Book Review: your name. The Official Visual Guide

Authors: Makoto Shinkai

Translator: Taylor Engel

Publication Date: 2016 (2021 English ed.)

Publisher: Yen Press

Pages: 128 pages

Hello again everyone! I hope you’re all having a good summer. For the final article of the season, I’ve prepared another book review; this is one of my more recent acquisitions, the companion to Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 smash hit, Your Name (or more properly, your name.). This self-described “Visual Guide” to the film is a slim and brightly coloured volume not much thicker than a magazine, but it’s still quite informative despite its unassuming size.

Shinkai #1

After a few opening pages containing Mitsuha’s voiceover monologue from the start of the film, the book kicks off with a “Visual Story” section, which lays out the entire story of the film complete with illustrations. Now, I know I normally criticise art books for wasting space on sections like this, but I will admit that it’s somewhat useful in this case, given how complicated this particular story is. Still, it might have been nice to have a bit more concept artwork mixed into this section; as I’ve said before, if I wanted to see images from the finished film – I could just watch it! Anyway, at the end of the section, we get a page explaining some of the story’s sources of inspiration, which I also discuss in my own review of the film.

Shinkai #2

The next part is called “Special Cross Talks”, which consists of a pair of interviews conducted by Mizuo Watanabe, the film’s official publicity writer. The first one is with lead actors, Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi, who discuss their characters, the nuances of their performances, and the film’s themes. That is followed by one with director Shinkai himself, who is joined once again by Kamiki. They’re all very sweet, full of praise for each other and even getting rather starstruck, and in his discussion of the film, Shinkai touches upon the frequent comparisons made between him and other contemporary directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda.

Next, we have a further selection of interviews with the film’s creative personnel, starting again with Shinkai. Speaking with interviewers Watanabe, Hitomi Wada or Motoki Kurata, we hear from animation director Masashi Ando, character designer Masayoshi Tanaka, musicians RADWIMPS, and script assistant / author of the spinoff novel, Arata Kanoh. This is the most interesting part of the book by far, making the long wait for a translation worthwhile. All sorts of little details about the production process are covered, and while it’s not an exhaustive account by any means, it’s certainly well worth reading for any Shinkai fan.

Mixed into this section are a Tokyo location map, which compares some of the film’s set pieces with their real-world counterparts (I love this section, having done a similar comparison in my review), and a brief section where Kurata and Mikio Shuto visit the studio during production, complete with behind-the-scenes shots of the artists at work. We also get a page about the initial project proposal, which shows us that certain details – such as the names Mitsuha and Itomori – were in place from the beginning.

Shinkai #3

Now we come to the book’s art section, naturally the highlight of any Shinkai companion. It begins with a character guide decorated with a height comparison sketch – apparently, Tessie is the tallest member of the cast! Taki, Mitsuha, Okudera, Hitoha, Yotsuha, Tessie, Saya, Tsukasa, Shinta, the fathers, the classmates and even the ramen shop couple are all given a little space and sketch work in the following pages, with some of the major players accompanied by a word from their voice actors. It’s an engaging section, yet all too brief, an issue it shares with the next section.

This last part of the book deals with the art design of the locations and props, and there is also a breakdown of some storyboards which discuss all the individual elements of the film that must be accounted for within them. Of course, this part would not be complete without including a selection of Shinkai’s famously luscious backgrounds, although most are rather small. Frankly, I would have loved to see the art section expanded into a whole book (I am aware of A Sky Longing for Memories), or at least have the “Visual Story” section condensed to make room for more artwork in this one. In particular, there’s a distinct lack of concept work – I love to see how animated films evolve.

The book closes with the film credits, which curiously remain in Japanese, the only part of the book not to have been translated. At the very back, however, the book credits at least are in English, which I appreciated as it’s always nice to know who we have to thank for the translation.

Overall, the Official Visual Guide is a pleasant, if rather unfulfilling read, which left me wanting more. It’s worth getting for the interviews alone, but it’s really more of a “making of” book than an art book, so be warned if that’s what you’re looking for as you may be disappointed. Someday, when I’ve seen the rest of Shinkai’s work, perhaps I’ll check out A Sky Longing for Memories; I suspect that will be closer to what I was looking for.

Thank you all so much for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this book review. There are plenty more books on my reading pile that I’m looking forward to reviewing here, but I am determined to get back to the films! I’ve been saying it for over a year now, but my schedule is finally starting to calm down a bit, so September may just be the month (no promises of course, but I’ll do my best). Thank you again and until next time, take care and staaay animated!

Buy it on Amazon: – UK – US


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