Ederlyn Peralta, San Francisco State University


         When formulating a character analysis, readers tend to configure characters based on physical description, dialogue, actions, thoughts or feelings, and the reactions of others. However, in texts such as Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name., and Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl, body swapping and spirit possession can misconstrue a reader’s interpretation of a character. As a result, we question the authenticity of a character’s actions and emotions due to the fact that they have been possessed by another character’s conscious. Are these actions and emotions genuinely benefitting the actual physical character or are there any secret intentions behind the actions that would benefit the spirit that is possessing the body, and what does this reveal about the personas of the characters who are switching bodies? I will explore how “body swapping” changes the way readers interpret characters, in their original bodies and when they astral project, and what the authors’ intentions might be for using “body swapping” as opposed to having characters maintain their original bodies? In my paper, I will examine how each text depicts body swapping through the characters’ point of views, how names are identity makers for characters, and how characters go on a self-discovery journey in a spiritual setting. In my discoveries, I observed that body swapping is used as a dramatic effect to demonstrate the tribulations that young adult characters experience while growing up. When characters body swap, they experience trials that test their identity and discover who they desire to be within their given social environments.

Shifting Identities: Interpreting “Body Swapping” and “Spirit Possession” in Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. and Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl

Usually, when reading about a character, the narrator would inform us about everything we need to know about that specific character either directly in the language or through context clues. For example, one way we construct a character’s identity is through the setting or environment that the character resides in, such environments include a political or religious discourse community, socio-economic class structure or an ethnic/cultural background. These environments are constructed through the author’s use of dialogue, narrative point of view, and other literary devices. However, in Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. (『君の名は。』) and Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl, both authors problematize the construction of a character’s identity through the use of “body swapping” or “spirit possession.” As a result, it complicates a reader’s analysis of a character: readers are now invited to contemplate on how will a character’s physical body with another character’s conscious react differently towards a given environment or situation in contrast to how they would react in their original bodies. When a character switches bodies, we have to evaluate not just the character’s actual physical presence that appears in the action and dialogue of the scene, but also the conscious that is occupying this character’s physical body simultaneously. As a result, the body swapping subtly unveils personality traits and habits about the protagonists that aren’t explicitly told by an overarching narrator to the readers. These traits invite a deeper evaluation of the characters’ overall identities as opposed to what you would receive from just a single narrator.

Aside from using “body swapping” and “spirit possession”  as a way to develop their characters’ personas and identities, both texts use these devices to propel the adolescent protagonists into self-discoveries about who they desire to be as adults. Usually, in young adult literature, adolescent protagonists are trying to navigate and understand the environment around them and are also learning to become responsible adults, despite making immature mistakes. However, in these two texts, I argue that body swapping amongst the young adult characters is a subtle device to demonstrate the identity struggles, particularly in a cultural and social context, that adolescent characters experience while growing up. For instance, in Your Name., the two young protagonists, Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana switch bodies, and through this act, they learn about traditional and modern Japanese lifestyles which unlocks a gateway into understanding their culture and how they see themselves as Japanese people. As for The Icarus Girl, the main protagonist, Jess, is biracial and she has trouble trying to navigate in two different cultural spaces: her British heritage and her Nigerian heritage. Body swapping illustrates the roller coaster moments that a young adult experiences when trying to grasp an understanding of his or her cultural identity based on an ethnic background or a social environment that they are situated in. In addition, while navigating the world around them, these young adult characters are also trying to find a sanctuary where they feel that they belong and are accepted as they are.

“Body swapping” and “spirit possession” are ways for young adults to navigate through their environments and uncover their true identities beyond the cultural and social backgrounds they associate with. In this paper, I will analyze how each author utilizes point of view and setting to impact a reader’s interpretations on these young adult protagonists’ view of themselves from internal and external standpoints. By discussing how Your Name. is in first person point of view and The Icarus Girl is in third person omniscient point of view, we will see how these characters’ perspectives on themselves and each other shifts as they learn to be “in each other’s shoes.” Similarly, by analyzing the spiritual spaces where the main protagonists met one another, both texts provide readers a sense of internal growth and maturity within these young adult characters. In addition, I will discuss how each author strategically misconstrued characters’ names in order for readers to see how these characters struggle to understand that who they are is beyond an identity marker given to them.  After analyzing these characteristics within the texts, I will formulate some reader conclusions about how “body swapping” is a form of identity construction for young adult characters. Lastly, I will compare and contrast how my readings and conclusions align with how scholars and critics view readers of each text.

