“That day when the stars came falling. It’s almost as if a scene from a dream. Nothing more, nothing less than a beautiful view.”
(source: Anime News Network)
If you haven’t heard of the animated Japanese movie Your Name (original Japanese: Kimi no Na wa/君の名は), then...well, you mustn’t have been paying attention when the Internet exploded chaotically about it in the past month (We kid, we kid.) Director Makoto Shinkai (also known for other animated masterpieces such as Garden of Words, and 5 Centimetres per Second) brings to the table a beautifully-scripted, beautifully-animated film that has people the world over hailing him as the next Hayao Miyazaki.
Wondering if you should catch this movie yet? You definitely should — here are all the non-spoiler-y reasons why.
This isn’t your typical boy-meets-girl romance — well, they do meet, but only in the most literal form of the word “physical”: body-swapping. As expected, a boy (Taki Tachibana) and a girl (Mitsuha Miyamizu) slowly fall in love (even if they don’t realise it yet) but one thing stands in their way: time. Their lives run at different paces (one being in the countryside and the other in the city), after all.
While the characters are slightly stereotypical, it is easy to fall in love with them due to their hilarious and realistic responses to what is happening to them. My only gripe is that we’re not given enough time to get acquainted with both of their personalities. Given the great way the storyline focused and built empathy for Mitsuha in the first half, I was disappointed to not experience the same for Taki.
Then again, given the quick pace at which the movie develops, this doesn't seem that much of a problem since the second half (and the crux of the story) ups the ante and draws the audience into the plot. The secondary characters are great and delightfully complementary - even if we see very little of some of them. They add to the comedy and heart of the story, particularly when obliviously reacting to the body-swapped characters.
It’s also not just the plot; it’s the way the script is carefully crafted to reflect the overarching theme of the movie: distinct parallels between the main characters’ lives. Taki and Mitsuha unwittingly echo each other, sometimes even uttering the same lines while standing in the same location. It adds an odd element of deja vu, a fleeting sense of, “wait, haven't I heard this before?”, and this contributes a mysterious feel to the movie. It is in this one moment that the movie tugs painfully at the heartstrings: when the characters are about to meet - it is a bittersweet moment, but we won't spoil it for you.
The characters themselves are masterfully animated to reflect the situation beginning from when the body swapping. It’s all subtly portrayed in the slight differences in mannerisms, the way they stand and sit, and — if you’re familiar with Japanese pronouns — the way they speak. These nuances are small, but they are used to hilarious effect, especially since the main characters’ friends are unaware of the switch.
The whole movie is also paced well, a marked improvement from Shinkai’s previous works. The plot may appear a little predictable and/or cliché — our advice is, don’t attempt to speculate as you watch it. If you look too deeply into the premise of the movie, the magic will disappear.
And what a magic it is, too! With hyper-realistic art, Shinkai manages to immerse the viewer in his fantasy world, as he blurs the line between fiction and reality. Long known for his incredible eye for detail, it’s one thing to hear about it and another to actually see it onscreen. From the panoramic shots over modern-day Tokyo through the day, to even the finest details like the way a smartphone screen lights up, they contribute to the immersive experience in a way Western animation rarely replicates well. The soundtrack, largely created specifically for the movie by prominent Japanese band RADWIMPS, is also used to great effect, helping to build towards climactic moments in the movie. (You can listen to a couple of the tracks here and here.)
We won't say much but while the ending may leave some viewers yearning for more, one must bear in mind Shinkai’s (annoyingly adept) propensity for sad and/or unsatisfyingly ambiguous endings. (5 Centimetres per Second, we're looking at you.) This is honestly as good as it gets.
Overall, Your Name is a great break from reality and makes one hope that they too will get to experience an adventure of a lifetime and fight for their soulmate (':