives context to why he so readily accepted Mitsuha’s plan of destruction and evacuation in the lead up to the summer festival. It’s a nice look in to the friends the teen girl has relied on throughout her life and the events of the book and film.
The third story is of Mitsuha’s sister Yotsuha, who is witnessing herolder sister’s changes first hand and trying to find the cause— possibilities include: a secret boyfriend, undue teenage stress and having the ice cream she was saving eaten. There’s more focus on boobs in this chapter as well (perhaps expected, considering how often the younger girl found her sister groping her chest), but the most intriguing thing is how she explains Mitsuha’s personality. Yotsuha describes the older girl as unreliable and sort of spacey—the kind of girl you’d find napping in the middle of the afternoon, and lazy to get out of bed. It’s a stark difference from the upset worries of the girl messaging Taki to not change too much of her life, or the proudly put-together honor student and shrine maiden she’s seen as by the town (and the narrative itself). As an audience we hadn’t been made aware of this personality up until now, and its curious to see all the conflicting impressions Mitsuha makes on the people around her. There’s also a part where Yostuha goes into her own dreaming adventures thanks to sneaking a sip of her mouth-chewed sake—projecting far into the past and the Miyamizu family traditions—that makes you wonder on the possibilities of the sisters’ roles as shrine maidens.
Finally is the story of Toshiki Miyamizu, former folklore researcher and shinto priest, estranged father and current mayor. It’s the longest story of the book, and gives the most supplemental context to the family dynamic of the Your Name story. Watching the growth of his relationship with Futaba, the former heir to the Miyamizu shrine, to his grief-stricken dedication to local politics after her death. It gives us greater understanding to the motivations behind choices he had made up until this point, and his involvement in the final stages. Within the film Toshiki is a hard character to sympathise with, having left his daughters and the greater Miyamizu family behind after the death of his wife, but Kanoh manages to give this seemingly unreasonable and unlikable character greater dimension. It hits especially hard in this story seeing his wish to give his daughters opportunities outside of the town—university, whatever career they wished to pursue, a life outside of the traditions and expectation—and it draws parallels to Mitsuha’s own personal struggles with her place in the town. She and her father are more similar than they realize. Whilst the other stories work well to build from the premise and characters introduced in Your Name, this is the one that recontextualizes the story into something more; expanding it in a meaningful way.
Your Name — Another: Earthbound is a interesting addition to the immensely popular story of the original. Whilst some stories are more necessary than others, each work to give more life to the people of Itomori—including Mitsuha herself—and thus a much more human element to the following events. If you are a fan of the film or previous novel, this works perfectly as a supplement to the original—not a sequel or expansion on events we’ve already seen, but small explorations to what was left unseen or unexplained.
Gee’s Rating: Recommended
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