Your Name is one of the rare Japanese anime films that is fortunately released outside of Japan. It is based on Makato Shinkai’s novel of the same name. Filled with art and animations that mesmerize while having a unique and complex storyline, it’s little wonder that this film has become Japan’s 4th highest grossing film of all-time (behind Spirited Away, Titanic and Frozen). As of 2016, it is also the second highest-grossing anime film of all time in Japan, earning $288 million worldwide, just short of Studio Ghibli’s most internationally renowned film, Spirited Away ($289 million).
Your Name kicks off with a scene that depicts a meteor sailing through the sky. It then breaks into two and a loose part of it goes plummeting through the clouds. Confused? Don’t worry because everyone watching probably has the same thoughts as you do. The main story revolves around a boy named Taki Tachibana (voiced by Ryunosuke Kamiki) who lives in Tokyo, and a girl Mitsuha Miyamizu (voiced by Mone Amishiraishi) who lives in a country town called Itomori. Itomori is a very backward place, as what you would expect from a humble countryside town.They observe cultural traditions like the ‘Kuchikame’ – a type of sake made by chewing grain and spitting it out.
Mitsuha is sick of the countryside and wishes to be a dashing boy in Tokyo in her next life. The next morning, her wishes are granted when she mysteriously switches bodies with Taki. The intermittent switching of personalities goes on for an extended amount of time, and they gradually get to know each other better through this process. As they get closer, their desire to meet grows stronger. Taki’s desperate search for Mitsuha finally brings us to the location of Itomori where he makes a startling discovery (which of course I won’t reveal).
Perhaps one of the reasons why this movie is so popular among teenagers is because of how identifiable it is with the common youth. The way the film portrays high school students and the subject of sexuality make for many humorous scenes which are easily recognizable in any co-educational institution or modern pop culture if you are the least bit informed, e.g. Taki’s obsession with boobs, his awkward disposition around girls or Mitsuha’s gastronomical delight at exorbitantly priced hipster cafes.
The director (Makato Shinkai) used famous landmarks in Japan so the audience can easily recognize them and feel as if they are in the city with the characters. E.g. the famous Shibuya Crossing and the National Art Center in Tokyo. Tourists who have been to Tokyo will be definitely be excited to see such icons they have been to in real life recreated strikingly well in the film. It depicts the cultural side of Japan as well, showcasing places like Suga and the Hida-Sannogu Hie Shrine.
Side characters in the film make the entire story feel more real and relatable. For example, Taki has a crush on university student Miki Okudera who works at the same restaurant as him and Mitsuha has her personal politics to deal with at home. It helps us learn more about the characters and gives us a glimpse of how their lives operate outside of the body-swapping phenomenon. Although there are many points not clearly explained, like how Taki and Mitsuha magically switch bodies or how they are able to see each other at a certain point in the film, you should already expect this from an anime (have you watched Spirited Away?). Shinkai treats his audience to be intelligent and imaginative enough, leaving it all up to the viewers’ fantasies to think up their own creative reasons.
The soundtrack of the film composed by Radwimps (a local Japanese rock band) complements it well, setting the mood for each scene perfectly. Be it sad or exciting, they have done an exceptional job for this film.
Your Name is released worldwide and it goes to show that the director has catered not only for an international audience but also those unfamiliar to the genre of Japanese animation. It’s commercial and critical success only proves how well Shinkai has done, with some even beginning to call him the ‘new Miyazaki’. Being someone who frequents anime, manga and the odd television series from the West, I am positive that those who don’t usually watch anime can be sure that this film will deliver on many levels.
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Screenplay by: Makoto Shinkai
Based on: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita
Running time: 107 minutes