Your Name Red String Explained

The works of director Makoto Shinkai have been held in high regard, especially following the announcement of his new film in the works, Suzume no Tojimari. In preparation for the film’s release in 2022, now is the perfect time to look back on his 2016 movie, Your Name, and explore how its themes and characters tie together so well. Your Name is full of beautiful imagery that both catches the eye and clues the viewer in to hidden themes, using symbolism borrowed from old legends.

Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi in the original Japanese, Stephanie Sheh in the English dub), a small-town girl living in Itomori, and Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki in the original Japanese, Michael Sinterniklaas in the English dub), a boy living in the bustling city of Tokyo, discover that they sometimes switch bodies when morning comes. Despite the issues that arise from living another person’s life, Mitsuha and Taki become respectful of each other’s lives and develop a bond, connecting them even as they’re separated by distance and time. This connection is symbolized by Mitsuha's hair ribbon, the thematic imagery alluding to the Red String of Fate.

The concept behind this symbol is prevalent in Eastern philosophies and comes from an ancient Asian myth. Legend has it that the Red String of Fate is one red string tied around the pinkie fingers of two people who are destined to meet and be together. The gods themselves have connected these two people by fate, and though the string may become tangled, it will never break. The string symbolizes the flexibility and durability of relationships between individuals, while also including a mythic dose of fate that borders on the supernatural. Whether or not there is one person out in the world who you are destined to meet and be with, the Red String of Fate is a fitting image for the sometimes tangled relationships you find in everyday life.

As for its significance to Mitsuha and Taki, the string is part of Mitsuha's signature look, as she usually wears her hair up, secured with a red hair band. In addition to being a colorful way to make her character design stand out, the band ties into plot and theme as well. Mitsuha uses the red hair band as a point of connection between herself and Taki. When Mitsuha goes to Tokyo to meet Taki in person, she doesn’t know that they are living in different timelines; when she sees him in person, he doesn’t recognize her because to him, they don’t meet until years later. Upon this realization, Mitsuha gives Taki her hair band. The animation focuses on her hand extending the band to Taki’s, and he catches it, creating a physical connection between the two via the red string.

Throughout the movie, Taki wears the hair band as a bracelet, not even realizing that Mitsuha is the one who gave it to him (until the big timeline reveal, viewers don’t realize this either). Even though Taki is living in a timeline where Mitsuha died years ago, he still has a connection to her tied around his wrist.

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The string of fate doesn’t only symbolize romantic love, but also familial love and the idea of being connected to the world around you. Mitsuha’s grandmother teaches Mitsuha and her sister how to make braided yarn and how this action represents the flow of time. The threads in the braids take different shapes, unravel, and are tied together again. In the moment when Mitsuha’s grandmother explains the meaning of the braided cords to Mitsuha’s sister and to Taki (who is inhabiting Mitsuha’s body), she hints at a major plot development in the story and one of its major themes: connection as it relates to time.

The Red String of Fate appears in the more abstract moments of the film as well, such as the vision sequence during which Taki sees moments of Mitsuha's life. In an attempt to body switch with Mitsuha again and save her and the townspeople of Itomori, Taki travels to the ruins of the town and gets a second chance. Before waking in Mitsuha’s body, he witnesses Mitsuha’s birth, her mother’s death, and the broken relationship between her grandmother and her father. The red string is still tied around Taki’s wrist, but it has gotten longer, becoming the means to tie each event in the vision to each other and to Taki. After Mitsuha is born, a close-up shot of her umbilical cord being cut both alludes to the fact that red strings of fate exist everywhere and to the danger that if Taki doesn’t complete his mission, Mitsuha and Itomori will be cut off from the rest of the world.

This theme of cutting connections is on the other side of togetherness in the story, as Mitsuha’s death seems to sever her ties to Taki. The day after Mitsuha goes to Tokyo, she shows her friends her new haircut, having chopped off several inches. Thankfully, the connection between her and Taki still exists thanks to Taki’s (albeit fading) memory of her and the hair band she gave him.

Smaller instances of the Red String of Fate’s appearance are peppered throughout the film, including a quick and subtle moment that grows into something more. While Mitsuha is inhabiting Taki’s body, she goes to work at his job in a restaurant, where a rude customer slices his co-worker Okudera’s (Masami Nagasawa in the original Japanese, Laura Post in the English dub) skirt. Mitsuha fixes the skirt by sewing little flowers and butterflies into the fabric, forging a connection between Taki and Okudera via colorful thread.

While this imagery comes in many forms throughout the film, whether as an obvious allusion to ancient East Asian legend (like Mitsuha’s hair band) or as smaller symbols that strengthen the theme of the story and calls attention to new ones (like the focus on cutting Mitsuha’s umbilical cord), the Red String of Fate stays true to its thematic relevance: it becomes tangled and some parts of severed, but if it does break, it always connects again.

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Rachel Sandell (19 Articles Published)

Rachel Sandell is a contributor for Collider and a freelance writer and editor. She has worked with The Daily Fandom as a managing editor and is the poetry archivist for Fireweed magazine. She's also written three published short stories.

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