"When we have a disaster in Japan, I wonder, how can we prevent our lives and traditions and history from the disaster?"

Director Makoto Shinkai has said that his latest anime hit, Your Name, was inspired by the 2011 Japan earthquake.

Since anime veteran and legend Hayao Miyazaki retired, the Japanese anime industry has been looking for a predecessor and many have decided that Makoto Shinkai is the man to do it. His latest film Your Name has dominated the Japanese box office since is release and has become the 9th highest earning film in Japan including foreign films.

The plot revolves around the gender swapping between senior high school boy Taki Tachibana and senior high school girl Mitsuha Miyamizu. The two have never met, but their fates become intertwined by the one-in-a-thousand-years fall of a comet. A number of real-life locations are shown in the animated film, including Shinkai’s hometown in Nagano prefecture in central Japan, its neighboring prefecture Gifu and Tokyo. The film is praised for its beautiful cinematography and its use of light.

Speaking to Vice, Shinkai discussed the film and his inspiration behind it. On the film’s gender swapping theme, Shinkai said, “The goal with the gender swapping theme is: how do they get back to what they used to be? I wanted to surprise an audience… I think that’s a universal theme, you know, we don’t know who we’re going to meet tomorrow.”

“And that person might change your life entirely. There’s always that possibility, and while you’re not necessarily actively seeking it, you have that desire deep down.”

Shinkai said that one of his inspirations came from a Waka traditional classical Japanese poem by author Ono no Komachi. “I was sat thinking about how to tell a story of meeting someone you’d never met before and reading this beautiful poem,” says Shinkai. “It read something like, ‘I met someone in my dream, and had I known it was a dream, I would have stayed there.’ So I thought, ‘Right, dreams can work here.'”

Another inspiration Shinkai cites is the 2011 Japan earthquake. “One of the inspirations for the film was the earthquake in 2011,” Shinkai explains. “It was the largest in a thousand years, and there was something similar 1,000 years ago, which we all forgot about. But if you look closer there were warnings, like stone inscriptions in the cave in the film: don’t live in this valley. But we forget those warnings, or dismiss them as something ‘from the ancient times’. We think they’re just dangers from the past. When we have a disaster in Japan, I wonder, how can we prevent our lives and traditions and history from the disaster?”

Your Name certainly sounds like an elegantly scripted and beautifully presented film. The anime feature will hit western cinemas towards the end of the month.