What Another Side: Earthbound Fills In That Your Name Left Out

Makoto Shinkai’s latest opus, Weathering With You, just hit theaters, and me being the privileged first-world citizen that I am went and saw it, and it was pretty good. The insert songs featuring Toko Miura are top-notch, and there’s a shot of a fireworks display while the camera pans through Tokyo that’s absolutely stunning.

I could continue with my full opinion, but I thought to commemorate the film’s opening in the Western world that I would look back on his previous film, Your Name, which Shinkai himself described as unfinished, and give you the skinny on what exactly was left out that the light novel spin-off, Another Side: Earthbound, filled in. It might’ve been better if I decided to write this article back when Your Name came out, but this blog didn’t exist back then, and I have yet to body-swap with a cute member of the opposite sex from another time period, so we’re stuck with a 2020 publication date.

Some supah quick notes: Earthbound is a collection of four short stories, each from the perspective of a different character tangled up in Mitsuha’s soul getting tangled up with Taki’s. It’s quite the deal more introspective than the film, so we learn things about the characters that the film doesn’t even hint at. There’re also a few inconsistencies, but nothing major. Just somebody saying something in the film that they might only think in the book. Some scenes overlap, but most of the book is new material.

With those notes out of the way, I present to you…the rest of this article.

Thoughts on Brassieres

The first person whose shoes we’re in is Taki’s, who’s in Mitusha’s shoes, who’s in Taki’s shoes, but the movie covers her antics as a boy, so she only shows up as herself to exclaim “Egad!” when interrogating the other characters about what Taki’s been up to in her body.

For Taki’s part, he follows Mitsuha’s schedule, walking to school with her friends Sayaka and Teshigawara and figuring out how such a dainty girl doesn’t snap an arm when someone grazes her. At first blush (and he does make some gaffufles that make Mitsuha blush), he’s just trying to get a grasp on what it’s like going through the motions of Mitsuha’s life while in a body he finds awkward to handle, but the actual plot behind the prose is setting up an easel to illustrate how contrastingly Taki deals with being a teenager than Mitsuha.

In the film (I won’t be saying that too much, I swear), Mitsuha is rather headstrong, only exhibiting shyness at specific instances. The film does touch on this, but the book reveals the full extent of how quiet and passive Mitsuha is via how her schoolmates treat her, which is one of two ways: like she doesn’t exist or like a punching bag.

Her schoolmates tilt their heads at Taki’s antics, such as performing Smooth Criminal on a landing to get a hang of Mitsuha’s body, but the results land her popularity points with boys and girls alike. The movie had Taki kicking down a desk to show a trio of bullies that he wasn’t playing, and one of the earliest scenes has him directly confronting them to prove how unwilling he is to put up with their flapdoodle.

I mentioned gaffufles earlier, and the one which gives this chapter its namesake comes during physical education, when Taki, ordinarily exempt from the necessities of a brassier, never thinks to don one when changing into Mitsuha’s uniform in the morning. The consequence of this is that when he’s going ham in basketball, Mitsuha’s funknockers are doing the Thriller. Apparently, he’s so focused on curbstomping the other players that he doesn’t take notice of these extra appendages waacking and has to be pulled aside and informed about the after hours show he was giving the boys. This leads to him scrutinizing a bra like it’s a piece of alien technology which fell from Jupiter.

The short ends with Taki, while helping with the looming with Yotsuha and the girls’ grandmother, looking at the reflection of Mitsuha in the mirror and wondering what sort of person she is that she approaches life with such a meek prow.

Scrap and Build

The next shoes we’re cast in are those of Teshigawara’s, who is in his own shoes. In the film, he’s pretty chill and laid back, but here there’s plenty more going on beneath the hood. He’s the inheritor of the Teshigawara Construction Company and as such feels fated to remain in Itomori, something he has a mixed reception to. He doesn’t like the corruption going on behind the curtains between his father and Mitsuha’s father, but he loves the town for the happy memories he’s made with Mitsuha and Sayaka, so he vows to make it into a place his friends won’t talk down on through his inheriting the family company.

That’s enough on his character development. The jewel of this short comes in the form of him gathering up the girls, some log scraps, and building a “cafe” with them. Really just a table and chairs, but it’s in the way you look at things, he says.

Mitsuha normally would be against manual labor like this, but it’s Taki who’s drafted for this DIY project, and he’s super excited to throw himself in. Right after he’s done pretending to be a shounen protagonist with the saw.

