Mitsuha is a high school-aged girl who, for all the boredom of living in a small town and embarrassment of being part of the local shrine’s family, wishes for as different a life as possible. Taki is a high school-aged boy who lives in Tokyo under the constant and vague suspicion that he is searching for something or someone. One day, they wake up to see a stranger’s form (each other’s) in the mirrors of bedrooms in which they did not fall asleep. But this doesn’t happen just once. Around three times a week, as triggered by sleep, Mitsuha and Taki spontaneously find themselves in each other’s skin. Memories of time spent in each other’s body mostly fade as soon as the transfer reverses, so the two begin to leave instructions and diary entries to facilitate daily life under these bizarre circumstances. Then, as immediately as it began, the swapping stops. Now these two teens struggle to find each other. You’d think that would be easy enough given the digital trail, but…
Leave it to Makoto Shinkai to produce an instance of boob fondling both laughable and weep-worthy.
In terms of emotional density, Makoto Shinkai’s forte is short-form features. Admitting great prejudice on this reviewer’s part, Shinkai’s optimal window for expression falls between 25 minutes (Voices of a Distant Star) and 46 minutes (Garden of Words) if there are only two main characters. The 107-minute running time of your name., however, dangerously aligns with the two less-heralded movies in Shinkai’s repertoire: The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Children Who Chase Lost Voices. What your name. does best, despite and probably because of (or rather with) its length, is something that is best never divulged but ultimately comparable to and arguably more subtle than (in terms of theme) the structure of 5 Centimeters per Second.
Reviewing the composition of your name., aside from noting its progression in three parts (body swap with focus on self, then other, then togetherness), is next to impossible without ruining what makes the movie so fundamentally worthwhile. During the first 30-someodd minutes, I found myself very aware that I was checking twitter and answering emails while also taking heated notes of disappointment for this very review. But at some timestamp thereafter, all other windows disappeared, my eyes became stitched to the screen, and my heart’s rhythm became one with the storyboard’s EKG. So let it be said that this is an extremely well executed and emotionally fulfilling movie (especially upon the second viewing) that is 100% worth the investment in terms of time and story. In terms of visuals, what’s left to say except that this is pure Shinkai? Actually…
Animation said to be easy on the eyes often fosters a quicker pass for the overall content of the project than if it is not deemed so, and reactions to the art in Shinkai’s movies are prime examples. Like most heroes, his movies tend to be flawed, but the backgrounds as well as the entirety of some scenes are, in many instances, produced with sublimely detailed, if not near-photorealistic, beauty. That effect really does tend to knock the audience back in their seats and garner perhaps greater awe than deserved. But Shinkai also has an eye for bringing life to imagination or vice-versa and takes it to the next level, here as in all of his other works, for dramatic effect by using such environs to bolster and contrast his characters’ traits/circumstances. That said, the art in your name. at times feels more discordant than in his previous features.
To start, your name. loses the visual depth of Garden of Words (save for depictions of trains and weather), which leverages a different shading effect to tell that specific story. Despite circumstance, human bodies in your name. are bright no matter the situation. This makes characters seem more often than not a bit too cartoony when framed in the nature of the country, although they seem to fit much more naturally within the unnatural world of the city or buildings in general. This might be a statement, but it doesn’t feel like one. Within their world, the characters’ actions and perceptions are, at times, mesmerizing, and you don’t need to watch for more than five minutes to discover this. The first time each protagonist awakens in the other’s body and looks around the room – that just-woken, almost drunken, slur of a pan – evokes an unfamiliarity without having to state such, and it’s wonderful.
This unspoken nod to a surreal situation also applies to the general passage of time. Flashbacks and flash forwards do not dare speak down to the audience via timestamps, and the storytelling benefits greatly. By causing viewers to question who is in whose body, your name. keeps viewers’ brains awake and questioning, while the ensuing subtlety of mannerisms, followed by, at great (relative) distance, revealing dialog, brings the audience back on track. That is to say the very way in which the swapping takes place imparts on the audience the same sort of surreal blurriness experienced by the main characters. (An admirable feat!)
There is a surprising amount of humor in your name., and because it’s a Shinkai flick, there is also a lot of tears. The humor largely comes into play via the clunky ways both protagonists interact with the other’s friends and family. Beyond that, however, are instances where the swapped, once comfortable in their other selves, start to emote as their actual selves with confidence and take liberties with each other’s lives. Situational humor plays a small part, but the writing knows how to pull everything together, as if by a thread, to tie a neat package.
There are, unfortunately, plot holes – instances where the story forgets itself, but I do applaud the use of smartphones as a way to explain how strangers in a strange land know where to be seemingly inexplicably. Furthermore, the digital connection between Mitsuha and Taki, especially given their respective historical and modern settings, can actually be extracted as a commentary on what counts as a lasting impression upon this world. Similarly, I love the way that a sip of kuchikamizake (mouth-chewed sake) bridges worlds. (And the animation during that drunken dream…superb!)
I was enthralled by your name. for fooling me into thinking that it was just another typical body-swap plot, but how the movie surprised me made me willing to go wherever it took me as penance for my doubt…except for, maybe, that mid-movie clip show/music video. That said, the RADWIMPS songs fit perfectly with the film. Not to say that a solo piano isn’t a Shinkai story’s true accompaniment, but the yearning vocals really add something here.
your name. is coming to theaters soon, and I strongly suggest you go. (P.S., buy an extra seat for a human-sized pile of tissue boxes). I’m buying tickets even though I’ve already watched this movie twice. It only seems to get better with multiple viewings, as these things usually go, and hopefully the dub is equally worthy of your ears. It was great to hear from Yukino-sensei again, but everyone else in the cast really brings it. (Mitsuha’s little sister is AMAZING.) On the whole, given the narrative irregularities, I’d have to place this as Shinkai’s second best after Garden of Words, but I’d also have to say I’m a fool for doing so. In short: despite the amazing amount of hype out there for this movie, there really is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, much to justify your name.’s record-breaking box office numbers. Add to them. Go see/buy this movie. Satisfaction guaranteed.