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Anime Reviews: Your Name
Both visually and narratively stunning, Your Name is an international hit that more than deserves its status as the highest-grossing anime film of all time.
Title: Your Name a.k.a. Kimi no Na wa
Production: CoMix Wave Films
Film Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: 8/26/2016
Age Rating: 7+ (mild language, mild suggestive content)
Summary: Mitsuha is a girl living out in the boonies of central Japan, bored with country living and feeling stifled by her family's rich tradition of maintaining the local shrine, wishing she could escape it all and be a city boy instead. Taki is a boy living in the heart of Tokyo who juggles schoolwork and a part-time job at an Italian restaurant who dreams of one day becoming an architect. Both of their lives bit an extraordinary snag when, one morning, they find themselves waking up in each other's bodies. Blindsided and dumbstruck by this turn of events, the two of them stumble through the day and find, to their dismay, that the phenomenon repeats. Setting ground rules and leaving instructions for each other, all the while coming to know one another, Mitsuha and Taki try to finesse their way through this odd circumstance so that one day, hopefully, they can finally find out what's happening to them and why.
The Good: Those majestic visuals; brilliantly subtle voice acting; a wonderful, gripping roller-coaster of a narrative
The Bad: Nothing comes to mind, really
The Ugly: The fact that we would all be guilty of what Taki does as Mitsuha every morning
It should be no surprise by now that I faithfully worship at the altar of Makoto Shinkai. I offered my firstborn unto him, but considering I have no children and this fact displeased him, I had to settle for giving him my left leg (so I can still drive, y'know). Naturally, when this movie was announced back in...whenever it was announced, I was already sold. And then, 500 years later when the planetary alignment was complete and the film finally released, I had to resort to some shady means to get my eyes on the film--California is quite a ways away, after all--and I could not have been more delighted. It was a low-quality camrip that did the film zero justice, but now the blu-ray's out and I am a happy boy. So, now that we've already established that I love this movie, does it deserve to go down in history as the highest-grossing anime film of all time? Well, yes, my review summary up above has already let that cat out of the bag, so I guess I'll just have to explain why I think so.
Over the past few years, with movies like The Garden of Words and Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Makoto Shinkai and his studio have gotten extremely
good at the whole "gorgeous visuals" thing. Hell, 5 Centimeters Per Second has earned the memetic title "5 Wallpapers Per Second." But Your Name puts them all to shame with his best and most appealing character designs to date and some of the most absolutely beautiful backgrounds and lighting effects in the entire medium. The level of nuance and detail in the character animation is likewise impressive, with emotive, flexible facial expressions and fidgety gestures and all that good stuff. It also cannot be understated how wonderful the film's use of color truly is, as nearly every shot in the film is instantly striking with plenty of blues and purples contrasted with reds and oranges to make each shot pop to life. Tremendous amounts of love have also gone into making backwater Itomori and ultra-modern Tokyo rich and alive in every sense, making them feel almost as real as if the film were shot in live-action. When it comes to the film's visuals, I have absolutely nothing to complain about whatsoever.
Your Name features a nice pop-rock soundtrack provided by a group called RADWIMPS, and their tunes are nice and accompany the mood quite well, but on the audible side of things, the film's voice acting is a tough act to beat. It may come as a surprise for many anime fans to learn that the majority of voice acting in anime is objectively terrible, but that problem does not hold here--Your Name's voice acting crew is nothing short of exemplary. I can't yet vouch for the English dub (though the cast looks promising enough), the Japanese original is all-around rock solid, though it shines exceptionally bright with Mone Kamishiraishi's portrayal of Mitsuha and Ryunosuke Kamiki's of Taki. The film plays with the fact that Taki speaks in a brash and confident manner while Mitsuha's speech is more delicate with a countryside dialect, because the two actors have to adopt the other's speaking habits when the two characters switch. Not only does this subtly inform us on how the characters interact with the world around them, it leads to a few very funny moments early in the film.
