Quick Hit: A beautifully digitally rendered anime whose story hits hard whilst not quite making full sense.
Your Name. took Japan by storm upon its release in 2016/2017. It was one of Japan’s highest grossing films, and it’s not hard to see why. Director/Write Makoto Shinkai has taken a medium that is normally best reserved for hand-drawn media and has shown that digitally you can create something just as beautiful, in art as well as in story.
Your Name. follows Taki, a young man in Tokyo and Mitsuha, a young girl on the outskirts of the city. Suddenly, one day for reasons that make no sense to them, they are swapped into each other’s bodies, for reasons they don’t quite understand. After a few days of real confusion on the parts of themselves and their families, they quickly develop a system and a series of rules that enable their lives to go on despite this strange circumstance. It’s only when things suddenly start to change that they begin to question again why this is happening to them, leading to a whole other plot.
And when I say a whole other plot – I mean it. The second plot involves time travel loops, that feeling of déjà vu, and the survival of an entire town. Memories of a life once lived, and a scenic view that you can’t get out of your head almost feels like it’s directly carried from a recent DFP review of Close Encounters. It’s very superhero-esque actually, and one almost wonders if that was a bit of what Shinkai had in mind when he wrote the plot.
The writing sparkles, even with the translation into English. That’s saying something, because often times I feel myself watching subtitled movies wondering what is being lost in translation. Here I felt like everything matched, and I connected with the characters. It’s hard to be a teenager, but it’s even harder to be a lonely teenager. Watching these two finally have a connection to someone is truly heart-warming, and makes the stakes that much more intense towards the end of the film. I even found myself holding my breath at one time or another as Taki discovered what the audience had probably figured out much before.
I especially liked the intertwining of some of Japan’s traditions, like with the spit saki (for lack of a better term in English). But nothing about the movie compares to the visuals. There’re the characters first, which are filled with life and emotion, particularly at the stories most vivid points. But nothing compares to the backdrops, which sparkle with color and movement and yet still invoke memories of the best hand-painted backdrops from the great animations of the humble beginnings of Studio Ghibli. When that comet arcs across the sky, you easily forget the everything else and drop yourself into Taki and Mitsuha’s world.
My biggest issue with the movie is that a large portion of it doesn’t make sense to me. Normally I’d be ok with that, because I don’t mind being confused. It calls into question the character’s motivations. Why would you fall for someone if you had never actually communicated with them. This may have just been a issue with translation – the montage scene where Taki and Mitsuha communicate via phone and hand is good, but just seems unfinished. Otherwise, why would they harbor such an intense emotional connection to each other? In some ways, that’s confusing – along with all the time travel stuff, it makes it really confusing. But Mitsuha and Taki still manage to make you feel the story.
That is, if you can remember their name. I’m giving Your Name. a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"