Earthbound

It’s that snide scamp Yotsuha’s turn to loan us her kicks, and she spends about 80% of her storytime fretting over her sister, who’s apparently gone off the deep end. Due to Taki’s insistence that he start off each morning on the right foot with a massaging of her breasts, Yotsuha grows intrigued as to whether doing so stimulates growth and consults Sayaka for her thoughts on the matter, those thoughts being a slew of superstitions and old wives’ tales on how A-Cup Angst can be conquered. This eventually leads to Mitsuha finding out Taki’s morning routine.

While Yotsuha’s frustrations at dealing with a mood-swinging older sibling are amusing in their own right, those are the potatoes to the meat of this short. It starts when curiosity gets to her about the rice she spit up at the festival and how she was told that it would eventually ferment into sake, a transition she was skeptical over. So, to test that theory, she takes a sip and promptly starts tripping out.

If you’ll recall the explanation from the film on how Taki and Mitsuha are able to swap places, it’s due to the latter imbuing a portion of her soul into the former through her hair tie. That’s the result when you share part of your soul with someone else, but what about yourself? The answer to that is that you’re dropped into the body of an ancestor. Yotsuha retains no memories of her blast to the past, but she comes back with a better sense of the connection she has with her family.

What You Joined Together

Last but not least in our Musical Chairs of loafers is Toshiki, Mitsuha and Yotsuha’s estranged father. He’s the furthest thing from a likable character, but once upon a time, he was a decent man. Specifically twenty years earlier, when he arrived at Itomori as a university folklorist sallied with learning about the myths and legends surrounding Miyamizu Shrine. He meets with Hitoha, who can’t be bothered to talk to him so throws her only daughter, Futaba, under the bus.

There’s a lot of exposition which comes out of this story, but to bastardize it, the maidens of Miyamizu once worshiped a dragon god, but then that god destroyed half their town, so they switched to a cooler, nicer god who wouldn’t destroy their town. Toshiki, in interviewing Futaba and the town’s citizens, surmises that the first god was actually Comet Tiamat. You know, that one with the habit of destroying Itomori whenever it swings by.

He and Futaba eventually get married and have two baby girls, and then Futaba decides she’s gonna up and die. This guts Toshiki, but once he’s picked himself up from mourning, he finds that none of the villagers are particularly bothered by her death despite having worshiped her as the local Google search. They just throw their hands in the air and go, “God works in mysterious ways.”

Seeing that the town is corrupted with an old-time mindset, Toshiki vows to modernize it and set the citizenry straight, and his path for doing so lies in politics.

As we return to the present when his daughter Mitsuha enters his office to tell him to evacuate the town, he has a realization, which is that everything happened for a reason. He studied the Miyamizu legends so that he would meet Futaba so that they would get married so that they would have children so that she would eventually die so that he would be devastated so that he would make it his mission to fix the town so that he would become mayor so that he would be in that position of power so that he could evacuate and save the town from the “dragon” he studied two decades earlier.

As the final page turns, Toshiki realizes that he can see Futaba perfectly reflected in his daughter Mitsuha.

My Final Thoughts

I’ll frontly admit that Makoto Shinkai’s strengths lie as a film director and not as a prose writer. For most of its pages there’s a certain threshold of angst it refuses to dip below, so when something more lighthearted comes along, it’s jarring and tends to fall flat.

But regardless of its earnest approach to narrative, it adds so much to the story and the world of Your Name that it should be a federal crime that the lot of it was cut from the film. We see bits and fragments, but it’s nicer to have the full explanation for why Taki as Mitsuha was wearing gym shorts under her skirt while sawing a log.

There’s a manga adaptation of this collection, and in my humble opinion, it’s the easier read between the two, not so much because it’s a manga with a fraction of the word count, but because it doesn’t take itself as seriously as the light novel. The ironic downside is that it cuts out a good deal of the novel’s content. A good example is when it occurs to Yotsuha that because she accidentally ate her sister’s ice cream she’ll have a mental breakdown, so she rushes to apologize to her. The person she cries to is actually Taki, who couldn’t give two flips about the ice cream, so he tells her it’s all right and promises to buy her more, so when he does and she eats it, the real Mitsuha has a mental breakdown that she ate her ice cream.

The direct novel adaptation includes a number of details absent from the film as well, such as Sayaka’s older sister being the voice for the Itomori morning announcements, Taki’s preference for long black hair on girls, or how Mitsuha gets sweaty behind her knees when she’s nervous.

By some miracle if all of this cut material made its way into the film, I do wonder if that wouldn’t make things lopsided, since we’re seeing so much more of Itomori than Mitsuha’s adventures as a cute Tokyoite, but there’s so much to this world and potential in its body swapping on its own that you could make a full anime series of it. But there’s a pipe dream that’ll never happen, not in a million years. We’ll all die to a meteorite before that ever happens.

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