A runaway hit in its native Japan, Your Name begins as a humorous teen body-swap comedy before gradually transforming into something profoundly complex. Japanese director Makoto Shinkai’s fifth film sees him grappling once more with themes of separation, distant love and loneliness in this strange, genre-hopping story of intermingling lives. Your Name marks Shinkai as one of the most exciting anime directors about as he delivers a sparkling, ambitious and visually impressive coming-of-age drama.
The film revolves around small-town teenager Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Tokyo high-schooler/part-time waiter Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki). Mitsuha is tired of her quiet country life and dreams of moving to Tokyo. Her dream comes true sooner than expected when she inexplicably swaps bodies with Taki for random day-long periods. While the body swaps appear dream-like and initially confuse the pair, they cotton on to the nature of their predicament when friends recall their uncharacteristic behaviour of the previous day. Consequently, the pair lay down some ground rules and convey messages to each other via smartphones to keep updated with each other’s lives - yet this doesn’t stop the duo from acting on certain crushes and other impulses. The two are kept apart by the hazy memories of their body-swapping experiences and each other’s name continually alludes them. The involvement of a comet, which is set to fly closely past Tokyo, sees the narrative transform into an emotionally-charged, time-hopping, apocalyptic tale.
That’s all that can be said without spoiling Your Name’s many genre-shifting delights. One thing is for sure though, the animation on show here is stunningly rendered. Every frame of the film is engulfed in detail, care and attention – Shinkai’s love and passion for his craft is plain to see. From the picturesque, quaintness of Mitshua’s village to the metropolitan hustle and bustle of Tokyo, everything is steeped in atmosphere and captured authentically. Several beautiful transition shots, such as one from the sliding wooden door of Mitshua’s house to the shutting underground door of Taki’s subway train, are gorgeously executed and effortlessly illustrate the contrasts at the heart of the film.
While Your Name is refreshingly bold in its storytelling, its latter stages do suffer a little from convolution. There are so many narrative strands and genre elements at play here that Shinkai inevitably struggles to retain cohesiveness. But an abundance of ideas is a flaw that is easy to forgive, particularly when a film looks this good. Additionally, the film’s high-stakes third act treads the fine line between genuine profundity and sappy Nicholas Sparks territory. But, Your Name avoids diving into over-sentimentality thanks to brilliant voice acting, empathetic characters, welcome injections of humour, and adept explorations into hefty themes of love, fate and memory.
In the way of special features, the release boasts an interesting 22-minute TV special featurette (which includes interviews with the cast and crew), an extensive look back at Makoto Shinkai’s filmography as well as the film’s Japanese and English trailers. There’s also both Japanese and English language options for the film.
Your Name may throw to many ideas at the wall, but it’s an inventive, pristinely animated, emotionally resonant treat that reinforces Shinkai’s undeniable talents.
YOUR NAME / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: MAKOTO SHINKAI / SCREENWRITER: MAKOTO SHINKAI / STARRING: RYUNOSUKE KAMIKI, MONE KAMISHIRAISHI, MASAMI NAGASAWA, ETSUKO ICHIHARA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW