Your Name: The Art (and Heart) of Switching Places

Your Name (Kimi no na wa) is not an original story. The equation for it goes something like this:

body switch trope + usual Shinkai + dash of heart atypical of Shinkai = YAY

And as with most preceding films, television episodes, et al. that feature this plot convention, switching bodies leads to an  understanding as two people get to know each other better and care for one another based on seeing things from their point of view.

But it doesn’t start out as such. First come the missteps, as Mitsuha brings her femininity to Taki’s life and Taki brings his masculinity to Mitsuha’s. Accompanied by Radwimps’ energetic score, we get quick scenes and montages of funny situations involving gender and personality swaps. Truth be told, Mitsuha and Taki both help one another, but neither sees it that way, and neither is really trying to do so. Not at first.

taki and mitsuha switch

It isn’t until they spend quite a bit of time with one another and start to really feel what it’s like to be in each other’s lives, and later, when the stakes rise, that each begins to care, that this body-swapping experience becomes something of significance. Taki and Mitsuha reach a point where they don’t just understand what it’s like to be in one another’s shoes; they also come to care because they’ve been there.

We obviously don’t get to enjoy such supernatural occurrences in our own lives, and even comparable experiences are few and far between. But we can and do feel the same as Taki and Mitsuha in certain instances. We call this feeling empathy.

I struggle with empathy, not because I don’t naturally feel it—I actually do (I was surprised to find empathy as one of my stronger traits through an extensive EQ test I once took)—but because I’m often unwilling to put it into practice. In my busyness, stress, and perhaps most of all, selfishness, I choose not to look at a situation from a loved one’s point of view. It’s far easier if I just stay in my shoes.

Sometimes this happens with my children. My son will get anxious about something and in my frustration I’ll quickly declare it to be “no big deal.” Thankfully, I still have enough love in my puny little heart to reverse course and try to meet his needs as I step into a child’s shoes for a moment and realize that, in fact, what he is worrying about is a big deal.

And sometimes I think that’s the goal—that’s the place I’m trying to get to, putting aside my pride and self concern, reaching out to another in love, and giving him my all as I trade perspectives, as I switch places with him. I know the value in giving that kind of love, how it has the ability to changes someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s life. I just need to decide daily, to choose in the moment to demonstrate empathy, because God knows the alternatives—remaining stuck in myself or waiting for a magical thousand-year meteor to pass by—are pretty lacking indeed.

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