This leads us naturally into the subject of our two leads, Mitsuha and Taki. Being from a rural area myself, I can relate to Mitsuha's insatiable desire to be anywhere else than Itomori, and the fact that she's a lively and fiery person makes her a lot of fun to follow, especially when she's masquerading as Taki. And I think every guy in the room can identify with Taki's inability to not be the unabashed pervert every single one of us would be in his situation, and his mounting frustration with Mitsuha nudging him forward in his social relationships is another character aspect I can relate to fully. Of course, as is the nature of character-driven fiction, the two of them change over time as the result of their indirect interactions, and all I'll say here in this spoiler-free zone is that the places they end up are not only believable, but feel like where they've been building to all their lives. Their development is handled with skill and care. I do quite like all the film's secondary characters as well, from Mitsuha's grandma and younger sister to Taki's workplace crush Okudera and Mitsuha's bickering friends Sayaka and Tessie, but the film's focus is on its leads and since it required them to be particularly strong, it only makes sense that they got the most screentime.
Which, when you think about it, is kind of a minor miracle that Mitsuha and Taki got as much development as they have, because so much stuff happens in this movie! Without giving too terribly much away, Your Name drops a humongous plot twist at around the 58-minute mark, and the second half of the film is entirely different from the first, focusing almost exclusively on Taki. The premise of the film sounds like it could easy take up the entire runtime, and at first it feels like the movie's coming to a nice close--the quickest two hour film around, surely!--but then the twist happens. It really does feel like two hours of content were squeezed into the first hour, and squeezed in very well, I might add. From there, it moves like a speeding train, gathering intense momentum and throwing more twists and turns at us before the (literally) explosive climax. And never does any of it feel rushed or unnatural--the pacing is perfect, as is the emotional core of the film.
Inspired heavily by the 2011 earthquake that rocked eastern Japan, the subtext of the film involves irreversible change and failing to be properly prepared in the face of imminent disasters in our lives. Again, I don't want to give away too much, but the fact that the 2011 earthquake was reminiscent of another mighty earthquake that ravaged Japan over 1000 years ago is very much relevant to the film's second half. To be faced with such calamity and find a slim measure of hope to avoid it--this would have surely been an incredibly cathartic experience for the Japanese audiences watching the film to help cope with what could be considered a minor social trauma, so seeing the movie from that perspective offers some interesting insight into the film's production, as well. Naturally, that means, within the story itself, both stakes and emotions run high and, given that we've come to like these characters, we want to see them overcome the trials that arise. And it makes for great entertainment, I'll tell you what.
As for the film's downsides, well, much like Children Who Chase Lost Voices, nothing really sticks out to me as being a noticeable flaw. Shinkai and his crew have very clearly dotted their i's and crossed their t's in making the best movie they could make, and that leaves me with very little to criticize, aside from something stupid like "There are some wonky in-between frames!" that can be said of literally every piece of animation ever made. So yes, chalk this up as yet another review in which I find no problems to point out.
And those are some of my thoughts on Your Name. I was already bound to like it, as Makoto Shinkai is one of my favorite anime directors, but I was utterly blown away by how much he managed to outdo himself this time around. I'm actually quite pleased that the film is doing as well as it is with international audiences, as it means it could be possible for Shinkai to become a household name like Hayao Miyazaki is (though, as much as I love Shinkai, he's still got a ways to go before standing equal to the legendary Miyazaki). It is always tremendously pleasing to me when a great anime becomes popular, because I belong to the camp that believes quality should be rewarded with popularity, to enrich our collective pop culture, and by all metrics in that regard, Your Name has been rewarded handsomely.
Final Score: 10 out of 10. Makoto Shinkai strikes gold once again, as Your Name not only manages to be his most dazzling visual work thus far, but also tells a gripping story that combines elements both fantastical and hauntingly real that should be mandatory viewing for anyone who calls themselves a fan of animation.