There is a lot of fuss made about Your Name. Online and offline, people are talking about Makoto Shinkai’s anime feature. To date the film is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, the 8th-highest grossing traditionally animated film and the highest-grossing anime film worldwide, with a total gross of more than €307 million. It achieved huge critical acclaim and has already claimed 16 awards for its performers, director, music, art and animation. For fans; it has a lot to live up to!
Your Name tells the story of two star-crossed teenagers, Mitsuha Miyamizu and Taki Tachibana. Mitsuha lives in the small sleep town of Itomori in a home she shares with her younger sister and grandmother. They adhere to many traditional customs including making kuchikamizake sake which they offer in a shrine deep in the mountains. Taki lives in a small apartment with his father in Tokyo. A carefree guy despite his short temper, he attends highschool while working part-time in a restaurant.
The pair have little to nothing in common. That is until Taki wakes up one morning and finds himself in Mitsuha’s body. At first both believe themselves to be dreaming but over time come to realise that they are in fact really swapping bodies. Calamity ensues as the pair attempt to make peace with their bizarre situation and try not to meddle in the other’s life too much.
Not Another Body Swap Movie
Your Name is much more than a Freaky Friday / She’s The Man anime. The body swap genre has been done to death and while the movie relies on some of those tropes (grabby hands, shocked reflections, etc.) they’re put to bed pretty quickly. That’s not to say they aren’t done well or lack humor; particularly when Mitsuha struggles with her new boy body and abashedly fights the urge to explore.
It isn’t about Mitsuha and Taki not liking each other or the pair getting caught in cookie/awkward moments. They aren’t here to learn moral or life lessons from each other. They’re stuck together by chance and are trying to make the most of their situation. As the film progresses, writer and director, Makoto Shinkai, throws the genre for a loop and we learn there is more going on that just a wacky body swap. To go into any more detail would be a disservice to those who have yet to see it needless to say there is so much more to Your Name than what appears on the surface.
New Life Into Old Tricks
Shinkai’s film skips to its own beat. As a creator he draws on typical anime motifs and churns out something new; entertaining and emotional. At its heart Your Name can be seen as a clash of the new against the traditional. Taki lives in the metropolis of Tokyo surrounded by a city that is at the centre of a modern world. While Mitsuha lives in a town steeped in tradition and customs; she herself a shrine maiden. Mitsuha, unsurprisingly as a teenager, yearns to leave her hometown and discover a bigger, brighter and busier world. As the story evolves and the pair come to understand each other, Mitsuha isn’t suddenly more appreciative of her own world as the cliché would have you expect, she is in fact spurred on to travel to Tokyo and find Taki.
Shinkai plays with the tired romantic device of ‘will they, won’t they’. Mitsuha, despite their promise to not interfere in their lives, spends her time in Taki’s body trying to set him up with a co-worker. It’s a heart wrenching tease as Mitsuha wakes up to discover how upset she is by the mere idea of Taki finding someone to share his life with. The development of their relationship isn’t hurried for the sake of the movie’s duration, it all builds quite naturally even with the time skip montages.
Sights And Sounds
Speaking of montages, the film is set to an amazing soundtrack. That’s thanks to the work of J-Rock group RADWIMPS and their lead vocalist Yojiro Noda. The music and soundscapes aren’t just used to set the tone of each scene or heighten the emotional tensity of a particular moment. They are in fact characters in their own right, a move designed by Shinkai, to further conversations when words just weren’t enough so music is their supplement. They go so far as to heighten our anxiety over the tumultuous relationship between Taki and Mitsuha; words unspoken and all that.
The visuals of Your Name are also used for more than just backgrounds. Aside from drawing our attention with sprawling details, the cityscapes of Tokyo and the rolling countryside of Itomori are devices to further this idea of new vs. tradition. The tightly packed train stations of a bustling Tokyo are juxtaposed to the slumbering rural stations dotted sparsely across the open landscape. They act as ties to the main characters, markers in their identities; particularly with Mitsuha who struggles with her place in the world. A struggle that we as an audience inevitably end up sharing and empathising with.
That is perhaps Shinkai’s greatest feat with Your Name. Any decent narrative, be it a film, book, video game or anime will invoke an emotional response. Joy at a happy outcome, sadness at the loss of a character, anger at a villain or unfair situation. Shinkai’s story doesn’t just want to play with emotion; he wants us to share it with him, his story and his characters. Your Name draws an investment from the audience, wrapping us up in the world of Taki and Mitsuha; not because we want to them to be together or to resolve their issues. No, we’re wrapped up in it because so much of it feels true to our lives; the sense of distance, of loss and the uncertainty of our own feelings.
I repeat myself when I say that there is so much more to Your Name. It is more than just a breath of fresh air in the world of anime, its methods can be applied to all media. Shinkai delivers a truly wonderful and beautiful experience one that transcends the ties of the anime genre and is owed a place in the halls of storytelling.
I now understand just why everyone has been raving about Your Name. If you haven’t seen it then you owe it to yourself; regardless of whether you consider yourself an anime fan or not. This is a film not to be missed by anyone.
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!