Some Basic Info About This Anime Blockbuster
Title: Your Name a.k.a. Kimi no Na wa
Production: CoMix Wave Films
Film Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: 8/26/2016
Age Rating: 7+ (mild language, mild suggestive content)
Summary: Mitsuha is a girl living out in the boonies of central Japan, bored with country living, who feels stifled by her family's rich tradition of maintaining the local shrine and upholding the ancient traditions, all the while wishing she could escape it all and live in Tokyo. Taki is a boy living in the heart of Tokyo who juggles handling his schoolwork and handling a part-time job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant who dreams of one day becoming an architect. Both of their lives hit an extraordinary snag when, one morning, they find themselves waking up in each other's bodies. Blindsided and dumbstruck by this turn of events, the two of them stumble through the day and find, to their dismay, that the phenomenon repeats itself every other day. Setting ground rules and leaving instructions for each other, all the while coming to know one another, Mitsuha and Taki try to finesse their way through this odd circumstance so that one day, hopefully, they can finally find out what's happening to them.
The Good: Damn near everything
The Bad: Nothing really comes to mind
The Ugly: The fact that we would all be guilty of what Taki does as Mitsuha every morning.
How did I get here, watching a movie by a director I already like?
It should be no surprise by now that I faithfully worship at the altar of Makoto Shinkai. I would have offered my firstborn unto him, but considering I have no children, a fact that displeased him, I had to settle for giving him my left leg (so I can still drive, y'know). Naturally, when this movie was announced back in...whenever it was announced, I was already sold. And then, 500 years later, when the planetary alignment was complete and the film was finally released, I had to resort to some shady means to get my eyes on it. California is quite a ways away, after all. It was a low-quality camrip that did the film zero justice, but I couldn't have been more delighted. But now the Blu-ray is out and I am a happy boy. So, now that we've already established that I love this movie, does it deserve to go down in history as the highest-grossing anime film of all time? Well, yes, my summary up above has already let that cat out of the bag, so I guess I'll just have to explain why I think so.
Shall we discuss all the many things the film does right?
Over the past few years, with movies like The Garden of Words and Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Makoto Shinkai and his studio have gotten extremely
good at creating gorgeous visuals. Hell, 5 Centimeters Per Second has earned the memetic title of "5 Wallpapers Per Second." But Your Name puts them all to shame with his best and most appealing character designs to date and some of the most beautiful backgrounds and lighting effects in the entire medium. The level of nuance and detail in the character animation is likewise impressive, with emotive, flexible facial expressions and fidgety gestures. It also cannot be understated how wonderful the film's use of color truly is. Nearly every shot in the film is instantly striking with plenty of blues and purples contrasted with reds and oranges to make each shot pop to life. Tremendous amounts of love have also gone into making backwater Itomori and ultra-modern Tokyo rich and alive in every sense, making them feel almost as if the film were shot in live-action. When it comes to the visuals, I have absolutely nothing to complain about whatsoever.
Your Name also features a nice pop-rock soundtrack provided by a group called RADWIMPS. Their tunes are quite nice, boasting a sort of relaxing and down-to-earth feel that accompany the mood quite well. The voice acting is, likewise, noteworthy in its quality. It may come as a surprise for many anime fans to learn that the majority of voice acting is objectively terrible, but that problem is not true here—Your Name's voice acting is nothing short of exemplary. I can't vouch for the English dub (though the cast looks promising enough), but the Japanese performances are all-around rock solid. It shines exceptionally bright with Mone Kamishiraishi's portrayal of Mitsuha and Ryunosuke Kamiki's work for Taki. The film plays with the fact that Taki speaks in a brash and confident manner while Mitsuha's speech is more delicate with a countryside dialect. The two actors have to adopt the other's speaking habits when the two characters switch. Not only does this subtly inform us on how the characters interact with the world around them, it leads to a few very funny moments early in the film.
