Side-by-side comparison points finger at pivotal moment in director Makoto Shinkai’s smash-hit anime film.

In the latter half of Makoto Shinkai’s anime Your Name, as the film hurtles towards its conclusion, there’s a scene in which rural schoolgirl Mitsuha, or her body anyway, is shown running down a mountain road. With time running out to avert an impending crisis, she hops over the guardrail and runs straight through the forest, coming out of the woods on the residential outskirts of a small town. She hangs a hard right at a T-intersection, then keeps running as she glances to her left, with desperation showing on her face as she sees how far she still has to go.

It’s an intensely dramatic scene and a perfect fit for that moment in Your Name’s narrative. However, YouTube user Ms. Rachel says that the sequence is copied from Nijiiro Hotaru (“Rainbow-Colored Fireflies”), an anime movie that came out in 2012, four years before Your Name was released.

Ms. Rachel has put together a side-by-side comparison of the two films, titled Your Name rip-offs. Nijiiro Hotaru isn’t the only anime it accuses Shinkai’s hit of drawing too much inspiration from, either. At the video’s 25-second mark, with Your Name still shown on the right, the left half switches to a sequence from the 2006 anime film The Girl Who Leapt through Time, from director Mamoru Hosoda. Both Mitsuha and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’s Makoto are drawn facing to the left, from the waist up, and running down a street before stumbling to the ground and rolling downhill, with their heads shown on the right and their feet on the left.

The video identifies the key animator (the artist who draws the most important frames of animation) for both Your Name sequences as Hiroyuki Okiura, and as Ryo Onishi for Nijiiro Hotaru. No animator’s name is mentioned for the Girl Who Leapt Through Time clip.

Regarding the accusations, the similarity between Your Name and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time seems like an innocent enough coincidence. Drawing a character who’s running from the waist up is an age-old animator’s trick to save time by skipping the elaborate process of animating the legs, plus it makes the moment when they stumble more of a surprise. A profile shot is an obvious choice to convey a sense of speed and motion, and the position of the camera as they roll along the ground is a logical choice that two different artists could conceivably arrive at independently. It conveys the distance they roll (and thus the force of the impact) without rotating the camera entirely around the character from the previous shot, which helps maintain the audience’s understanding of where everything is in the scene.

It’s a bit harder to brush off the question of why the sequences from Your Name and Nijiiro Hotaru look so much alike. Even though the comparison screens alternately go black at moments in that portion of the video, showing that the timing of the two scenes isn’t an exact match, the resemblance is uncanny, and remains so through a number of camera cuts.

Online reactions to Ms. Rachel’s video have included:

“At first I thought ‘Hmph, no way,’ but they’re actually exactly the same.”
“Your Name undeniably ripped off those scenes.”
“Totally and completely.”
“After watching that, it’s impossible to say the scenes weren’t ripped off.”
“I wouldn’t say Your Name ripped them off, but it definitely imitated them.”

At least one other person says the Your Name scenes in question don’t constitute a rip-off: Konosuke Uda, Nijiiro Hotaru’s director. Uta, whose most recent directorial projects include anime soccer TV series Days and the One Piece: Adventure of Nebulandia TV special, tweeted:

“When I saw Your Name in the theater, I was like ‘Wait, is that…?’ But that’s just my personal opinion. If a director makes sufficient changes, then that’s original. It isn’t something you can just call a rip-off and have that be the end of the discussion.”

Some would say that’s a generously enlightened attitude, although it is true that the incident seems to be giving Nijiiro Hotaru a new batch of attention.

▼ Trailer for Nijiiro Hotaru

And while we’re on the subject of coincidences, it’s worth pointing out that both Nijiiro Hotaru and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time are time travel stories, so maybe time-traveling animators are something that can’t be ruled out in these contentions of chronological cribbing.

Sources: Jin, Otakomu
Images: YouTube/Ms. Rachel