Even before it has hit our shores, Your Name has become something of a phenomenon in its native Japan. Immensely popular, it is the first non Studio Ghibli animated film to gross 10 Billion Yen and has been receiving rave review after playing at various film festivals. When a film is hyped to this level and has gotten such wide acclaim, a natural reaction is wondering whether it could possibly be that good.
Yes it can be, and so much more.
Taki and Mitsuha are living very different lives; he’s a typical Tokyo boy studying, working, and hanging with his friends, and she is living in a small town in the country constantly dreaming of escape. Then one day they begin to wake up in each other’s bodies. This understandably causes a lot of initial chaos and alarm, but they begin to leave each other notes on their phones in an effort to maintain some semblance of normality in their lives despite the weird situation they find themselves in. Things become more urgent with the arrival of a celestial comet and the two become determined to meet.
It’s hard to think of a single aspect of this film that isn’t absolutely wonderful. Director and writer Makoto Shinkai, whose previous films include the equally heartfelt 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words, takes a concept that could have been simply a kooky body swapping comedy or an overdone love story and instead brings out an entire spectrum of emotional experience. The film starts off silly and lighthearted as Taki and Mitsuha attempt to make sense of their predicament and get into various mishaps in each other’s bodies, but the tone becomes something else as circumstances change. However that change in tone, or maybe it would be more fitting to call it an escalation, doesn’t feel jarring, and if anything just makes you more invested. In short, you’ll smile, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and all with an undercurrent of what it means to be longing for something, leaving you with a kind of emotional catharsis as you walk out.
The film is also a play on the connecting of things; boy and girl, town and country, modernity and tradition, tying it all together like the braided cords we see Mitsuha help make at the family shrine and which she herself wears in her hair. These also tie into the concept of the red string of fate, an idea in Asian cultures where two people are linked together by destiny.
Fittingly, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, with everything from the sweeping dreamlike scenery, to the intricate and so realistic cityscapes, to the tiniest details containing so much life and beauty. The character animations have wonderful subtleties to them, given life by the lead voice actors Ryunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi. There is a distinct difference in Taki and Mitsuha and then Taki-as-Mitsuha and Mitsuha-as-Taki. It’s wonderful to watch and really adds to the enjoyment of the film, especially for animation fans. The soundtrack provided by Japanese rock group Radwimps is, possibly unsurprising at this point, wonderful; getting across the vibe of the film just right with a mixture of jaunty pop-style, light orchestrations, and some great vocal songs, my personal favourite of which has to be the theme “Nandemonaiya” (although “Sparkle” is a close second).
Unfortunately Your Name won’t be the easiest film to find at the moment, but I strongly urge you that it is absolutely worth the effort to seek out. It is a wonderful story, flawlessly told, and will capture you in a way that will keep you coming back. This is a film which needs to be seen.