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Is “Your Name” sci-fi or fantasy?

It has been almost a year since the anime film, Your Name, released on theaters worldwide and the fame its generating is not slowing down. In Japan, the movie became a huge hit and grossed over 190 million US Dollars. It was ranked second among well-heard films like Spirited Away.

Worldwide, the film generated fame as well in countries like China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States. Popular enough for Star Wars: The Force Awakens producer, J.J. Abrams.

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People in my own locality have also praised the film for its great portrayal of high school life mixed in with fantasy and its gorgeous animation. But what got us laughing was how Western media outlets, especially in Hollywood, have referred to Your Name as a sci-fi, romance movie.

When we found these articles, a number of close friends have discussed with me about what makes the film “science-fiction?” The romance was clearly evident within the movie from start to finish, but maybe “science-fiction” seems out of place.

So let’s get into the nit-and-grit and compare the two genres of science-fiction and fantasy, and their differences.

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Science-fiction, as a term, has no properly set definition. Judging from the words the comprise the term, the genre entails that the story revolves around fiction grounded on real science. It is a speculation of what might possibly happen in the future with references to settled facts in the real world.

If we look at Steins;Gate and assess if it was science-fiction, then it would be a resounding yes. The plot of the anime series, Steins;Gate, revolves around a group of characters who travel through time with the help of a machine that they invented using a microwave oven and other re-fitted machines.

That show also uses the theories of time travel proposed by real scientists over the past few years and revolves around the individual aliased John Titor which, in real life, was an internet user who claimed to be a time traveler in various internet bulletin boards.

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With that in mind, we can say that Steins;Gate is, indeed, a work within the science-fiction genre. That is not the case for Your Name, or is it?

Remember that the term “science-fiction” has many definitions and varies according to different authors.  Some of them might say that “science fiction is what we point to when we say it.” Others would say that science-fiction is “speculation based on real world aspects and understanding of the scientific method.

For the sake of this article, let’s go ahead and say that science-fiction revolves around speculation using real world aspects and the scientific method. In short, Your Name would not be considered science-fiction, but rather, a work within the fantasy genre.

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When we say “fantasy,” it usually known as a genre of fiction where there is no linkage between real world events, locations, or people. There is usually a depiction of magic or supernatural aspects that the story revolves around.

In Your Name, we can clearly see this supernatural aspect with the concept of musubi being portrayed within the film. Especially during the scene when Taki drank the sake wine that was made by Mitsuha.

A colorful array of lights, threads, figures, and more – this was certainly a supernatural property within the story but the way it relates to the time travelling, body swapping abilities of the two main characters does not make sense.

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But if we weigh it with the definitions we’ve mentioned, the anime film Your Name seems to be a balance between the two genres.

It is science-fiction in the fact that there is:

  • Time Travel (but the means were not properly stated).
  • Some of the logic used was based on real world knowledge.
  • A comet (although it doesn’t really exist).

But fantasy in the portrayals of:

  • A life force called “Musubi” (not properly defined).
  • How their souls were connected which enabled them to body-swap (but wasn’t properly explained).

In the end, we can say that the anime film feature, Your Name, was a wonderful anime in terms of its story, characters and brilliant animation. I guess we could do as we would with the concepts presented in another famous film franchise, Star Wars.

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We don’t need to know the intricacies of the Force as long as it fuels entertainment to the plot, the Jedi Order doesn’t have to be fully explained. Despite the confusion on whether it was a sci-fi film or a fantasy film, it gave a wonderful viewing experience which what definitely matters at the end of the day.

What about you? Is Your Name sci-fi or fantasy? Can you share us some parts of the movie where you were amazed or confused? Share it in the comments below.

2 replies on “Is “Your Name” sci-fi or fantasy?”

i think Your Name is one of the rare cases that fall into both categories. usually it upsets me to have a fantasy title be dropped into scifi because it’s clearly fantasy (plus i don’t really like scifi stuff) but i think your name has a bit of both. for me scifi is usually some kind of futuristic thing with lots of science and gibberish i can’t understand but i also think of time travel as scifi so to me your name is kind of scifi but also (like you mentioned) there were some fantasy elements tho i think that’s more to do with traditions/religion and it was just portrayed in a fantasy-like element. kind of like if you had angels somewhere in a film about Christianity or something. visually we would categorize as fantasy but it’s not actually fantasy (lol, i have no idea if i’m making any sense now), nice post!

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I haven’t seen the film yet so I’m not sure. That said, my distinction between the genres is really that science fiction does use actual science to attempt to explain things where as in fantasy you can just have stuff happen (provided it is consistent within the fantasy setting).

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