Uncovering Identity Through Reading Methods

Before we start to analyze the literary methods in each text, I would like to  clarify the terms, “body swapping” and “spirit possession.” In regard to Your Name., I will use the term “body swapping” because the two main protagonists, Mitsuha Miyamizu (宮水 三葉) and Taki Tachibana (立花 瀧), occupy each other’s body: Mitsuha is in Taki’s body and Taki is in Mitsuha’s body. Shinkai does not mention the reason why Mitsuha and Taki started body swapping in the beginning of the story because it contributes to a plot twist later on in the book. As for The Icarus Girl, I will use the term “spirit possession” because TillyTilly is a spirit that occupies and controls Jessamy “Jess” Harrison’s body. Jess encounters TillyTilly when she explored an old servants’ quarters while on a family vacation in Nigeria. Unlike Your Name., there is no equivalent exchange: TillyTilly desires to live as a human while Jess’s soul wanders in the spirit realm.

  1. Point of View

Now we will explore how the literary techniques implement the concept of “body swapping” or “spirit possession” in each text. The first technique we will discuss is the rendering of the point of view. These stories are told in either first-person or third-person, but the constant shift of perspectives get readers confused about which character they are analyzing.

In Your Name., the entire story is told in the first-person perspective of either Mitsuha or Taki. However, there is confusion as to whose perspective we are reading in when the two protagonists start exchanging souls. In the English translated text of Your Name., there is ambiguity as to who the pronoun, ‘I,’ is referring to. In Japanese texts, a subject is usually inferred, but Shinkai uses this linguistic structure to his advantage. The ambiguity of the pronoun ‘I’ creates a suspenseful atmosphere where the reader wonders about why this ‘body switching’ phenomenon is occurring. Yet, in Japanese, some indicators to decipher the ‘I’ pronoun during “body swapping” include masculine/feminine actions, phrases (aside from pronouns), and cultural norms. When translating this text into English though, readers find difficulty in configuring whose perspective the text is in when the characters’ bodies are swapped because English does not use masculine/feminine terminology aside from pronouns. One example is in Chapter 3: the opening sentence is「知らないベルの音だ」 (Shinkai 46) (“I don’t recognize that ringtone, I think drowsily”) (Engel 33). There are multiple examples where the passage opens with an ambiguous ‘I,’ and so readers must use context clues to decipher who is talking. By not knowing the ringtone, it implies that the protagonists switched bodies: Mitsuha’s conscious is in Taki’s body. Soon after, I noticed how the latter sentences elaborate on Mitsuha’s confusion as she navigates in an unfamiliar environment. In addition, the English translation of Your Name. uses italics to indicate a different first-person narrator, which is helpful for an English-speaking reader. Without a proper pronoun or subject in a sentence, the first-person point of view can stir confusion within readers because they have to use context clues to figure out who is narrating, which happens throughout the novel.

Moreover, the first-person point of view creates a sense of empathy towards others. When Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies, they take mental notes about each other. While in Taki’s body, Mitsuha snoops around on his cellphone and finds a picture of  Taki’s coworker, Okudera-senpai’s back. She makes the assumption that Taki has a crush on her: 「…もしかしてこの子、奥寺先輩が好きなのかも」(Shinkai 69) (“…Maybe he likes Okudera-senpai”) (Engel 47). “Body swapping” can eliminate unreliable narration because characters are acting as one another: they are projecting a new  and honest perspective on how they see and how others see the person that they are embodying. In fact, these “body switching” characters can validate some information about a character from what they said about themselves or from what an omniscient narrator said about them. Unlike a reader, characters are actually experiencing other people’s lives rather than observing and making judgments from what they see. When the text provides us with multiple perspectives on one specific character, readers can make valid interpretations about a character’s persona, such as whether or not they are genuine or empathetic to others, because they are based on various viewpoints rather than just being told by one narrator.

As for critics, they praised the first-person point of view. Theron Martin, a reviewer from Anime News Network, enjoys the shifting of perspectives: “It smoothly shifts back and forth between Taki’s and Mitsuha’s perspectives, always relying on context for the reader to figure out whose eyes we’re seeing through rather than just naming the viewpoint character outright. This works in part because identity ambiguity is sometimes appropriate for the situation…” (ANN). Martin contradicts himself. He states that the narrative perspective is clear only if readers can piece together the context clues. Yet, Martin admits that the body swapping makes the narrative point of view ambiguous but does not necessarily indicate whether this is enjoyable for readers. I think a clear point of view can only happen when the narrator is distinctly presented to the reader, which is not the case within this text. However, the ambiguity of the pronoun ‘I’ immerses the reader into the text, where a reader plays a role in configuring out whose point of view he or she is reading in. The fragmented point of views are done purposely to get readers to experience confusion when it comes to “body swapping” similar to the protagonists’ own confusion in the text.

