Your Name (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray/3 Discs Deluxe Edition (Distributor: All The Anime) Running time: 107 minutes approx.
Something quite remarkable has happened to anime films over the past year, that being them starting appear more regularly in mainstream cinemas across the UK (not my local sadly). The reason for this? The astounding global success of Makoto Shinkai’s latest opus Your Name.
Breaking records wherever it has been screened, this is a body swap fantasy drama with a difference, once again exploring Shinaki’s favourite theme of inexplicable but enduring connections between two people under the most extraordinary circumstances. In the fictional rural town of Itomori schoolgirl Mitsuha Miyamizu wakes up one morning after a experiencing a peculiar dream and is not feeling herself. Meanwhile in Tokyo, schoolboy Taki Tachibana is in the exact same situation.
The next day things are back to normal but both Mitsuha and Taki are distraught to learn of their out-of-character exploits from the previous day, leaving quite an impression in their wake. Through a mix of serendipity and perspicacity they both manage to communicate with each other and figure out that they have somehow transferred into the other’s body and gradually form a tenuous bond. But when they finally agree to meet up in person, Taki makes a startling discovery.
Shinkai has a remarkable gift for taking familiar and conventional storylines and adding a unique twist to them, veering off into unexpected magical territories, ending up with something that feels wholly original. And even if this isn’t enough to win over the most cynical and hard to please viewer, the exquisite and charming presentation will almost certainly prove to be very persuasive.
Due the inherent comedy the body swap concept inevitably invites – some which Shinkai does indulge in – finding a fresh angle is an unenviable task but Your Name benefits from a fertile mind behind its creative direction. The first sign of this is in how the unwilling participants in this corporeal exchange programme live a great distance from each other and as such, are wildly different personalities.
Taki as a city boy, lives a typically busy life and has ambitions of becoming on architect, working a part time job at a restaurant. Living in the countryside, Mitsuha’s life is hectic in a typically rural way, following their grandmother and partaking in the traditional rites and ceremonies of their village. Luckily for Taki, he avoids this aspect of Mitsuha’s life when in her body while she inadvertently helps Taki get closer to older female restaurant colleague Miki Okudera, who is oddly attracted to the feminine qualities Taki displays, which his male self fails to replicate.
Serving as the catalyst for the crisis point is a comet that is making a rare appearance over the skies of Itomori which will be celebrated with a festival. Now, if you have seen Shinkai’s previous films you’ll probably have guessed from the first mention of the comet early in the film the role it will play in the direction story, at least in introducing the fantasy element. In this case you’ll be partly right but Shinkai uses it to facilitate a huge plot twist.
From here the focus is on the pure heartfelt emotion that Shinkai is able to engender with his films via the whimsical oneiric style that he has mastered and enchanted us with for the past 17 years. The fusion of sci-fi concepts and traditional Japanese philosophical beliefs threatens to cloud the narrative, thanks to the plot cavils incurred by the former, but come together smoothly enough to maintain investment in the central plight.
Elsewhere this serves as an interesting character study and how literally walking in someone else’s shoes can make all the difference in helping one grow as a person in their own right. While Taki ostensibly benefits from the application of Mitsuha’s feminine sensibilities helping his personal relationships, the changes Taki brings to Mitsuha, namely his hotheaded temperament and tougher resolve, are superficially shocking, but the effect is widespread and arguably more vital.
Not that the script ponders too much on any philosophical questions that may arise from people of opposite genders experiencing life in the other’s body, nor does it raise any concerns about the pitfalls and scientific improbability of this concept. Instead Shinkai sticks to his favoured remit of engaging our emotions and taking us for a ride through the exploits of two separated people destined to be together.
And as you might expect, this is a visually delightful experience boasting the exceptional high quality of detailed artwork Shinkai is noted for, from the lush backgrounds and evocative sceneries to the use of sweeping 360° camera shots to replicate that dizzying panoramic sensation. The cast designs stay close to the template favoured by Shinkai whilst the study of physical movement remains astute.
J-Rock band RADWIMPS provide a number of tracks for the musical soundtrack, along with the usual emotive symphonic scores Shinkai employs, and this departure begets another as the songs feature in small music videos inserted to bridge the gap between developments of the main story. Don’t worry, it’s not as jarring as it sounds and adds levity to the early proceedings ahead of the heavy drama of the second half.
Great success does have its drawbacks however, beyond the incredible burden of having to follow up such a career defining moment, and in this case it is that it crumbles a little under the weight of the superlatives bestowed upon it and ensuing hype it has enjoyed. It doesn’t necessarily disappoint or make one feel “is that it?” but the familiarity of the concept and Shinkai relying on many of his trademark established traits runs the risk of some viewers maybe expecting more from it.
I can’t imagine Shinkai fans or any anime fan not finding Your Name to be an absorbing and enchanting treat, and if it does open more doors for anime films in the mainstream then its status as modern trailblazer is deserved as well as assured. Another gem in an already dazzling catalogue of films.
English Language 5.1 w/ English Songs
English Language 5.1 w/ Japanese Songs
Japanese Language 5.1 w/ English Subtitles
Makoto Shinkai Filmography
Limited Deluxe Collector’s Edition
1 Disc Blu-ray
1 Disc DVD
Soundtrack CD by RADWIMPS
Rigid Collector Packaging
Art Cards (one numbered as Certificate of Authenticity)
132 Page Book
Rating – ****
Man In Black