Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
Normal Today, Crazy Yesterday
Your Name is written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, whose other films include 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words. The film was released in the summer of 2016 in Japan, and it was so successful that it surpassed Spirited Away as the highest grossing anime film of all time. It is the first anime film not produced by Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki to break the 10 billion yen (US $98 million) milestone.
Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu seem to have little in common; Mitsuha lives in the small town of Itomori out in the country, is the mayor’s daughter and a bit of a social outcast, and hates where she lives while Taki lives in the busy city of Tokyo, casually strolls into class late regularly, and puts work before everything else. Mistuha, her younger sister, and grandmother attend to the responsibilities and beliefs of the Miyamizu shrine, which include making kuchikamikaze that is made as part of a public ritual and offering it in the family tomb. Taki works as a waiter and has a crush on his boss, but his university studies revolve around his passion for drawing.
A comet that is visible once every 1,200 years named Tiamat is about to appear and will be visible for days. This comet connects Taki and Mitsuha in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine. Once either of them goes to sleep, they switch bodies as they dream and begin to alter each other's lives just by interacting within a part of the world they’re not accustomed to. Once they discover that the events occurring are actually taking place and not just a vivid dream sequence, they begin to leave each other notes through text messages and writing on their arms and faces. Without these messages, their body swaps become a distant memory. But there has to be a purpose for such a miraculous incident as the desire to meet in person is revealed to be more difficult than originally planned.
At its core, the concept of Your Name is basically Freaky Friday or Ranma 1/2 combined with that other movie Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock did together that isn’t Speed (The Lake House), but that’s just the trigger. Those similarities soon fade as this explosion of brilliance and artistry takes hold. The film is absolutely stunning to watch; just staring at it and allowing your eyeballs to absorb its gorgeous animation is wondrous in itself. The backgrounds in this feel like nature, everything feels genuine, and you can almost feel life in every frame of the film. A good way to figure out if an animated film is going to be special and unlike anything else in the genre is to observe the food; if meals in an animated film make your mouth water then you know you’re in for something unique. It sounds bizarre, but if the filmmakers put that much effort into establishing authentic deliciousness then you can have faith the rest of the film will have that intricate attention to detail.
You fall in love with Mitsuha as soon as you’re introduced to her. It’s not really that sense of affection or desire, but as a character you find yourself attached to her the minute she awakes from that dream with the most ridiculously awesome bedhead hair ever. These characters have normal lives revolving around family, work, and school and perhaps because something extraordinary happens to two individuals who are otherwise average on their own yet magnificent together is what makes the film so compelling. Your Name has this remarkably well balanced approach to something that would otherwise be extremely embarrassing and intruding one’s personal space. These two strangers have humorous, heartwarming, and soul crushing circumstances happen because of this interaction. Their lives are altered forever afterward to the point where all they do is obsess about one another, but they soon only have partial memory of everything to the point where they don’t remember what happened or who that person was they adore so much. All Taki and Mitsuha have is a gut feeling and a sense of déjà vu to guide them.
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Once Taki or Mistuha are back in their bodies, half the fun of the film is the two of them discovering what they did the previous day. It’s what helps establish the guidelines for future swaps. Coming back to the scenery, everything is animated elegantly and so realistically. Trees fluctuate from green leaves shining in the sun to impressive fall foliage that is this magnificent blend of reds, oranges, and yellows. The way light reflects off of water in Itomori is also completely mesmerizing. Yojira Noda, the lead vocalist for Japanese rock band Radwimps, is responsible for the soundtrack. The music is essential to the emotional impact of the film. These songs that mostly revolve around fanciful yet engrossing strings and joyously upbeat piano arrangements seem to add an extra layer of innocence to the film.
Musubi is established as a key factor later on in the story, as well. Musubi is basically how everything is connected in the universe from the braided cords Mitsuha’s family works on diligently to the ribbon in her hair to the reason Taki and Mitsuha are experiencing all of this. Your Name is intertwined with time. Every person reading this probably has their favorite time traveling film or television series, whether it’s Back to the Future, The Terminator, Futurama, or dozens of other titles not mentioned here. Your Name is a story done so well that it will likely end up being one of your favorite time related films ever. The story is pieced together so well as the film effortlessly toys with your emotions and rising interest in how everything will end until it all collides in this exceptionally satisfying and unbelievably dazzling conclusion.
Your Name is one of the greatest time traveling stories ever told; animated or otherwise. You discover this undying love for Taki and Mitsuha as they unravel just how much they need one another over the course of the film. Makoto Shinkai has delivered an anime film that is just as alluring (if not slightly more so) as a Studio Ghibli film with a powerful story and marvelous animation that is as lifelike as traditional animation can get. Blissfully psychedelic at times with magnetic chemistry between two characters you become totally and completely invested in, Your Name broke Japanese box office records for a reason. This anime film is unlike any other and is a film so enticing and so fantastic that you have to witness all of its beauty and elegance for yourself.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Rayno Pon from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 10, 2017:
I'm agreed with your review about "Your Name". To be frankly, I've watched this anime twice and each time, I discovered different perspectives from it.
This is by far one of the best animes of Ghibli Studio, two thumbs up!