Yet, another reviewer had a different stance on the first-person point of view: “.…Internal monologues seem a little deep and wordy for typical teenagers, and the two leads don’t tend to talk about themselves a lot. An omniscient narrator likely could have woven details and descriptions a little more naturally” (Krystallina, The OASG). I disagree with this reviewer’s opinion. In the light novel, many of the monologues by the characters are used to explain cultural values and terms. Although the internal monologues are “a little deep and wordy for typical teenagers,” this could be seen as a misreading. Japanese cultural beliefs are embedded throughout this novel, such as the significance of knots and the concept of longing from waka love poetry. Now, as a foreign reader, these values may be unheard of or are too philosophical for a teenager’s mindset, but they are cultural aspects that Japanese people grew up with; hence as to why I don’t think such knowledge is too inappropriate for these characters. Also, if Makoto Shinkai had a third person omniscient narrator providing this information, it would ruin the ambiguity that body switching invites to this text. These internal monologues are confusing to read because of the body swapping, but this confusion is essential in character development. In fact, the body switching represents the adolescent time when teenagers are trying to figure out the types of adults they want to be. Hence, Mitsuha and Taki experienced the ‘real world.’ Mitsuha lived the life of a modern-day Tokyo boy and learned about Japanese modern society, and Taki learned about traditional Japanese culture while living in the countryside. They are learning about one another and their culture, but also they are questioning their identities and how they want to be seen by others, including the readers.

Unlike Your Name., The Icarus Girl is a mixture of first and third person point of views. The third-person perspective objectively informs readers about what Jess did and said in a scene, but also gives the readers a sense that Jess is not fully in control of her actions. One example is when Jess purposely ignores Colleen and Andrea: “Jess sat down, keeping her back straight, as if someone had attached a hook and string to her skull and was yanking the string taut so that her head went up, as she strove to ignore Colleen and Andrea’s glances prickling on her back” (Oyeyemi 88). In third-person point of view, the narrator describes what is going on in a scene, and the readers’ responsibility is to interpret the body language and mannerism of the character’s actions. In this case, the line, “…keeping her back straight, as if someone had attached a hook…,” has a connotative meaning: Jess is uncomfortable and is filled with fear and anxiety. She lacks confidence in confronting her bullies, and so, she passively ignores them. Yet, the third person perspective also provides us with the idea of Jess’s body not fully being in her control. The third person narrator is the one controlling her actions, which later on we will see how TillyTilly becomes the one controlling Jess’s actions and dialogue as opposed to the third person narrator. In The Icarus Girl, the third-person perspective progresses the storyline and provides us with literal and figurative language to describe what a character does or says, but also allows the reader to see the limited control the character has over her body and her identity.

            The Icarus Girl also uses the first-person point of view to describe Jess’s internal emotions and thoughts, even though her outward appearance and actions are controlled by someone else. Like Your Name., the first-person perspective is used in internal monologues. One example is when Jess describes how great TillyTilly is as a friend: “I have a friend an amazing friend who’s coming to see me soon and she’s better than the two of you put together and she listens to me I talked about a poem with her and I don’t care if you don’t like me and and and” (Oyeyemi 88). In this particular example, Jess views TillyTilly as an “amazing friend” in contrast to how her peers treated her in the previous example. When I first read this sentence, I instantly noticed the italics. Italics are used throughout the novel to indicate Jess’s personal thoughts and feelings. Also, Jess ends her sentence with a repetition of “and” which suggests that the example is written in a stream of consciousness format. Her thoughts are incomplete. In fact, her monologues are showcased as childish rants since she does not have the capacity to fully express her emotions like an adult. In the first-person point of view, Jess expresses her true feelings that she does not dare say to others, which may suggest the lack of control Jess feels in crafting her identity. She cannot express herself outwardly so she keeps her true feelings hidden within herself. As a result, readers must interpret her character by analyzing both her public identity and her conscious mind.

For instance, Christopher Ouma discusses the complexity of the third-person point of view in The Icarus Girl:

Her sense of self is deeply immersed in her psychic state and there is a thin line between her conscious and unconscious. The fluid movements between different states of mind problematize her sense of the boundaries between imagination and reality. Yet the form of the narrative, told mostly from an omniscient, third-person point of view, allows us in and out of her fluid states of mind. (Ouma 196)

Ouma believes that the third-person perspective allows readers to see the complexity of Jess’s character because she navigates between two different spaces: her imagination and her reality. However, I read this novel as having a mixture of viewpoints interworking at the same time. The switching of the first- and third-person perspective invites two different viewpoints on how we interpret Jess during that specific moment or scene. In the third-person perspective, we see how Jess interacts with others in real time and in the first-person perspective, we see her inner emotions that she does not express to others simultaneously. Similar to Your Name.,  readers have to take into account two different viewpoints in order to grasp Jess’s character.

