Once in a blue moon, an animated film comes along and round-houses you to the face with an emotional pow. It doesn’t happen often (although, admittedly, I would class Moana as one of these emotional heavy-hitters…), but when it does, you know you’re in for an instant classic. Of course, over here in the West, it’s rare for a Japanese animation to make much of a ripple unless it comes from the mighty powerhouse of Studio Ghibli, and, as such, it was a delight to discover this little gem.
Your Name, based on Makoto Shinkai’s novel of the same name, introduces us to Mitsuha, the world-weary daughter of the mayor of a small town in rural Japan. Tired of her simple life of temples and sake making, Mitsuha dreams of leaving for the bright lights of Tokyo. One evening she wishes to be reborn as a boy in the big city.
Thereafter, she begins to have strange dreams in which she becomes a Tokyo high-schooler by the name of Taki, enjoying city life, and, as the young boy, attending work and beginning a relationship with one of his/her workmates.
Things take a complicated turn, however, as we begin to realise that Taki is, in fact, a real person, and that the two are switching places via their dreams. What follows is a hilarious serious of events during which the two mess with each other’s lives, communicating through journals and, bizarrely, becoming close friends. Suddenly, however, the switching stops, and Taki takes it upon himself to find the village and track down his soulmate.
Thereafter, the film takes a dark turn… And that’s about all that can be said without giving too much away…
Your Name is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema that twists and turns like the most surprising of roller-coasters, taking the audience on a ride through every extreme of emotion before it reaches its heart-wrenching conclusion. Although, at times, it feels like the pilot of an anime series – a musical montage exactly thirty minutes into the film made me reach for the press release in order to check this actually was a movie, rather than the first three episodes of a show – this reveals itself to be no more than a stringent adherence to a three-act narrative. And golly does it work.
The animation is beautiful; it’s always a delight to see traditional animation in this day and age, and the soundtrack from J-rock band RADWIMPS wonderfully compliments the visual style as well as the voice work. Note on that, by the way; having watched the English trailer after viewing the movie, definitely stick with the original Japanese voices; the American voices just don’t work.
Overall, this is a masterful piece of work, and I’m intrigued to see whether the live-action remake scheduled for next year can in any way measure up to the original. For now though, be sure to give this a watch. And have tissues at the ready.
Your Name is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Anime Limited
Dir: Makoto Shinkai
Prd: Koichiro Ito, Noritaka Kawaguchi, Genki Kawamura, Katsuhiro Takei
Scr: Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yuki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasoma
Music by: RADWIMPS
Run time: 112mins