First, I would like to apologize on behalf of We Bought a Blog Media INC. I have been infected with the plague for the past week and a half, so I haven’t had a chance to put into words all the thoughts that have been roaming around my head. With an almost clear sinus and a double dose of Dayquil, I’m going to dump as many words as possible and hope they make sense. Here. We. Go.
A lot of times, we go into a film with certain expectations. We get these expectations from friends, critics, trailers, awards, and maybe even blogs or podcasts. To say that my expectations for Your Name, from director Makoto Shinkai, were high would be quite an understatement. The film won the LA Film Critics Best Animated award, it made literally all the money, plus the trailer is amazing. Very few films this year have had the hype surrounding it that Your Name has had, and even fewer have lived up to the hype. Even with all the hype surrounding it, 90% of the people I interact with will have never heard of it and, even worse, will never see it.
Your Name is a traditionally animated, Japanese, young adult, body-swap, fish-out-of-water romantic comedy. Now that conglomerate may sound like a super niche genre only a select few might enjoy….but if you are willing to let go of your preconceived notions and go in with an open mind, you will undoubtedly lose yourself in its wonder and magic.
The body-swap trope, a.k.a the “Freaky Friday”, is a plot device as old as time. The most prominent use of the body swap is as an excuse that allows writers to give their characters empathy by literally allowing them to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. In Your Name, the reason behind the body swapping is not initially clear. However, the writers use it for much more than just a simple lesson in empathy. The first body swap happens in the film’s cold open. Taki (the male protagonist) finds himself in the body of Mitsuha (the female protagonist), and immediately hilarity ensues (as well as a bit of body exploration). One of the more interesting aspects of the film is the catch to this version of body-swapping; you forget everything that happened after the swap. With this extra hurdle, the characters resort to writing messages in journals, in text messages, and on each other’s bodies to communicate and, as the film progresses, to try and remember each other.
The film speeds along at a good pace, never lingering too long in any one body or storyline. To Your Name‘s credit, there is not much hand-holding for a rather intricate plot. The story is quickly set in motion, and the film trusts its audience to be able to follow along with its brisk pace and lofty pursuits. This trust allows the film feels jam-packed as there is little exposition slowing down the film.
Around the halfway point, the plot takes an unexpected turn which sends this film into the stratosphere (heh). I cannot, with good conscience, talk about the second half of the film even though I want to talk about it. Here’s what I will say: There has never been anything like it. It is truly unique.
Departing from the plot for a bit, let’s look at what will draw the most to see this film: the animation. Director Makoto Shinkai and his team bring both rural and urban Japan to life through stunning visuals and immense attention to detail. Never before have we seen such sprawling landscapes, with such great care that evoke such a wide variety of emotions. Each frame is a painting that could be displayed amongst even the best in any art show.
As you can see in the image above, another important aspect of the film’s beauty comes from a comet that appears many times throughout. Every scene with the comet is breathtaking, truly a work of art. It’s one of those things you want to see on the big screen to truly appreciate. The film will certainly lose a bit of its luster on the small screen but not enough to detract from the incredible writing, plot, and characters.
All in all, this is an incredible movie experience and a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. I cannot recommend this film enough to anyone willing to try out something different at the box office. Unfortunately, this is a hard one to find. My wife and I had to drive over an hour to find a theater. If you are fortunate to live in a city with a showing, you absolutely should go see it. Worst case scenario; wait a few weeks for the DVD release and see what all the hubbub was about.
—————-SCREW IT SPOILER TIME————–
Things I loved that happened after the comet:
When Taki looks over the townscape and sees the crater and has the realizes that Mitsuha has been dead for years. Oh. My. God. The feels.
When he drinks her spit-fermented sake. Gross. Trying to explain to Mitsuha that he drank her spit-fermented sake. Hilarious.
When Taki transcends time and space and watches Mitsuha throughout her entire life, including her conception and birth (with a surprisingly graphic umbilical cord-cutting scene).
When they meet up in the twilight, and they are writing their names on each other’s hands, and when he goes to hand the pen to her, she disappears, and the pen drops to the ground, and then he slowly forgets her name. Heartbreaking.
WHEN SHE CHECKS HER HAND FOR HIS NAME, AND IT SAYS I LOVE YOU INSTEAD. I WAS UNCONTROLLABLY SOBBING.
When she tripped and fell as the comet was coming down and at the same time Taki looks out on the balcony and sees the comet separating with an expression of wonder and amazement while THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE IS UNKNOWINGLY IN PERIL.
The final shot of them on the stairs, with strings intertwining the whole city. Tears running down their faces. Asking each other, “What’s your name?” Perfection.