It seems like every year there is an anime film that scores big with Japanese audiences that I need to hunt down in the US. However, rarely does one get the kind of buzz that this year’s Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) has received. Already in Japan and China, Your Name has made nearly $250 million US dollars and has received critical accolades like winning the Los Angeles Film Critics Association prize for best animated film. So is it worthy of the hype? Yes, my friends. Yes, it is.
Part of what makes Your Name so wonderful is that it sucks you in with an approachable, comedic first act we’ve seen before and then becomes something richer as it moves along. The plot revolves around a frustrated teen girl named Mitsuha who lives in the country. She is fed up with her small town life and one day wishes she could be a cool teen boy in Tokyo. Well, the next day she wakes up in the body of just such a teen boy named Taki. Mitsuha and Taki have never met before and have no connection. It’s just a random body swap which could be pleasant on its own.
However, the script in this section goes deeper. The two switch back every day which is unique in a body swap comedy, and they start leaving notes on their phones, in notepads, and even on their bodies. Through these notes they become friends which establishes friendship as a theme of the film. I liked how they explore themes of class and the difficulty of meshing with new peer groups. I think most people can relate to hanging out with another person’s friends and just not gelling with those people. They aren’t bad friends. They just aren’t your friends, and Mitsuha and Taki experience this when living the other’s life. They do have some physical comedy with the gender swap which is enjoyable, but most of the time is spent learning about how the other person lives.
All of this occurs in the first thirty minutes, and then the rest of the film takes a turn that is moving and helps to flesh out why these two people were chosen to switch places. It works so well because both Taki and Mitsuha are so likable, and we want them to be safe and happy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the story takes creative turns that are engrossing and beautiful. It completely worked for me. Just trust me. It’s one of the best screenplays of 2016.
Your Name is a labor of love for Makoto Shinkai who did everything from the directing, writing, and editing. I loved the way he used light to symbolize hope and humanity. I also loved the way both the country and the city were portrayed as fantasy lands because to Mitsuha and Taki, they kind of are. The side characters are great, and I honestly did not know how it was all going to end.
I know some people just don’t like anime, and that’s a real shame. By limiting your experience with the art form, you are missing out on some of the greatest storytelling of this year and in most years. Your Name reminded me a lot of Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars which I also love, but it is its own vision and creation. It’s bold and stunning with great characters and original storytelling. If something like Moana or Finding Dory feels too familiar to you, then Your Name is the perfect movie for you.
Have you seen Your Name? Put in the comments’ section what you thought of it, and what is one of your favorite non-Studio Ghibli anime films?
Edited by: Kelly Conley