If someday I should forget you
Or the moment that I met you,
I hope, easing your regret, you
Know, although you fade
In memory, your soul and mine
Are too attached to disentwine.
You are the one for whom I’ll pine
Till all the world’s unmade.
MPAA rating: Not rated yet (should be PG, maybe PG-13)
I’ve been awaiting Makoto Shinkai’s next feature film for some time now, and it seems that his latest movie has finally earned him acclaim and notice outside of anime fan circles. Kimi No Na Wa, or Your Name, is being heralded as proof of Shinkai coming into his own as “the new Hayao Miyazaki,” and this his fifth feature film has been hugely successful in Japan, where it is currently the seventh highest-grossing film ever.
Honestly, I’m just thrilled that I was able to see Your Name so soon after its release (as opposed to waiting perhaps a year for the DVD), but the fact that it is such a winner for writer/director Shinkai makes it even better. I’ve had a rocky regard for his past films, which are always visually beautiful and emotional but range from confusing (The Place Promised in Our Early Days) to depressing (5 Centimeters Per Second) to absolutely wondrous (Children Who Chase Lost Voices). I can’t say Your Name is the faultless masterpiece that many reviewers are making it out to be, but it’s an enchanting and praiseworthy fantasy drama that seems like the culmination of all that his less successful films tried to be.
On the surface, Your Name is a body-swap comedy between a city boy named Taki in Tokyo and a country girl named Mitsuha. Sick of her provincial surroundings and embarrassed by her feminine duties at her grandmother’s Shinto shrine, Mitsuha wishes she could be a handsome boy in Tokyo in her next life, a fancy that soon becomes reality. At random times, the two wake up in each other’s bodies and awkwardly try to live each other’s lives until they can get back to their own the next day. Their memories of the other-body experiences remain hazy afterward, like a dream, but the reactions of their friends and family make it clear that the switch is indeed real. Through notes, advice, and complaints left for each other, they get to know each other on a deeper level than most, while having a key element of any relationship—face-to-face contact—just out of reach.
Based on the trailers, one might think the body-swap humor was the main point of the film, but it actually makes up only the first third, with the rest of the film taking a far deeper and more meaningful course. Had the film remained like the first forty minutes, it would have been a somewhat fun and strange if unremarkable story, but as long as the tonal shift doesn’t bother viewers, it’s the final hour that explains Your Name’s popular acclaim, going off in unexpected and poignant directions. While publicity shots like the one below suggest that Taki and Mitsuha have greater contact, they’re separated by more than distance for the majority of the film. When they do have fleeting connections, it’s the stuff of cosmic, tragic romance, which brings people like me close to tears, even if I don’t quite get there.
Your Name does stumble on occasion, particularly when Shinkai indulges in repeated music video-like montages, like the one at the end of 5 Centimeters Per Second. The J-pop contributions of the band Radwimps actually complement the film well, but the montages sometimes give the film a rushed quality that could have been improved. The non-linear storyline also leaves the significance of some scenes in doubt, especially at the beginning… that is, until the importance of certain flashbacks becomes clearer. I would highly recommend seeing the film more than once, since the layers of its plot are better appreciated when viewed with the whole picture.
Other traces of Shinkai’s past work actually improve on his portfolio. Like The Place Promised in Our Early Days, there are a boy and girl’s sci-fi-ish separation and the threat of massive destruction, while the presence of a comet streaking across the sky brings to mind the space probe of 5 cm. One moment toward the end was even straight out of the unsatisfying conclusion of 5 Centimeters Per Second, prompting me to say “No, don’t you dare end it like that!” Luckily, it didn’t. I also appreciated a neat little cameo for a character from Shinkai’s previous film The Garden of Words.
Your Name is as beautifully animated a film as any I’ve seen in recent memory, with Shinkai’s usual attention to detail for light and shadow being exemplified. A sojourn to an expansive crater out in the countryside is especially memorable, with some gorgeous fall colors on display. Details abound, both in the scenery and the story, and attention is paid to fleshing out not only Taki and Mitsuha but also their friends and family members, making for a comprehensively touching film.
There’s so much to admire in Your Name, from the intricate but engaging plot to the moments of visual beauty, that few should mind its weaknesses, such as the quasi-spiritual “explanation” for the body swap itself. It has a good chance at snagging a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars, which would make it the first non-Studio Ghibli anime film to do so, and even if I suspect Zootopia is the favored winner, Your Name would also be deserving. I still consider Children Who Chase Lost Voices to be Shinkai’s unsung masterpiece, but films like it and Your Name are what might make him a household name one of these days.
Best line: (Mitsuha’s grandmother, to Mitsuha/Taki) “Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up.”
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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