Minor Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been Warned!
If you had the opportunity to temporarily switch places with someone in a different situation than your own, what would you do with that time? This is an idea explored at length in Makoto Shinkai’s animated film Your Name, which was released last year in Japan. Thanks to critical and commercial acclaim in Japan, it was recently sent to American cinemas for a limited run. While the movie comes off as predictable at first, as everyone has seen the “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” stories, but this feature brings some interesting magic and originality to the plot that make it refreshing and heartwarming.
Mitsuha is a teenage girl living in rural Japan. She lives with her younger sister and her grandmother, where they run the local religious shrine. Mitsuha tires of the country life and wants to run off to Tokyo once she’s done with high school. Taki is a teenage boy living in the heart of Tokyo, where he goes to school and also works at a restaurant. Taki tires of the fast-paced nature of Tokyo at times and wishes he could relax for a bit. When a comet flies over the night sky, a change occurs and Mitsuha and Taki find themselves in very different bodies the next day. At first, the two think that they’re just having very vivid dreams. However, from talking to their friends the next day and from looking in their journals, they discover that they’re switching bodies randomly. What follows is a chain of events I would rather not spoil, but I was happy to see that the filmmakers did a relatively good job staying away from cliché and recycled plot.
There were two things that stood out to me from the beginning of the film and all throughout: the animation and the soundtrack. I can, without a doubt, say that this film had some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. The colors were intensely vibrant, the movement of characters was incredibly fluid, and the lighting, both natural and artificial, had the glimmer of the real thing. Japanese music can be pretty hit and miss for me, but every song from this movie’s soundtrack had me tapping my foot in my seat, to the annoyance of those next to me I’m sure.
This is certainly an anime movie, and those who are turned off by that style of animation may wish to steer clear from this one. Like most anime, the emotions are quite a bit more exaggerated than they have any right to be, although it is far from the most “over-the-top” one that I’ve seen. There’s also a recurring plot point that has to do with one character’s obsession with breasts that, while funny the first time, overstays its welcome after a while.
The version that is playing in American theaters right now is still in Japanese, so there will be a bit of reading subtitles, but I think it is worth hearing it the way that the director intended it to be heard. Often, the English translation will change some of the dialogue to fit American audiences better, and it can often change the tone of the film.
Your Name is a very sweet and heartwarming anime. It sent me on a wide range of emotions throughout its run time, and I found myself constantly mesmerized by its startling artwork and energetic soundtrack. I think that any fan of anime should see this movie, and even those who don’t normally watch anime but enjoy a cute story should give it a shot. If this movie does well, this could open the door for more anime releases in America in the future. However, if you can’t stand anime, I can assure you that this will not change your opinion on the genre. If you could swap minds with an anime lover, even for just a little bit, I’m sure you’ll have a great time!