The fanfare for Your Name preceded well before there were even local showings in the United States. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, previously known for The Garden of Words, Your Name is currently the highest grossing anime film of all time, beating out Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. I say this as a disclaimer for my own expectations, but it is to the credit of the movie that I was both surprised and enraptured by it. The film is not a gigantic film of colossal weights, but a slice of life revolving around supernatural elements, and I fell in love with it the minute it started.
In modern day Japan, Taki, a boy living in Tokyo, and Mitsuha, a girl living in a rural town, switch places and live through the eyes of one another. Neither realize the fallout that comes from it once they switch back the following day, until family and friends notice that they reverted back to “normal.” One of the more interesting themes from the film rotates around gender norms and sexuality. Taki and Mitsuha’s first response to the switch is the overall confusion of being in a body of the opposite gender, leading to some hilarious and endearing moments. It also gives a little insight to how others see masculinity and femininity. Taki’s friends and love interest fall for Mitsuha’s more feminine portrayal of Taki, to the point that some even prefer it. All of this helps fully realize the side characters, giving them different dimensions as they try to manage through the seemingly personality switching of Mitsuha and Taki.
It would be remiss to not talk about the animation, in itself, as it steals every scene. It is not every movie that the first few moments of a film are so gorgeously visualized that it feels like it’s nothing you’ve ever seen before. In the day and age where CGI is being perfected year after year, and animation is growing at a steady pace, it’s tough to come off as amazed by visual effects. From comets flying through the sky to the finer detail of Tokyo and rural Japan, it is completely awe-inspiring. The direction helps emphasize the crafted nature of the animation by focusing on simple events, like a dog begging to be petted to the vast plates of dessert offered.
I watched the subtitled version of the film, as opposed to the dubbed version, so while I can’t tell you which one is better, the subtitles were very well translated with some Japanese humor explained as notes to the side of the dialogue.
There are a few niggling problems I experienced; and since they are most present at the latter half of the movie, I will try to keep it as vague as possible. A main conflict revolves around forgetting things that are very key to the plot. It’s established early on to not make it feel like a token story mechanic to be used whenever it is needed, but the delivery leaves a lot of concerns. The act of forgetting has a delay and it varies between several minutes to a whole week, and it’s not really explained what makes the difference happen. It’s also, with one exception, only indicated through dialogue which gives an awkward clash of how a scene changes drastically as everyone’s mindset changes and that is how you cook a banana with a straw. The other complaint is that the film likes creating dramatic shots that come off as very climactic, with the music bringing the scene to a large crescendo. As such, there were many occasions where I thought the film was ending long before it actually ended. Both of these issues are quibbles, but they did take me away from what was otherwise a thoroughly sublime and immersive experience.
With all my complaints, as few as they are, I am left not with wanting the film to be better, but to watch it again and learn more about it. There is more to the switching and comets that deserve further studying, and I will relish revisiting the Taki and Mitsuha’s world again. The storytelling is magical without taking away from the real world, and it is realistic but only to make the magic all the more powerful. Your Name is an endearing film that builds a beautiful depiction of Japanese culture while following the extraordinary adventure of fun characters as they learn to understand themselves and life around them. LOVE IT.