“The day the star fell it was almost like something out of a dream, nothing more or less than a breathtaking view.”
I want to start things off by saying that I think I have a serious problem when it comes to various forms of media, whether it’s movies or anime. I have a hard time watching movies or anime but when I do try and I feel myself not wanting characters to leave or for the story to end is when I know that I’ve found a piece of media that will stick with me for the rest of my life. From Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to Dragon Ball Z, despite only spending a few hours at a time with these characters I never want their stories to end. I don’t ever want to see those final credits to begin because the reality sets in that I’ll never get to see them beyond what I’ve seen. This is the fundamental flaw I’ve found in some of the anime series that I cherish deeply. I’ll admit, I don’t watch a lot of anime, most of what I was exposed to was back when Toonami and Adult Swim made it a regular point to show us American teenagers what a Gundam or Kamehameha Wave was. I fell in love with the epic space adventures of Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. But out of nearly all of these shows I still feel the closest connection to FLCL (Fooly Cooly) which are six episodes of pure and perfect insanity, I couldn’t get enough of these characters and wished desperately for more adventures with them because I had grown so fond of them. This is precisely my biggest complaint with Your Name, the romance/drama anime film by Makoto Shinkai. I want to do my best to show you why this is one of the greatest anime films of our time.
It would be very easy to just ignore all that I say, in fact, I admitted to not watching much anime but I do hope that my high praises of this film prove that this is indeed a masterpiece of our time.
Our story begins as awkward as things could go. Mitshua, a high school girl living in the rural Itomori, wakes up and realizes that things aren’t as they seem. Her friends and family are reacting oddly to her and inform her that the day before she was acting strange but we can’t worry about that right now because this is a movie about teenagers. I don’t mean that negatively either. Shinkai’s story does a great job at giving the audience an access point into the lives of our main characters. Teenagers dealing with teenage things is a general trope with Japanese anime but for the most part this works great. Mitshua hates living in her little rural village of Itomori, she gets embarrassed when she has to partake in the ritual of kuchikamizake, she feels like there is more to life than what she’s been living and wishes to escape the confines of her world and go to Tokyo. With this the audience, is able to sympathize with her problem and can easily understand her character. Later on we are introduced to Taki, a high school boy living in Tokyo, but yet again things aren’t what they seem again. We discover that Taki and Mitshua are switching bodies for some strange reason but they have a hard time remembering what occurred because they think they are dreaming. This is where the movie takes off allowing us to see how they cope with the body switching while showing how each character grows. The first half of the story primarily follows Mitshua while I’m fairly sure the second half follows Taki. The story has plenty of twists that I obviously won’t spoil because this is a movie worth seeing, even if you don’t end up seeing it in theaters. The way these characters start to bond and grow towards one another is handled in a way that you don’t see much in movies these days. They generally care for one another even though they never see each other or even know each other’s name and before the end of the film you’ll see how much they actually need each other. Folks, this is as cute of a relationship as you can find in anime, and if by the end of the film you aren’t rooting for these two to be together then honestly, I can understand.
While I love the characters, they are quite endearing to me, I can understand if some people who don’t care or understand anime won’t be able to hold on to the plot. There were several times I had to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the movie. I’m not saying you should check rational thinking at the door before you see the film but there are some topics, and some concepts, in this film that could be viewed as “other worldly” or down right odd to someone who either doesn’t watch anime some-what regularly or who doesn’t understand Japanese culture all that much. I still feel like this is a great movie for those who want to get into anime should begin with as it has plenty of humor and its plot is fairly easy to follow along with. The story had me crying at the end even though some tropes I’ve seen in other anime. I also want to note that the supporting cast were all written well enough to provide important pieces to the story. My favorite was Yotshua, Mitshua’s younger sister who is both carefree because of her age and somewhat aware of all that goes on around her. I particularly loved the interactions between Mitshua and Yotshua. I felt like Mitshua’s friends, Katsuhiko and Sayaka, were generally more important and useful than any of Taki’s friends, Miki, Tsukasa, and Shinta, who at one point in the film seem to be added just for comic relief purposes which isn’t a bad thing, I just wish they had had more depth.
The animation of Your Name came as close to photo-realism as we’ve seen in an animated film. Some of the sweeping shots of the lake where Itomori is located and shots of the comet, as seen in some parts of the trailer, are particularly beautiful. There are obvious contrasts between Itomori and Tokyo to the point where it feels like the artists wanted to created very distinct and different atmospheres with the two locations. There were never really any scenes where I felt like quality was lacking. The animation of each character felt fluid and smooth, all the edges for all motions looked smooth, and I am blown away that this film was made using hand drawn cell animation. We are in an age where nearly all of American made animation uses strictly computer graphics but Your Name proves that this style of animation isn’t dead yet. Your Name proves just how beautiful animation can be. The emotion seen in the characters, while not life-like and obvious cartoonish, still resonate. You understand how a character feels solely on body language. To be frank, Your Name looks better than any Disney film. Ever. Then again, Japanese anime has been looking better than Disney films for a while. The level of expressionism and life in Your Name‘s art style is incredible
To briefly touch on the soundtrack, Radwimps did a fantastic job with the score. The opening theme of Dream Lantern creates this urgent desire to move forward. To me the quiet opening is similar to a calm before the storm, telling the viewer that this is where we are right now but this isn’t where we will remain. Slowly as the song builds you can feel the anxiousness beginning to swell, much like our main characters who are ready to find more out of their life than what they currently have. Then finally the drums kick in with the keyboard and guitar playing at a fast pace. It’s a great indication that this adventure has just begun and I love how it is used at the beginning of the film. The other track I want to talk about is Zenzenzense which is used more for showcasing how Mitshua and Taki are adjusting to this current life of body swapping (It’s also used in the trailer). The song’s title is also fitting which means “Previous, previous, previous life”. I love the energy contained in both of these songs and feel at home within Your Name. The rest of the soundtrack is beautiful, my favorite of which is called Theme of Mitshua. The piano parts build that emotion and leave you balled up in the corner weeping like you’ve never wept before. You can find the entire soundtrack on Spotify but I would beg for you to watch the film first and then dive into that playlist. Let the movie show you what the music is capable of!
To conclude I want to leave everyone with an interesting perspective from director Makoto Shinkai. Your Name is going to be remember as one of the greatest animated films to ever come out of Japan, it’s not a perfect film but it’s still one worthy of praise. Unfortunately Shinkai doesn’t feel that way towards a film. In an interview with Japantimes.co.jp, titled “Please don’t see my animated blockbuster, says Japan’s ‘new Miyazaki’, Makoto Shinkai”, he states “There were things that we couldn’t do. [Masahi Ando] [director of animation] wanted to keep doing work on [Your Name] but, with money running out, had to stop. For me it’s incomplete, unbalanced. The plot is fine but the film is not at all perfect. Two years was not enough.” If Mr. Shinkai were to read this, which I’m quite sure he won’t, I would hope that he understand that the movie he created is enduring because it strikes a chord within humans, this is a film that everyone should be able to relate to and appreciate animation-wise. Everyone hopes that there is someone out there for them, you don’t have to be a teenager to have that kind of a dream. We all long for more out of life, we all dream of something better than what we have, and that is why Your Name will go down as one of my favorite films. No one should be looking for a new Hayao Miyazaki. Realistically we should know we will never have a new Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away but what we should want, and crave, are new visionary directors that can take us to similar heights that Miyazaki’s film did and still do to this day. This is exactly what I feel Your Name does.