Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ishihara, Kanon Tani
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: http://www.kiminona.com/index.html
Opening Day: 3 November 2016
Synopsis: Taki wakes from what seemed like a very important dream. But in an unfamiliar room and not in his body…but that of a girl! On the other hand, Mitsuha, a teen girl, is tired of living in a mountain village. She pleads to God “Please, let me be a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!” The next morning, Mitsuha awakens as a high school male. Based on information around her, she learns whose body she inhabits. His name is Taki. The two have switched places! When they wake up again, they’ve returned to their former selves. But sleep brings the body swap again and again. Mysteriously, the pattern continues daily. The two fumble about, unaccustomed to each other’s bodies, but start communicating by memo. As they awkwardly overcome one challenge after another, a bond develops between the two- one that evolves into something more romantic. However, there’s something they still don’t know… The unexpected is about to be revealed.
Half of the readers who clicked on this review would probably have heard of this movie’s achievements at the box office. *Your Name* topped the Japanese weekend box office for seven consecutive weeks; it was the first non-Studio Ghibli animation film that grossed more than 10 billion yen in the Japanese box office; and is currently the highest earning domestic film in Japan this year. If you already knew of all this and are wondering if the film is worth the hype, go forth and book your tickets now.
But for the rest of the people who somehow decided to click on this link and need some convincing, be warned, this is no Studio Ghibli movie. But more on the comparisons between *Your Name* and Studio Ghibli’s works later.
Director Shinkai Makoto’s sixth full-length animation feature film, *Your Name*, was based on Shinkai’s novel of the same name. The story is deceptively simple – boy meets girl… or rather, girl’s wish comes true and she becomes boy, while boy becomes girl. Which admittedly sounds like a coming-of-age movie that involves some kind of awkward sexual awakening and self-discovery… This movie is very much not so. Miyamizu Mitsuha (voiced by Kamishiraishi Mone), whose family manages the shrine in Itomori, longs to escape her town. Her wish is granted when she wakes up in the body of Tachibana Taki (Kamiki Ryunosuke), and vice versa. As this event repeats itself seemingly at random, the two high schoolers start learning more about each other and inevitably, fall in love. If this sounds too cheesy and cliché, please still give the movie a chance and read on.
Unlike what most summaries might lead their readers to believe, Mitsuha is not a spoilt brat whining about Tokyo and Taki is far from the snobbish Tokyolite – both somewhat common tropes in manga/anime. Both characters are somewhat well-liked and sensible high schoolers. The way Mitsuha and Taki dealt with their body-switching tendencies were also portrayed with relative realism, leaving notes for each other to act more like their actual selves (hooray for technology), while not being able to resist the urge to sabotage the other. The characters’ likeability, as well as the way their body switching experiences were portrayed, draws in and convinces the audience to empathize with Mitsuha and Taki’s circumstance, while also creating the willing suspension of disbelief for the plot, setting the stage for the second part of the film.
Despite the engaging storyline and characters, fans of Shinkai Makoto would probably argue that the main draw of his films are the visuals. *Your Name* does not disappoint in the category, providing a visual feast of both big city and small town imagery, which might make Japanophiles have an irrational desire to book your air ticket back to Japan pronto. For first time viewers of a Shinkai Makoto film, like this member of the audience, there is an urge to go watch all of his past films, just to look at the moving pictures on the screen.
In fact, it is the imagery in Shinkai’s works that made movie critics compare them with that of Studio Ghibli’s. In addition, it probably did not help that *Your Name* also features relatively youthful protagonists in a half-fantastical setting. Studio Ghibli has tasted success internationally, and both domestic and international audiences already have high expectations for Studio Ghibli’s works, be it in terms of the animation, characterization, or themes featured. In contrast, Shinkai is a relative unknown, and can afford to not appeal to an international audience. That is also arguably Shinkai’s greatest selling point over Studio Ghibli – being able to feature a localized setting rooted in (a somewhat idealized) everyday life in Japan – squeezing inside an overcrowded, peak hour train, eating lunch on the school rooftop, having a part time job in high school. Things that the Japanese audience, and people who have been exposed to the Japanese culture, can appreciate and relate to.
Japanese rock band RADWIMPS’ movie soundtrack was also fantasic. interspersed at meaningful sequences and scenes, the songs with lyrics come with Englsh subtitles for the mostly non-Japanese speaking audience, allowing the audience to appreciate how the lyrics reflects what is happening on screen. While the instrumentals/ background music might not be as obvious, they were also well-placed, and had much to play in building a coherent whole movie.
In all, the movie starts off with a shoujo storyline and shounen pacing in the first half of the movie, before things escalated pretty quickly to a more seinen and josei ending that keeps the viewer guessing until the last second. Just by looking at the title of the movie, this viewer expected the movie to be more like Shakespeare’s “a rose by any other name”-esque, instead of Mencius’ butterfly dream philosophy. These are horrible summaries of the movie, just like the awkwardly worded one at the top. Just go watch *Your Name*; it will give you feels.
(A visceral, sentimental, and beautiful film. Watch it.)
Review by Goh Yan Hui