Your Name: A Review
Initially released in Japan at the end of last year, Your Name popped onto my radar when I heard that not only was it the fourth highest grossing movie in the history of Japanese cinema, but it's the 8th highest grossing traditionally animated movie ever and has passed Studio Ghibli masterpiece Spirited Away as the highest grossing Anime movie of all time. These are some pretty impressive acomplishments and unseating the king of Anime, Hayao Miyazaki is no easy feat. I knew nothing about the movie prior to seeing it other than the information I have just listed off and that some had been upset that it was left out of the Oscar conversation. Would this movie be able to live up to the hype? Could it swing a moderate anime fan such as myself? and most importantly would it be subbed or dubbed? Let's find out.
Your Name, or "Kimi no Na wa" in it's native Japanese is a movie about two high school age kids living two very different lives in Japan. Taki is a boy living in Tokyo who is dealing with things any teenager would. He is juggling work and school, crushing on girls and trying to figure out what he will do with his life. Mitsuha, a girl living in the mountainous town of Itomori who longs for a life beyond her small town. One day Mitsuha wakes up and throughout the day is told about her erratic behavior in the previous day with no recollection of these events herself. One night she wishes she were a "handsome boy living in Tokyo" and when she falls asleep she dreams of just that. While the dream feels much more like reality than dream, Mitsuha goes through a day in this boy's life, and realizes that somehow she and this boy have been switching bodies periodically. While this is happening a comet is hurdling towards earth that seems to have something to do with the connection the two share.
While the basic conceit of Your Name is not incredibly original, the plot and characters hold the movie up. The plot is not all that complicated but is a good one with a few surprises and a whole lot of humanity. Characters are vivid and life like, sometimes I can have trouble connecting with characters in Anime movies but writer/director Makoto Shinkai breathes life into them. The writing is smart and funny, with some of those classic Anime themes that always hit in the feels by the last frame. The animation is not the best I have ever seen in an Anime, but is still really good. Some of the minor details on characters are not fully fleshed out but Shinkai makes up for that with some fantastic camera work and amazing editing. Your Name is shot like a well thought out live action film, and this of course helps to add to the realism of the movie and the editing is some of the best I have ever seen in an animated movie. There are more than a few edits that add comedy and would make Tarantino or Edgar Wright proud, but there are also edits that will beautifully tear you down and break your heart.
To me the reason this movie succeeds is in it's careful attention paid to the subtle things both in the actions and in the animation of characters. The way a half drunk man will react to having too much sake poured in his glass, or Taki straining to stand on his tippy toes and leaning his forearm on the subway door to not only avoid bumping awkwardly into his date, but trying to look cool while doing it are just a couple of examples of the incredible attention to the subtlety of everyday life. I don't see this attention paid in most live action movies, let alone animated ones. Yes there are some anime cliches to get past, but these moments are universal and to me are essential. Ir's these small details combined with the writing and characters that make Your Name come alive. That being said, these moments can slow the movie down and while the run time comes in at 107 minutes the middle of the movie can drag. There are a few times where scenes will feel jammed in just to satisfy the plot in the third act and combined with the partially confusing nature that a body switching movie brings there scenes can somewhat add to the confusion.
Last week I went into my light fandom for the original Ghost in the Machine Anime, but really my anime knowledge is basically Miyazaki and not much else. The Walt Disney of Anime time and time again absolutely blew me away, and in ways that no other movies have. Somehow his movies cut through the bullshit and Hollywood nonsense that can weigh down the average filmmaker. He has found a way to tell fantastic stories set in interesting worlds and by the end you will feel something more real that you thought was possible. Makoto Shinkai with Your Name was able to tap into those same emotions that Miyazaki has been hitting for decades. The best compliment I think I can give to Your Name is that it feels like a Miyazaki film but also stands apart enough to tell the difference. I did not like Your Name as much as the likes of Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away but it comes darn close, and while it has some flaws the good things about this movie more than make up for it's shortcomings. I am not ready to anoint Mr. Shinkai the next Miyazaki but he is certainly on the right path. Your Name is a must see for any Anime fan, but it may not be the best one to show your friends who have never gotten into the genre yet. The theater was packed when I went so it looks like Your Name will continue to climb it's way into the history books.