Whenever there’s a western release of a Japanese feature length animation, they tend to be big news. Unless it’s certain to be a huge hit, not many are seen over on these shores on the big screen. Your Name is the latest blockbuster from the East to arrive here. The film has been a monumental success in Japan, where it’s already 4th in the list of all time highest grossing movies. Only Spirited Away, Titanic & Frozen has taken in more, and out of those, only Spirited Away was made in Japan. I missed the original release here in the UK as I was away on holiday, but luckily Odeon were still showing limited screenings of the movie. So I managed to get an opportunity to watch it as it should be!
The central plot to this movie is a body swapping concept revolving around two teenagers. One, a girl called Mitsuha, living out in rural Japan, bored of her life in the sticks and craving the life in the bright lights of Tokyo. The other, Taki, is a boy living the city life in the capital. A strange turn of events sees them switch with each other, living the life of one another. We follow their journey to find out who they are, and their search for each other.
One trap the film could have easily fallen into would have been the very idea of body swapping. This is usually seen as more of a comedic gimmick, rather than one of love & drama. What director Makoto Shinkai manages to do, is carefully balance the story between comedy and drama. The first half of the movie is very down to earth and humorous. As we see their initial reactions to the swapping, and how it effects each of their social lives. Taki managing to win the affections of a colleague with the help of Mitsuha, whereas Mitsuha has a surge in popularity at her school, with the assistance of Taki! The movie then effectively shifts into a vastly more dramatic & emotional film during the latter half, where the characters and story are very enticing, and the final few acts are filled with palpable tension. Whereas the first act helps us get to know our two protagonists, it’s the second half that makes us truly care for them.
This is where the magic happens; it’s a difficult move to transition between two genres during a movie. The movie could have stayed with its comedic tones of the opening half, but it does incredible well to actually shift away from that without ruining the flow of the story. The plot may become tangled as everything comes together, but if you consider all the points afterwards, it’s all the more rewarding once you do put it all together.
With the advances in CGI, we have been spoilt with incredibly detailed CGI animation. But gone are the days of hand drawn animation, it’s something we rarely ever see nowadays, especially in Western cinema. The visuals in this film are drop dead gorgeous, be it the lush, vibrant forests tucked away in the countryside or the bustling, vivid metropolitan of Tokyo. From a production point of view, the work here is absolutely spot on. Some of the scenery is near photo realistic, to show the level of commitment which went into everything.
The film does have moments of humour which may throw off some westerners, but anyone familiar with anime will understand how their humour can differ us what we would show here, there are obvious cultural difference to consider! But aside from that, they aren’t much to say against ‘Your Name’. The story is magical, the characters enticing, the animation stunning.