Directed by Makoto Shinkai
Written by Clark Cheng (English script), Makoto Shinkai (novel)
Starring: Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh, Kyle Hebert (English)
A breath-taking experience to witness on the big screen, it comes as no surprise that Japanese director Makoto Shinkai is receiving some comparisons to the great Hayoto Miyazaki, though while much of Miyazaki’s material often takes place in fantasy universes, this unique young-adult anime finds itself more rooted in reality. That being said, there is certainly no shortage of fantastical situations to be found. Makoto also separates himself from Miyazaki in that he styles the detailed background art himself. He also wrote the novel that the film is based on. The art alone makes for a film worth seeing: it has a slight photo-realistic quality to it that looks incredible while draped across a big screen.
The concept is simple, to begin with at least: a young girl named Mitsuha lives in a country town, but truly she wishes to be a young, handsome boy living in Tokyo. Taki is that handsome boy living in Tokyo, and the two are cosmically linked, seemingly by the comet we see at the start of the movie. Not long after Mitsuha screams that she wishes she was a young boy living in Tokyo, she finds herself in Taki’s body, and vice versa. The film expertly contrasts the traditions of Itimori, the fictional rural town, against the uber-modern city of Tokyo.
During these bizarre body-swaps, a lot of comedy is to be found as friends and family react to how strange Taki or Mitsuha were acting the day previous. Perhaps this film’s biggest accomplishment is that, for a young-adult story, it is extremely engrossing and therefore extremely accessible to all ages. We were all teenagers once, and the brand of humour is perfect for any age. One recurring joke is Taki having a nice feel of Mitsuha’s breasts when he wakes up to find himself in her body; though the reactions to this from Mitsuha’s little sister are even better.
After setting some ground-rules, such as keeping a diary in each others’ phone to lessen the confusion, the two begin to learn to live while this bizarre phenomenon occurs a few times each week. Mitsuha proves to be mischievous, taking opportunities to change Taki’s life a bit, such as arranging a date with Taki’s co-worker using her ‘feminine powers’. What makes the film one to watch many times over is that, as the movie progresses and the characters become used to the strangeness, it is sometimes hard to know if the characters are themselves, or have swapped. It keeps the viewer on their toes, as one needs to pay attention to find the answer.
The kicker though is that Mitsuha is living in a parallel world of sorts; one that is three years behind Taki’s, unbeknownst to either. Mitsuha tells Taki of a comet that will be passing her town during a festival. The comet again plays a part, as the body-swaps suddenly stop after this. Taki is unable to contact Mitsuha via telephone, and becomes determined to find her. When Taki manages to find the rural town that she hails from, using only sketches from his experiences while in her body, he finds out that the Tiamat Comet, which Mitsuha had told him about excitedly, actually splintered while passing earth and struck Mitsuha’s hometown of Itimori.
This obviously doesn’t make sense to him, but he moves forward regardless. He feels a connection with her that he can’t quite explain. He decides to try to find an explanation for these strange events, and why they have suddenly stopped. The answer to this question, and the entire last act of the film is fantastic, original and touching, without any melodramatic moments. I actually heard a gasp in the back after one memorable moment, it is extremely well executed while tearing at the seams of logic, as films playing with the concept of time can do. There is a definite sci-fi element here.
Given that Tiamat (the name of the comet) is the name of a goddess of the ocean within certain old religions, it is hard not to see the destructive comet as an allusion to the terrible tsunamis of 2011. Perhaps this is Makoto’s way of dealing with that awful event, or is there a deeper meaning here?
Perhaps the destruction of the comet/tsunami is a symbol of how teenagers blow almost everything out of proportion, with seemingly trivial matters suddenly becoming a personal disaster. There is no lack of these sort of events as the two switch bodies, which makes for some great observations on how modern teenagers feel now, both in Tokyo and in rural towns. Is this too far a stretch? Maybe, but the comet was named Tiamat for a reason, and it certainly seems to be a trigger for the other-worldly body-swaps.
Extraordinarily drawn, with some truly jaw-dropping sequences (especially involving the comet), this is extremely impressive. It is in fact the only anime to have grossed more than a Miyazaki film (passing Ponyo at ¥19.4 billion (about 173 million US dollars). Makoto, while taking cues from Miyazaki, is carving out his own unique style. Your Name is funny, intelligent, relevant and fantastical; it is a film that fans of anime will not want to miss. In fact, this is something that every film fan should see. Even the English voice-work is excellent. Here’s hoping that the gap in-between films isn’t as long and we see another feature from Makoto soon.
Half a beer short of a sixer
…And a few more pics, as this looks SO DAMNED GOOD!!!
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