If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not into anime all that much. Indeed, I am very picky about watching a series or, in this case: a full-length feature film. I have to say that I was actually impressed with the first anime movie I watched. Anime in general is not my forté because the storylines aren’t that interesting to me. Also, the artwork generally showcases an over exaggeration of female character’s bodies. However, “Your Name” shows itself to be different from the seemingly typical tropes.
For some context, “Kimi no Na wa” is a Japanese phrase used to ask what another person’s name is when meeting them. It is a simple phrase and very easy to pronounce. In the film, it is only ever said a few times. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, who has directed over a dozen anime films struck gold in 2016 with “Your Name” as his most successful and highest-grossing film ever. With an astounding worldwide box office revenue of $359.9 million. The film made its debut to U.S. theaters in April 2017.
“Your Name” follows a girl living in a small Japanese town far from Tokyo or other larger cities. Mitsuha is a 16 or 17-year-old teenager living with her Grandma Hitoha and younger sister, Yotsuha. Their names indicate which generation they are; Hitoha means “One Leaf”, and Yotsuha means “Three Leaves.” Mitsuha is happy in the city of Itomori but longs to experience the fast-moving city of Tokyo in contrast to the slower pace of Itomorir. Mitsuha lives under the shadow of her father, the mayor of Itomori. He is viewed as an adversary by Mitsuha since he values power and politics above family traditions. After wishing to be able to live in Tokyo, she goes to sleep and wakes up the next day only to find out a few startling things.
After arriving in Tokyo, she appears to be in an apartment near the subway system in the busiest parts of the city. The second of her changes is that she has been placed into the body of a 17 or 18-year-old guy. She attributes this as being nothing but a dream and goes throughout the day searching for where the owner of the body, Taki, goes to school and where he works and who his associates are. The Japanese language has gender-based words and identification words. In English, someone can simply say, “I am a writer” but in Japanese it would be said as “I am a male writer,” for example. So Mitsuha, who has lived as a girl her entire life, now struggles to conjugate her sentences from a male’s perspective. Taki’s friends find it a bit strange that their friend has trouble being himself.
Interestingly enough, Taki wakes up that same day in Mitsuha’s body. He’s confused and rather intrigued simultaneously. Very jokingly, when Taki is in Mitsuha’s body, he touches her breasts for a few seconds, but only for a few times throughout the movie. As it turns out, he is actually kind of moody and has a take ‘nothing from no one’ attitude.
When they both awake, neither of them remember much of what happened in their dreams. Until their friends tell them how odd they had been acting the day before.
Over a few weeks, the two figure out that these dreams of trading bodies with the opposite gender has become a reality instead of a dream. Upon realization, they panic and initially feel violated, leaving rules and regulations for the other to find and often resorting to writing on their arms, hands and faces about how annoyed they are with the other’s actions. For example, Mitsuha is a modest and clean individual, while Taki is a hard worker at an Italian restaurant. Mitsuha has to remind him to at least do her hair when he wakes up. Taki responds with “Stop buying so many expensive treats from the market!” Shinkai’s use of humor aided the storyline well.
One day, Taki tries to call Mitsuha, but the call doesn’t go through. He stops switching bodies with her. Then, he finds out that Itomori is an actual city, and travels to it, only to find half the city destroyed by a meteor three years ago. Yet he has a feeling that Mitsuha isn’t dead. He devotes a lot of his time to try to find Mitsuha again, only to discover that the more time that he spends looking, the less he remembers.
The film is funny, interesting in concept and delves a touch into time travel. The art is phenomenal with some scenes so vividly depicted that you wonder if it is an actual picture or not. The characters are developed throughout the movie and even get a bit of an epilogue. The plot, while it is a tad unlikely that dream possession is a thing, is relatable. Have you ever awoken from a dream and struggled to remember what it was? That is what Taki experiences nearly every day. And once he realizes that he has feelings for Mitsuha and that she has feelings for him, the plot thickens.
There is a bit of discussion of Shintoism in the film, though Mitsuha is highly uninterested in it. Although the film doesn’t preach it, some of the ideas that are in Shintoism are seen and used as plot devices in the film. For example, we see Mitsuha perform a traditional dance in which she and her younger sister, Yotsuha, use rice to make Saké: an alcoholic drink. They take it to a shrine later that month as an offering. The idea is that the drink is a permanent part of Mitsuha, exactly half of who she is. Even if she were to die, she would remain in the world somehow.
The film has received a mix of rave reviews and fair criticisms, earning a 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.4/10 on IMDB.
While Anime isn’t on my list of things that I normally indulge in, I would give this film an 8.7/10. It is impressive in its storytelling because it draws you into the characters’ emotions. It even has some great music composed by the group RADWIMPS, whose music in the film came quite close to winning some major awards. On a side note, the film was the highest-grossing film in 2016, even beating out “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” by 11.93 billion yen.