In both texts, readers have to synthesize perspectives in order to get a comprehensive understanding of a character. “Body swapping” or “spirit possession” gives readers the opportunity to flesh out the characters in a different manner. Another character’s consciousness is making decisions for someone else and so, readers have to ponder on whether these characters may react differently to a situation if they were actually in their own bodies. In other words, readers are deciphering two characters’ personas simultaneously. Shinkai and Oyeyemi implicitly asks readers to pay attention to how the story is told and to whose perspective we are reading in. These reading invitations allows readers to explore the depth within characters: readers observe the characters’s adolescent lives as they struggle to formulate how they perceive themselves as well as how they want others to see them within their environments.

  • The Significance of a Name

            After looking at the point of view of each text, we will now explore the significance of “names.” Each author has a different view on the importance of “naming.” In fact, “the naming of characters” complicates how readers imagined characters’ identities and roles, especially when they switch bodies. In the case of Your Name. and The Icarus Girl, both authors purposely use the concept of “naming” to show how identity is misconstrued.

         In the original Japanese text, Mitsuha and Taki’s names in kanji have significant meanings, which is a concept readers would not receive in the English translation. In Japanese, Mitsuha Miyamizu name is written as 宮水 三葉. The kanji for Miyamizu (宮水) translates to “water shrine.” Miya (宮) means shrine and mizu (水) means water. Her last name relates to her occupation: her family takes care of an ancient mountain shrine in Itomori. As for Taki Tachibana, his name written in Japanese is 立花 瀧. The kanji for Taki (瀧) represents waterfall. Both Taki and Mistsuha’s names share a commonality, water, which represents life. Their names complement one another. There’s a scene where Taki drinks Mitsuha’s kuchikamizake (口噛み酒)—a rice-based sake that is fermented by saliva and is offered to the gods—because he believes that it is the only way to reunite with her. If a reader were to read mizu or water as the symbol of life, they can read this scene as Taki drinking the sake in order to return to the past so that he can save Mitsuha because she died when the comet destroyed her town. The comet is the surprise plot twist in the book and it is the reason why the two characters switched bodies: Taki from the future is in Mitsuha’s body in order to warn the townspeople of Itomori about the comet. Moreover, the naming of Mitsuha and Taki is not coincidental in the Japanese text, but rather both their names complement each other as if Taki is fated to restore life into Mitsuha through his warning and helping the townspeople evacuate. In this text, a person’s name is not just an identity marker, but one’s name can contribute to a person’s overall purpose in life and that also contributes to a person’s identity. 

Throughout Your Name., the question, “What is your name?” is constantly being asked while Mitsuha and Taki switched bodies. In fact, due to this constant query, readers naturally expect that there will be an answer by the end of this novel. However, readers are left to wonder at the end because the ending of the story is actually a scene where Mitsuha and Taki meet at a staircase and they both asked each other the same question: 「-君の、名前は、と。」 (Shinkai 252) (“What’s your name?”) (Engel 174). Although the ending is open-ended, readers can safely assume from the background context that the main protagonists will finally know each other’s name. Also, this question is the last line in the novel and is the only sentence on the last page. I thought that by having this as the last sentence in the novel, it brings the reader back full circle to the front cover where the title is also an indirect question: 『君の名前は』(“Your name is[?]”). At first, I thought that Makoto Shinkai kept bringing up this question to emphasize how a name is significant to a person’s identity because it is a marker of what that person wants others to address him or her by. However, when I reread this novel, I learned that there’s more to a name than just a marker of identity.

In Your Name., Taki and Mitsuha heard each other names when other characters directly addressed them or when they saw each other’s name written in notebooks, diaries, and cellphone messages but they forgot once they stop switching bodies. When they meet at the mountainside shrine, Taki suggests that they write their names on the palm of each other’s hands so that they do not forget each other. Before Mitsuha could write her name down, she disappears, but Taki was able to write what we assumed to be his name on her palm. However, it is revealed that he wrote 「好きだ」(Shinkai 228) (“I love you”) (Engel 156) rather than his name. As a reader, I was confounded. Since Your Name. is the title of the book and we have been constantly reading scenes about the protagonists asking each other names, I assumed that Taki wrote his name on her palm, but instead, he wrote his feelings for her. Moreover, this phrase, 「好きだ」, is formatted in bold in order to emphasize to readers that Taki’s feelings are more important than his name and to get readers to feel his sincerity. It is a simple phrase but so much emotion can be felt. Thus, Shinkai  seems to suggest that a name is not as important as the emotional impact a person has on others. Emotions seem to be what drives a character’s persona and so when addressing emotionally driven issues for young adult characters, it’s a sign of maturity.

