by Anne Lauenroth,

Kimi no Na wa.

your name.
Mitsuha is a high school girl from the countryside. Working as a shrine maiden in her small rural hometown, she dreams of a different life in the city. In Tokyo, student and architecture buff Taki works part-time at a restaurant. When these two mysteriously start switching bodies on a regular basis, they are forced to get to know one another to avoid disrupting each other's lives. Under the trail of a comet that only passes by once every 1,200 years, their fates become intertwined.

Why do we wake up crying from a dream we've already begun to forget? Why does the feeling of loss linger after the memory of that dream has faded to a vague feeling of something that should be there but isn't? How can we long for something we cannot even give a name?

It sure is hard to be a teenager, with emotions heightened to a level that makes even ordinary life feel unbearable at times. It's also one of the most beautiful times in life, full of indescribable yearning and longing for connection, something Makoto Shinkai always has a lot to say about.

While Mitsuha and Taki's melancholy stems from a more complex place than just adolescent hormones, their fears of embarrassment do not, and neither does their curiosity/disgust when they suddenly wake up in a body of the opposite sex. Feeling out and accidentally forgetting about the assets of their new bodies results in some classic body swap humor, while the comedy revolving around Japanese pronoun mix-ups is probably less universally translatable. Luckily, your name. handles these humorous bits playfully enough so they don't get stale. Never allowing the slapstick to take center stage for too long, we are only introduced to the body swapping reveal after the fact, as the film chooses to emphasize the reactions of friends and colleagues in the face of subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes in behavior instead, while sensitively establishing Mitsuha and Taki's very different everyday realities. When the first prolonged switch finally occurs, we already have enough direct and indirect information about the characters' quirks that we're in on the joke, making the changes in lovely animated body language and voice acting more rewarding to watch than the much more obvious comedy derived from said antics.

Mitsuha and Taki's realization that their out-of-body experiences are more than dreams leads into the second act. It's impossible not to notice how decisively the film embraces its three-act structure, considering that this moment is marked by a rocky insert song courtesy of RADWIMPS, an audible departure from Shinkai's previous musical collaborations with composer Tenmon. On the visual side, the swapping provides Mitsuha and Taki with ample opportunities to marvel at their new environments, and thanks to Shinkai's magnificently detailed skylines and hyper-realistic landscapes, it's easy to relate to their excitement.

From the towering Tokyo skyscrapers reflecting the sunlight to the shimmering autumn colors of the mountains, the worlds these characters inhabit are so vivid and tangible that it almost feels possible to reach out and touch the falling leaves. It's a gratifying experience to see these artistic and technical merits integrated into the plot, enriching immersion instead of simply showing off skill. Where the play of light and shadows on the autumn landscapes offers a marvelous taste of Shinkai's photorealism, the arrival of the comet turns the skies into a glowing painting almost too beautiful to feel real, creating a dreamlike atmosphere befitting the heightened emotions of this pivotal moment and the people experiencing it.

It's in the third act where the balance between sentimentality and lighthearted playfulness comes to fruition, keeping the sense of melancholy from descending into all-out melodrama. When Taki and Mitsuha learn about the literal and metaphysical threads binding them together, the emotional climax becomes theirs alone. Part love story, part self-discovery, this is Shinkai at his most tear-jerky. However, the road to the actual showdown between them is traveled with previously established side characters who, while not particularly complex themselves, serve to lighten up Taki's side of the story.

Although the action does go somewhat overboard in those culminating minutes, the adventure works better than it did in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, thanks to the connection that's already developed between the main characters. Their investment in each other, at first reluctant and born of necessity, then ever more curious and proactive, makes the ties they share as tangible as Shinkai's landscapes. We can care about them more because they care about each other.

Hailing Makoto Shinkai as the new Hayao Miyazaki has been en vogue for a while. It's easy to see why, now that your name. has surpassed The Wind Rises at the Japanese box office, defending its number one spot for seven weeks in a row while breaking the 10 billion yen mark within 28 days and still going strong. But where Children Who Chase Lost Voices ventured into fantasy adventure territory, your name. marks Shinkai's full feature-length return to the themes that have permeated his works like a golden thread: the star-crossed lovers separated by time, space, age, or even the dimension they occupy, longing for each other and clinging to the connection they once shared. Only Makoto Shinkai could have made this movie, and his voice is in no need of any comparative labels.

"Wherever you are in this world, I will search for you." While this quote might have been taken from any of his previous films, your name. excels as a variation on his familiar themes because it delivers just as much on the narrative front as it does on the message. That yearning for connection is a powerful and universal theme, made even more powerful by the notion of finding oneself through such a connection.

Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A+
Music : B

+ Beautiful, melancholy, and glorious encapsulation of Shinkai's style
Final showdown almost pushes suspension of disbelief too far

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Production Info:
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Script: Makoto Shinkai
Screenplay: Makoto Shinkai
Storyboard: Makoto Shinkai
Unit Director:
Kenji Imura
Yoshitoshi Shinomiya
Original creator: Makoto Shinkai
Character Design:
Masashi Ando
Masayoshi Tanaka
Art Director:
Akiko Majima
Takumi Tanji
Tasuku Watanabe
Animation Director:
Masashi Ando
Shunsuke Hirota
Ei Inoue
Kazuchika Kise
Masayoshi Tanaka
Kenichi Tsuchiya
Sound Director: Yō Yamada
Executive producer: Yoshihiro Furusawa
Kouichirou Itou
Genki Kawamura
Katsuhiro Takei

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Kimi no Na wa. (movie)

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