Your Name. *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai.
Written by: Makoto Shinkai based on his novel.
Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki (Taki Tachibana), Mone Kamishiraishi (Mitsuha Miyamizu), Ryô Narita (Katsuhiko Teshigawara), Aoi Yuki (Sayaka Natori), Nobunaga Shimazaki (Tsukasa Fujii), Kaito Ishikawa (Shinta Takagi), Kanon Tani (Yotsuha Miyamizu), Masaki Terasoma (Toshiki Miyamizu), Sayaka Ohara (Futaha Miyamizu), Kazuhiko Inoue (Taki's Father).
Your Name is an anime film that starts off as one thing, but morphs at about the halfway point into something altogether different. I’m not quite sure that transition wholly works, but I admire the hell out of the film for trying, and the film undeniably goes to unexpected places, and is a beautiful film from beginning to end. In a world that has been sorely lacking in great anime (at least making its way to these shores) since Studio Ghibli went on hiatus, the film was a breath of fresh air.
The first act of Your Name promises a body switch comedy in the vein of Freaky Friday, but perhaps with slightly more depth. In small town Japan, Mitsuha dreams of getting out – she is the daughter of the mayor, although he has little to do with her, and lives with her grandma and younger sister. She wants to go to Tokyo, and basically waiting for high school to be over so she can do it. In Tokyo, Taki is slightly older – he works as a waiter in a restaurant, and lives with his distant father. These two have nothing to do with each other – until they discover that when they fall asleep, they do really do become the other person (they had thought they were just dreams). They find ways to communicate with each other, and establish ground rules for each other to follow (Mitsuha probably should have established some about how much Taki is allowed to play with her breasts) so as not to ruin each other’s lives. Then, as they are growing closer after about six months of doing this, everything stops – and Taki sets out to discover why – what he finds out, shifts the film from the body switch comedy into something deeper and more speculative and imaginative.
In terms of visual beauty, there are few animated films in recent memory that can match Your Name- which takes place in two very different worlds, all in the same country. The Tokyo here seems like a real, breathing city – full of beautiful skyscrapers, and the bustle of the city. Mitsuha’s small town, inside a giant crater, is something more fantastical than more traditionally beautiful. There is hardly a moment here that doesn’t belong as a tweet from One Perfect Shot.
The film takes a few narrative twists and turns, and honestly, I’m not quite sure they all add up – it’s almost somewhat disappointing when it takes some of the twists, because where the narrative had been going was original in and of itself. Yet writer/director Makoto Shinkai has something bigger in mind that that, and the way he sketches the relationship between Taki and Mitsuha really is as beautiful as animation itself.
Your Name doesn’t quite reach the heights of the best anime. It doesn’t quite immerse you wholly and completely the way the best Miyazaki films do, nor is it quite as mind bending as some of the other, more overtly sci-fi of the genre can get. Still, it’s better than any anime film I’ve seen since The Wind Rises – and that was four years ago, so you knows, Your Name is more than good enough to scratch that anime itch that hasn’t been scratched in a while.