A name is a marker of identity, but how we craft a person’s identity is based on the emotions and memories we have of that person. Rather than putting his name, Taki confesses his feelings for Mitsuha as a way for her to remember him. In fact, Maria Grajdian discusses how love confessions are used in Shinkai’s works: “…Shinkai’s depiction of the search for love as the underlying motivator is also portrayed in anthropological terms as a rite of passage that propels the adolescent into the adult world…” (119). Grajdian argues that Shinkai uses love as a gateway into adulthood for adolescent characters. Love confessions contribute to character growth and the crafting of a character’s identity. Yet for Your Name., I think that by writing personal feelings down rather than a name, it cleverly illustrates that a name is just a marker to address a person but does not necessarily mean you will remember that person. A person’s identity is created through the memories and feelings they share with another person, and it is those emotions and experiences that make you remember someone. In some way, this can apply to “body swapping” texts. A “body swapped” character creates new memories for the body they occupy. And so, these newly shared moments contribute to people’s overall characterization of that particular person, even though someone else’s mind is inhabiting that character’s physical body.

            As for The Icarus Girl, names are tied to cultural background: Jess’ and TillyTilly’s names are based on geographic location. While living in England Jessamy Harrison is addressed by variations of her English name, Jessy or Jess. Yet when she is in Nigeria, her grandfather calls her by her Yoruba name, Wuraola. Two scholars, Sarah Ilott and Chloe Buckley, discuss the significance of the name, Wuraola: “Jessy’s fear of a surplus of identity stems from a mixed heritage that leads her to identify as (at least) two people…In this manner, Jessy misidentifies her Yoruba heritage as Other and worried that by answering to that name she would thereby ‘steal the identity of someone who belongs here…’ (407). Even though Wuraola is her name, Jess feels uncomfortable being called that and does not feel like it belongs to her because she views her Nigerian culture as foreign. Furthermore, Jess’ disassociation with her Nigerian heritage is shown when she nicknames her “imaginary” friend as TillyTilly rather than her proper Yoruba name, Titiola. Some scholars suggest that there is great significance to Jess’ act of naming her friend, TillyTilly. Ake Bergvall states that the nickname “strips Titiola from the very thing that defines her – her name” (9). Another scholarly view of TillyTilly’s name is that “…she might be read as a cultural symbol, mediating aspects of traditional Yoruba culture…The name ‘TillyTilly’ actually results from Jessy’s failure to pronounce the Yoruba name, Titiola. As a signifier, then, TillyTilly…in itself signifies a lack—or failure—of signification” (Ilott and Buckley 412). Jess makes the unfamiliar “familiar” to her by giving her friend, Titiola, a more western name. Thus, Jess shows her unwillingness to understand or accept her Nigerian culture. With each new name, Oyeyemi creates separate cultural personas for Jess; as a result, Jess is hiding her true identity and must perform different roles depending on the circumstances she is in. Soon after, when TillyTily possesses Jess’s body, it physically symbolizes Jess’s British and Nigerian identities coexisting within her. Yet, the coexistence does not necessarily mean that Jess accepts both cultural backgrounds since both spirits struggle to control the physical body. 

            When TillyTilly gains control over Jess’ physical body, the separation of cultural identities is nonexistent and instead, the two cultures become one. When they switch bodies, Helen Oyeyemi uses the markers: “Tilly-who-was-Jess” and “Jess-who-wasn’t-Jess,” which are more like actions rather than real names. Here is an example of this strange naming: “Tilly-who-was-Jess was in bed now, her face turned away from Jess’s mum because she was having trouble working Jess’s face; it was as if she found Jess’s features–her lips, her eyelids–too heavy, and the expressions came out too exaggerated and stiff…” (Oyeyemi 209). In this scene, Tilly-who-was-Jess is trying to “become” Jess by imitating her facial habits. The spirit possession suggests the possibility that both cultures can coexist with one another and that her identities do not need to be separated: Jess does not need to separate her two cultural identities but rather she can be both at the same time. However, the names, Tilly-who-was-Jess and Jess-who-wasn’t-Jess, indicate that the two identities have yet to harmonize and just form one name. Ideally, a character’s true identity combines all the roles that a character projects on to others in the text and to readers.