This leads us naturally into the subject of our two leads, Mitsuha and Taki. Being from a rural area myself, I can relate to Mitsuha's insatiable desire to be anywhere else than Itomori. The fact that she's a lively and fiery person makes her a lot of fun to follow, especially when she's masquerading as Taki. And I think every guy in the room can identify with Taki's inability to not be the unabashed pervert every single one of us would be in his situation. His mounting frustration with Mitsuha nudging him forward in his social relationships is another character aspect I can relate to. Of course, as is the nature of character-driven fiction, the two of them change over time as the result of their indirect interactions. All I'll say here in this spoiler-free review is that the places they end up are not only believable, but they feel like where they've been building up to all their lives. Their development is handled with skill and care. I do quite like all the secondary characters as well, from Mitsuha's grandma and younger sister to Taki's workplace crush Okudera and Mitsuha's bickering friends Sayaka and Tessie. The focus is on the leads and since it required them to be particularly strong, it only makes sense that they got the most screentime.
When you think about it, it's kind of a minor miracle that Mitsuha and Taki got as much development as they did, because so much stuff happens in this movie! Without giving too much away, Your Name drops a humongous plot twist at around the 58-minute mark. The second half of the film is entirely different from the first, focusing almost exclusively on Taki. The premise of the film sounds like it could easily take up the entire runtime. At first, it feels like the movie is coming to a nice close, like the quickest two-hour film around! But then the twist happens. It really does feel like two hours of content were squeezed into the first hour, and squeezed in very well, I might add. From there, it moves like a speeding train, gathering intense momentum and throwing more twists and turns at us before the (literally) explosive climax. And never does any of it feel rushed or unnatural. The pacing is perfect, as is the emotional core of the film.
Inspired heavily by the 2011 earthquake that rocked eastern Japan, the subtext of the film involves irreversible change and failing to be properly prepared in the face of imminent disasters in our lives. Again, I don't want to give away too much, but the fact that the 2011 earthquake was reminiscent of another mighty earthquake that ravaged Japan over 1000 years ago is very much relevant to the film's second half. To be faced with such calamity and find a slim measure of hope to avoid it would have surely been an incredibly cathartic experience for the Japanese audience. Watching the film could help cope with what could be considered a minor social trauma. Seeing the movie from this perspective offers some interesting insight into the production as well. Naturally, within the story itself, both stakes and emotions run high. Given that we've come to like these characters, we want to see them overcome the trials that arise. And it makes for great entertainment, I'll tell you what.
What's the downside? ARE there any downsides?!
Well, there is one. There's a minor plot hole. Now, many detractors of the film will tell you there are multiple, but they're wrong. There's only one. It doesn't ruin anything, it doesn't change anything, but when the movie's over and you're sittin' on the toilet later that night, you'll think to yourself, "Wait a minute...how in the world did neither of them notice that [spoilers redacted]?!" And there is no answer. The evidence is right there in both of their rooms and on both of their phones. What would have saved this plot hole from being a plot hole, if you ask me, would be if the film didn't deftly sweep this problem under the rug hoping we wouldn't notice it--rather, Your Name should have come right out with it and be like, "Boy isn't this weird? Why would that be the case? Sure is mysterious~" Then the issue would've been addressed while not taking away from the mystery, but alas, that's not what we got. Leaving it unaddressed makes this a plot hole and, to me, the film's one and only flaw. Le sigh.
So basically, the verdict is that the film is amazing, right?
And those are some of my thoughts on Your Name. I was already bound to like it, as Makoto Shinkai is one of my favorite anime directors, but I was utterly blown away by how much he managed to outdo himself this time around. I'm actually quite pleased that the film is doing as well as it is with international audiences, as it means it could be possible for Shinkai to become a household name like Hayao Miyazaki (Although, as much as I love Shinkai, he's still got a ways to go before standing equal to the legendary Miyazaki.) It is always tremendously pleasing to me when a great anime becomes popular, because I belong to the camp that believes quality should be rewarded with popularity to enrich our collective pop culture. By all metrics in that regard, this film has been rewarded handsomely.
Final Score: 10 out of 10. Makoto Shinkai strikes gold once again, as Your Name not only manages to be his most dazzling visual work thus far, but also tells a gripping story that combines elements both fantastical and hauntingly real. This should be mandatory viewing for anyone who calls themselves a fan of animation.