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Your Name was an anime film that was a great commercial success in Japan and around the world. It is the fourth highest grossing film in Japan, the seventh highest grossing traditional animated film and highest grossing anime film internationally. And it was deserving of these financial rewards.
Your Name follows two teenagers, Mitsuha a girl from a small town in the mountains and Taki, a boy from Tokyo. As a comet passes Earth for the first time in 1,000 years, the pair end up swapping bodies and as they figure out their situation they leave notes and rules for each other.
On the surface, Your Name seemed it was going to be a body swap comedy and the first act the film looked like it was going down that route: then there was a surprising twist that made the film so much better. It was so unexpected that the review will have to go into SPOILER territory from here.
After the link between Mitsuha and Taki is broken, Taki sets out to find Mitsuha in the Hida region. What Taki discovers is the connection between the two transcends time and space. There was foreshadowing regarding how time weaves and bends, but it doesn’t become apparent until the twist is revealed. This is a testament to the cleverness of Makoto Shinkai’s direction and writing. Even the beginning montage that looked like the opening credits for an anime show was put into a different light later in the film and shows why it was important.
As body swap comedy-drama it is perfectly fine and it was inventive because Mitsuha and Taki lose their memories afterward. They assume the body swap is a dream and the pair actually have to realize that it actually happening – and they communicate with each other. The big feature of this storyline is when Mitsuha is in Taki’s body she starts to form a relationship with Miss Okudera, Taki’s crush and it seemed like the film was going to have a transgender identity theme. There is some obvious comedy involving Mitsuha and Taki discovering different body parts but this is type of sex humor is mild considering what the anime genre has provided. In the USA Your Name was rated PG in the USA and 12A in the UK, which gives audiences a hint that Your Name doesn’t get too blue.
Like many films Your Name is split into three acts and it is cleverly structured. The first act focuses on Mitsuha, a girl from a conservative and traditional Japanese town who longs to live in the big city and the body swap allows her to see Tokyo and the all the wonders that city has to hold. The second is Taki’s story as he goes into the Hida region and searches for Mitsuha after their connection breaks. The final act is when the two have to work together and all the wibbly wobbly, timey wimey story elements come to a head.
Your Name is also a beautifully animated film. This is to be expected from anime yet Your Name excesses. The film nails both the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the natural beauty and tranquillity of the Hida Mountains and both characters are awed by their new surroundings. It adds to the theme of Mitsuha’s desire to leave her home town and live in Toyko and shows the contrast between a modern city and a town steeped in tradition.
The comet was also a sight to behold, a grand celestial body moving in the night sky. It was a colorful creation and this alone justifies Your Name‘s right to be animated. The grandeur of Your Name‘s story and events made animation necessary, more so than A Silent Voice, another acclaimed anime film released this year in the West.
The film’s animation also pays attention to little details like when Taki and his friends are in a cafe where a baseball game is on the TV in the background. It is something that could easily be ignored but adds to the reality and atmosphere of the world.
Your Name is a bit like an anime version of Donnie Darko because of its time bending elements, it’s philosophy about the nature of time and being a teenage story. It is beautifully told and looking anime film that fans and non-fans of the media should enjoy.