            Both texts illustrate how “body swapping” puzzles readers on how to address characters. As a result, naming complicates readers’ interpretations of characters. Names are a marker of identity. However, in Your Name., a person’s name is not as significant as a person’s memories and feelings towards someone. Shinkai suggests that these memories and feelings help create a person’s identity. As for The Icarus Girl, a name is tied to geographic location and cultural background. However, a person’s identity is made up of all the multiple personas and cultural roles he or she presents to others. Both Makoto Shinkai and Helen Oyeyemi embrace the idea that a character’s name is a significant part of identity, but each of them has their own views of what it means to have a name. Therefore, when interpreting a character’s name, especially when he or she body swaps with another character, it provides an opportunity for characters to begin understanding their emotions and cultural background because they are seeing these notions in the eyes of another person.

  • Mystical Spaces: Encountering “Body Swapping” Characters

            Now, the last method I will discuss is the mystical and mysterious space which is used during the climax of each text. The texts use this space as a way for their main protagonists to meet the person that they have been embodying, and from this encounter, the protagonists find a new sense of enlightenment about themselves. In Your Name., there is a shrine on top of a mountain in Itomori, and this is the place where Taki and Mitsuha unite.  When the two stopped switching bodies, Taki travels to the shrine and drinks Mitsuha’s kuchikamizake. After drinking the kuchikamizake, he goes on a psychological and spiritual journey into the life of Mitsuha: 「俺はなすすべもなく濁流に流されるように、三葉の時間にさらされている」(Shinkai 150) (“As if I’m being swept along helplessly by a storm-swollen torrent, I experience Mitsuha’s time”) (Engel 105). The mysterious and spiritual Itomori mountain shrine is a special place between Mitsuha and Taki because this place connects the two souls together, which hints at a strong emotional bond between them. The drinking of Mitsuha’s kuchikamizake is an intimate scene where Taki witnesses a disarray of memory fragments about Mitsuha’s life. Although they are not body swapping, this scene is similar to it. I read this scene as Taki consuming Mitsuha’s soul, and she is now part of him. This consumption could be read as another way of acknowledging a person: Taki feels empathy towards Mitsuha as he witnesses and experiences every single moment in her life. We can read the events at the mountain shrine as a space to truly understand a person’s overall well-being, which is similar to how body swapping is a literal act of understanding a character by living and experiencing someone else’s life.

            Similarly, The Icarus Girl has a mysterious, supernatural space, where Jess and TillyTilly meet each other, called the Bush. After getting into a car accident, Jess enters the Bush: “The Bush. A wilderness. A wilderness for the mind” (Oyeyemi 330). While in the Bush, she confronts and fights TillyTilly: “She was going to get TillyTilly, and Tilly was big and strong…Tilly was the sun and the storm cloud that blotted it out. But there was a sister-girl now, one who could now call herself Wuraola where true names were asked for. Jess charged onwards…” (Oyeyemi 334). Throughout the novel, readers viewed Jess’s character to be inferior to TillyTilly. In this scene, we once again witness Jess’s inferiority complex when she describes TillyTilly as “big and strong.” However, there is a shift in how Jess views herself. First of all, Jess states that she is “going to get TillyTilly,” which is something she would never have thought of doing prior to this passage because when TillyTilly said “get” before, Jess assumed that it was something bad or scary, and so she refused to know what “get” really means. Yet, this time, she will be doing the “get[ting],” which suggests that she is not scared of TillyTilly anymore and is willing to take action. Also, readers can assume that Jess has accepted her Nigerian heritage because she finally takes ownership of her name, Wuraola. The Bush functions as a place of self-acceptance and self-discovery; thus, readers are able to see the dynamic changes in Jess’s character as she is able to confront TillyTilly.

            Many scholars also believe that the Bush is the area where Jess accepts her Nigerian identity by confronting TillyTilly. Diana Mafe argues that, “…The bush and its resident ghost, Titiola or TillyTilly, reflect Jess’s latent anxiety and curiosity about her (mixed) Yoruba heritage and become a primary means for her to articulate this aspect of her cultural identity” (22). Similarly, Christopher Ouma views the Bush as a mental space for Jess to overcome her anxieties and identity issues: “This image at the end of the text signifies an ambivalent conclusion to Jess’s identity struggle. She confronts her mythical and genealogical self…” (201). We all have read the Bush as the medium to which Jess will conquer her fears and formulate a strong sense of self, and she does that by fighting TillyTilly in the Bush.

            Both texts create a mysterious, mystical space for the main protagonists—who have been body swapping—to meet with one another. However, this space is used for different purposes within each text.  The mountain shrine in Your Name. is a space where the protagonists mature by gaining a strong sense of empathy and intimacy to each other. Before, Taki lived his life in the fast-lane by constantly working and attending school, but after drinking the kuchikamizake, he realized how much he cares for Mitsuha. As for The Icarus Girl, the Bush functions as a space for self-discovery. Jess obtains the strength to confront TillyTilly and she gains a sense of self by accepting her mix heritage. I think that both texts proficiently used a mystical background to create a sense of order after the constant body switching throughout each novel. Furthermore, these mystical spaces are used as a threshold into adulthood for these young characters. In Your Name., Taki and Mitsuha reunite and discover their love for one another and in The Icarus Girl, Jess explores how conquering personal struggles allows you to have a better understanding of yourself.

