Hot off the 2016 London Film Festival, Your Name is the latest from director Makoto Shinkai, whose previous works include 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011). I’ve personally always loved Shinkai’s work ever since catching Voices of A Distant Star ages ago, and it’s incredible how Your Name has become one of the highest grossing anime films in Japan, second only to films by animation giant Studio Ghibli.
Your Name brings a strange mix of scifi, fantasy and slice of life genres together in this film that is sure to delight teens and adults alike. High school students Mitsuha and Taki begin to experience waking up in each other’s bodies at random, living out each other’s lives before returning to their own; Taki seeing shrine maiden Mitsuha’s world of the rural but beautiful town of Itomori, while Mitsuha lives Taki’s Tokyo life of juggling jobs, cafes and the modern cityscape. The two never meet, yet leave messages for each other in their phones and books, and learn and appreciate and fall for each other. Tragedy strikes one day, and the two must work together to save lives in an epic, time-bending, space-rending adventure.
Besides Studio Ghibli, Makoto Shinkai has consistently produced some of the most gorgeous animation films to date, often engaging in the lives of modern people which relates well, while adding in small scifi twists and beautiful shots of the sky and universe that make his films fascinating enough to stand out from the crowd. Your Name follows his usual formula, and seems to have perfected it, culminating in one of his best films to date. Your Name isn’t afraid to aim itself at the high school crowd, essentially being a romantic film that spans epic proportions, while including amazingly catchy songs from J-Rock group RADWIMPS, straight out of a standard anime series, alongside a simple yet effective piano theme, that will have you in tears at the climax of the film.
Shinkai’s characters are believable, curious and fallible yet optimistic and full of heart, making them absolutely endearing and rooting for their relationship every step of the way. It’s also hard not to enjoy the attention to detail and fall straight into the realistic landscapes of both city and country. Shinkai isn’t afraid to play with the iffy concept of time travel, which employs itself in a fantastically traditional and nature-based method, with no need for modern machinery, and with little need for explanation, save for Shinto type philosophy. It’s a film that will leave you wanting to watch everything else Shinkai has made, and yearning for the magic of youth and young love again. Nobody can ever replace Miyazaki as one of the anime grandmasters, but Shinkai is certainly carving his signature into the anime world as one of the absolute best of this generation, with his own brand of timeless, heartrending films.
Your Name is released in cinemas in UK on 24 November and Singapore on 3 November.