Japan’s highest grossing film of 2016 recently made its US debut, bringing a sense of wonder and that special charm that only anime can deliver. At the heart of it, Your Name is a love story that is uniquely Japanese.
Makoto Shinkai wrote and directed this film based on his own novel, so there was harmony in key places. The story follows a young boy and girl as they swap bodies in their dreams and must navigate one another’s lives while trying to avoid any unwanted problems. The situation is further complicated by a burgeoning love story between the two and an impending meteor strike that wipes out a small town. Shinkai’s script is one of the biggest strengths, harnessing subtle humor with sometimes childish but appropriate spikes that play well. At nearly two hours, the run-time is bit beefy and the main point gets a bit buried while trying to explain a very complicated plot that has a lot of push and pull.
The film is beautiful both visually and in it’s innocent tale of young love. Shinkai was man of many hats on this project ensuring the visual elements of the film fit his vision. He served as not only art director, but storyboard artist, cinematographer and film editor. Mateusz Urbanowicz did a wonderful job crafting the background art and helped blur the line between fantasy and reality by juxtaposing fast paced city and small town life. Those environments really helped carve out identities for the two main characters and define their roles in the story and the larger world.
Mone Kamishiraishi plays Mitsuha Miyamizu, a small town teenage girl who has big city dreams while battling with her own sense responsibility to her family and tradition. After waking up one morning from what she believes is simply an intense dream, her journey of self discovery and salvation begins. Her counterpart on the magical journey is Taki Tachibana, played by Ryunosuke Kamiki who’s known for his voice roles in Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Taki is busy enjoying his life as a teen boy, and part-time waiter, in Tokyo when it’s all interrupted by vivid dreams and the search for answers.
I went into it a tad skeptical of the PG rating. A story about gender swapping has some depths to navigate and the lack of an adult approach to the subject matter is obvious. The female characters are sexualized throughout, not a shocker, but it’s done from a very adolescent viewpoint and never becomes overt or gratuitous. It feels like a missed opportunity, but the story isn’t really about gender identity.
Recommendation: This is a good movie that has broad appeal across demographics and is worth a watch. It’s family friendly but stretches well into adulthood and stays enjoyable for all the same reasons.