Reading Conclusions About “Body Swapping” Characters & Identity

            Your Name. and The Icarus Girl invite readers into rethinking how they formulate their perspectives of characters and their identities, especially when texts use the component of “body switching.” The first method we explored is point of view. Each story uses internal monologues to express characters’ true thoughts and feelings. Your Name. uses the first-person point of view throughout the novel, but there are complications in using this perspective because when Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies, it leaves readers in a state of confusion on who is talking. Readers must carefully read and decipher context clues to indicate which perspective they are reading in. Similarly, The Icarus Girl switches viewpoints, but readers can easily follow the perspectives because all the point of views are focused on Jess. Both texts illustrate the difficulty of constructing character identities when there are several perspectives that readers must consider as they analyze characters. Readers must not only analyze what the narrator tells them about each character but also look at the internal monologues, actions, and reactions throughout the narrative. Yet, Your Name. thoroughly demonstrates the complexity of reading characters because the point of view gets broken down and fragmented due to the constant switching of bodies. As a result, readers must closely read the context clues to figure out who is talking and what is being said about the actual character or the person whose occupying this character’s body. The switching of perspectives is one way to show how body swapping misconstrues a reader’s character analyses, but the body swapping can also be read as the confused mindset that adolescent characters have while they are growing up and becoming adults.

            Also, both texts emphasize that a name is an important part of a person’s identity, but each text cites different reasons for it. Throughout Your Name., the question, “What is your name?” is constantly being asked from the beginning to the end of the text. Yet, when Taki and Mitsuha finally have a chance to tell each other their names, Taki writes “I love you” instead. The text is purposely telling its readers that a name is not as significant as a person’s memories and experiences they share with that specific person. As a result, a person’s identity to some degree is crafted by another person’s memories and thoughts of them. As for The Icarus Girl, Jess has multiple names and each nickname she is called is dependent on the country she is currently residing in. The text purposely separates Jess’s cultural identities from each other rather than combining them, until TillyTilly possesses Jess’s body. Both of them were called either “Tilly-who-was-Jess” or “Jess-who-wasn’t-Jess,” and as a result, Jess became a hybrid of both cultural identities. The Icarus Girl invites readers to not view identity in separate roles or categories that depend on one’s circumstances but rather through a holistic lens: a character’s true identity is composed of all of these minor ones. Both texts successfully highlight different aspects on how readers should interpret a character’s name. A character’s identity consists of more than just a name by which readers address a character, but in these texts, one’s cultural background and other’s perceptions are factors on how a character’s name is perceived to readers.

            Lastly, the climax of each text presents a spiritual setting where the characters, who were switching bodies, finally meet in person. In Your Name., the shrine acts as a place to connect with loved ones and gain a sense of sympathy for others, which helps these young adult characters develop maturity. Meanwhile, in The Icarus Girl, the Bush is where Jess must overcome personal struggles and fears in order to find solace. These spaces allow the characters to obtain some form of enlightenment or self-realization. It is in these scenes that the characters are the most vulnerable as they must overcome an emotional struggle that will eventually lead them to a self-discovery. However, readers can use these climactic scenes to measure the growth of the characters. Also, self-discovery journeys invite readers to pause and reflect on the characters’ personal journeys to form comfortable and dynamic self-identities.

            Now scholars have different perspectives on how readers should approach body swapping” and its relationship with identity. Your Name. invites readers to evaluate adolescent identity through the lens of teenagers on the brink of adult growth and maturity. For example, Sarah Ward critiques the use of body swapping as, “[It] directly might provide the storytelling spark that ignites the feature, but becoming someone different in terms of growing, changing, reassessing one’s perceptions and learning from them proves the real outcome, helping the protagonists to confront the bigger trial that’s to come” (49). Ward suggests that the constant “body swapping” confusion is to prepare the young characters for life trials because they gain a sense of maturity that will prepare them for struggles that suddenly come their way. Furthermore, a majority of readers interpret Your Name. as a star-crossed love story. Many note an emphasis on love and affection as a positive source in adolescence since love can cause individuals to think about others rather than themselves which is a sign towards being an adult: “Shinkai’s notion of love exists as an important life-sustaining emotion in the process of individual human evolution” (Grajdian 118). Thus, readers are also invited to interpret the body swapping amongst the adolescent characters as an experience for emotional growth and maturity where teenagers become adults.

