2016 was a pretty good year for animation by most accounts. Films like Moana, Zootopia, and Kubo And The Two Strings were loved by bigger audiences, and foreign films like The Red Turtle and My Life As A Zucchini were cleaning up with more arthouse fans. In fact, those were the five films nominated by the Academy for Best Animated Feature. Then, a relatively unknown Japanese film won the category at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, and went on to become one of the highest-grossing films ever released in Japan. That film was Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name.
I hadn’t heard of this film until Letterboxd released their collection of “best-of” lists based on their user reviews (this is the website where I catalogue all of my viewing). Letterboxd had Your Name listed as the 6th best film of the year, only behind four Best Picture nominees and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. That’s an insanely prestigious position, but it couldn’t possibly be accurate, right?
I needed to find the film for myself.
Fast forward to April, where it finally sees a release two hours away from my house. Close enough.
The basic premise of Your Name is this: after seeing a mysterious and rare comet in the sky, a young girl named Mitsuha and a young boy named Taki periodically switch bodies for a day at a time, switching back when they go to sleep.
At first, they believe they’re just having weirdly vivid dreams (Mitsuha’s first switch happens after she wishes to be reborn as a handsome Tokyo boy, so that makes sense), but then their friends and classmates start mentioning their odd behaviour from the day before, causing them great confusion and embarrassment. Once they realize what is going on, they try to work together to find out why. This is accomplished mostly by writing notes on their hands for the other person to wake up to, but eventually gets to leaving detailed notes in each other’s phones. They keep trying to meet up in person, but always seem to just barely miss each other.
IF THAT IS ALL YOU WANT FOR PLOT, SKIP TO THE NEXT PART WITH BOLD AND CAPS WHERE I PICK UP THE GENERAL REVIEW. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS NEXT SECTION.
After a disastrous date (that Mitsuha set up), Taki tries to call Mitsuha to let her know how he ruined the night. For some reason, her phone seems to be disconnected. Taki stops switching bodies, and he can’t seem to contact Mitsuha at all. He decides to try and find her, using the drawings he has made from the memories he made while inhabiting her body.
He mentions the name of her hometown to people working at a restaurant on his way there, only for them to respond with shocked faces. The town that Mitsuha lived in was completely destroyed by a comet three priors prior. She died before he ever knew her.
He follows his memories further, trying to find a shrine that Mitsuha and her grandmother had visited, trying to find any possible answers. Upon entering the sacred place, he passes out and wakes back up in her body. The comet hasn’t hit the ground yet, and now he has to try and save Mitsuha and her town
I REALLY DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THE ENDING OF THIS FILM ON ACCIDENT, SO I THINK IT WOULD BE BEST FOR ME TO STOP THERE.
This film is absolutely beautiful. The director is Makoto Shinkai, who has been hailed as “the new Hayao Miyazaki” in the master’s absence since 2013, who I was entirely unfamiliar with before now. He also wrote the story for this film, based on his own novel. I’m dying to seek out more of his work, if that’s any indication of how this film affected me.
The animation in Your Name itself is stunning, and the artwork of it alone is enough to put almost every major animated release to shame. You could pause the film at essentially any frame and hang that painting up in your house, and it would be the prettiest piece you had. Shinkai’s fascination with the sky and stars makes up a good chunk of the awe-inspiring scenery, and the way the comet is both animated and framed is simply gorgeous.
The script breaks the film down into two different films, almost. The first half is the meet-cute romantic comedy where the two protagonists never actually meet, and the second half being a time-bending mystery propelled by wonder. I honestly believe that both halves only work so well because of the other, and the puzzle that is finished by the end is beautiful.
I know that it seems like I’m just throwing as many superlatives as I can at this film, but I’m not sure if there are enough to fully show just what this film does. Your Name completely and utterly blew me away, beyond any expectations I had going in. Not only is it remarkably clever, but it is very genuinely moving throughout the entire runtime.
The difficult thing for me about this film centers around it’s release date. It was released in Japan late 2016, along with a handful of other Asian and European countries. It didn’t receive an American release until early April of 2017, meaning that was the first time it was at all legitimately possible for me to view it. I haven’t yet figured it out which year I will classify it as, but that only matters for my arbitrary list-making habits. Oh well.
The odds of most people being able to find Your Name are admittedly slim, but I really want to emphasize just how strongly I want you seek this film out when it receives a retail release. You deserve to see this film, and it deserves to be seen. Your Name is certainly the best animated film I have seen since 2015’s Inside Out, and is very possibly one of my absolute favorite animated films ever made. That is a list that I am not emotionally prepared for just yet.
Your Name- 10/10