Director: Makoto Shinkai
In Theaters: 04.07
Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name has arrived in the U.S. at an interesting time. Not only has it surpassed Spirited Away as the highest grossing anime film in box office history, but it’s arriving on the tail end of the controversy surrounding the recent adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. I will always struggle with the notion of turning an animated film into a live action one, and Your Name only serves to galvanize those feelings. It’s a sweeping love story filled with unexpected twists, a humbling meditation on the power of fate in our lives and, perhaps most importantly, a stellar piece of visual art. The dark-hearted exec who greenlights a live-action adaptation of this film will suffer a special kind of torture after they die and go to hell.
Much like the transition between adolescence and adulthood, Your Name starts out as innocently awkward fun and matures into thought-provoking ambiguity. Taki and Mitsuha are two Japanese teenagers separated by considerable distance. Taki knows nothing of Mitsuha’s provincial life practicing Shinto ceremonies in the small town of Itomori, and Mitsuha has no idea that Taki is nursing a crush on his supervisor at a busy Tokyo restaurant—until they mysteriously start switching bodies. Each transition leaves Taki and Mitsuha vaguely aware of their experiences as one another, eventually prompting them to start leaving each other messages. Through this correspondence, and the time spent getting to know each other’s starkly different lifestyle and social circle, Taki and Mitsuha form a bond that transcends time and consciousness.
People love the “fish out of water” trope, and even the most unskilled director can usually make this idea work. Initially, that’s what I figured Your Name was going to be. Its first few moments, which depict Taki and Mitsuha waking up after they had spent the previous day in each other’s bodies, are great expositional moments. We start to see each character objectively, and their small, everyday routines become disarmingly important to us. It’s so easy to invest yourself into these characters and the inevitability of their chance meeting, that the fork in the narrative hits as hard as a sledgehammer. This is some expertly orchestrated storytelling, and it deftly balances ideas of fate, friendship and the gravity of our decisions.
When the film shifts trajectories, the relationship between Mitsuha and Taki leaves that playful innocence behind and becomes something that has ramifications on the whole town of Itomori. A tonal shift of this magnitude is difficult to pull off, but it’s something that Your Name manages exceptionally well. Instead of laughing about how Taki and Mitsuha are impacting each other’s social lives, we’re desperately hoping that they can pull off something impossible.
While Your Name is a story that could be adapted into any number of formats, it absolutely should not be touched. Like any animated film apologist will tell you, a significant part of Your Name’s cinematic power comes from the fact that a team of animators faithfully recreated the Tokyo cityscape with meticulous detail. This is the kind of film that makes you forget the tireless hours that went into creating it—and that is an impressive feat in and of itself. Your Name is pure cinematic beauty, and it adds a level of legitimacy and sophistication to the animated film genre that you just don’t get from a movie like Boss Baby. –Alex Springer