            As for The Icarus Girl, Jess’s mixed heritage caused a rift within her as she struggles to understand her cultural background. As a result, readers must navigate in two different planes of perception: how society perceives Jess and how Jess sees herself internally. In fact, Ouma suggests that Jess’s issues in understanding her heritage and cultural identity are told in many narrative snippets from peers teasing her to her adventures with TillyTilly: “Jess’ identity is therefore imagined as a network of narratives, both received and reflected on. The self-reflection, spurred by metafiction, allows us as readers to begin drawing connections between the narrative world and real and material states of the protagonist’s mind and body” (194). Through this lens, readers are invited to interpret Jess’s heritage through her real and imaginary experiences and how it affected her personal outlook on herself. In addition, by looking at these narrative stories, readers are called forth to piece together her full identity rather than separating her cultural roles. The Icarus Girl suggests that readers should see a person’s identity in a holistic view. Furthermore, like Your Name., The Icarus Girl also addresses the journey of a young girl into a young adult through her exploration of her biracial culture.

            Overall, Your Name. and The Icarus Girl engages readers to construct identity in a different manner when reading about characters who experienced “body swapping” or “spirit possession.” When we interpret characters, we use context clues from the narration and language, but our interpretations get rework when we have to analyze a different character’s conscious in another character’s body. These “out of body” moments allow characters to see different perspectives on their surroundings and how others see them, which adds a layer of depth when readers analyze characters. The “body swapping” in Your Name. and The Icarus Girl demonstrate that identities are not only formulated by our own creation, but by the environment we situate ourselves in and how others see us. Constructed identities are just snippets that form a bigger picture of who we are. These texts forces readers to not read characters in a linear fashion—where readers focus only on what the narrator says about a specific character—but rather to look at each constructed identity individually and then holistically in order to formulate a well-rounded understanding of a character.  By reading characters in this manner, we can apply this method to how we read people’s identities in real life, focusing not on what a person presents in front of us, but rather analyze the personas and actions a person shows to others.

Works Cited

新海 誠。『君の名は。』。株式会社、2016年。

Bergvall, Ake. “‘Jess-who-wasn’t-Jess’ Double Consciousness and Identity Construction in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl. Karlstads Universitet, 2010, pp. 1-21.

Grajdian, Maria. “The precarious self: love, melancholia and the eradication of adolescence in    Makoto Shinkai’s anime works.” Visions of Precarity in Japanese Pop Culture and           Literature, edited by Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt and Roman Rosenbaum. London and  New York, Routledge, 2015, pp. 117-131.

Ilott, Sarah and Chloe Buckley. “‘Fragmenting and becoming double’: Supplementary twins and  abject bodies in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol 51, 2016, pp. 402-415.

Krystallina. “your name. Light Novel Review.” The OASG, 3 July 2017,         https://www.theoasg.com/reviews/light-novel/your-name-light-novel-review/5284.  Accessed 1 May 2018.

Mafe, Diana Adesola. “Ghostly Girls in the ‘Eerie Bush’: Helen’s Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl as Postcolonial Female Gothic Fiction.” Research in African Literatures, Vol 43, No 3, 2012, pp. 21-35. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/resafrilite.43.3.21. Accessed 1 May  2018.

Martin, Theron. “your name. [Hardcover] Review.” Anime News Network, 16 June 2017,  https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/your-name-hardcover/novel/.116997.       Accessed 1 May 2018.

Ouma, Christopher. “Reading the Diasporic Abiku in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl.” Research  in African Literatures, Vol 45, No 3, 2014, pp. 188-205.          https://muse.jhu.edu/article/555718. Accessed 1 May 2018.

Oyeyemi, Helen. The Icarus Girl. New York, Anchor Books, 2005.

Shinkai, Makoto. Your Name. Trans. Taylor Engel. New York, Yen Press, 2017.

Ward, Sarah. “Be Careful What You Wish For: Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name.” Metro Magazine, pp.44-49.

Works Consulted

Bradshaw, Nick. “Trading Places.” Sight & Sounds, Dec 2016, pp. 40-41.

Downer, Lesley. “‘The Icarus Girl’: The Play Date From Hell.” The New York Times, 17 July 2005,            https://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/17/books/review/the-icarus-girl-the-play-date-from-hell.html. Accessed 1 May 2018.

McLean, Tom. “A Head Trip for the Heart.” Animation Magazine, Feb 2017, pp. 16-18.

Smith, Ali. “Double trouble.” The Guardian, 21 Jan 2005,     https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jan/22/fiction.alismith. Accessed 1 May            2018.

Stables, Kate. “Your Name [Review].” Sight & Sound, Dec 2016, pp. 92.