One of the best animated features of 2016 was omitted at this year’s Oscars, but that doesn’t mean you have to overlook it too. Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa/君の名は) is a captivating story of a girl and boy mysteriously swapping bodies, and it grows to be so much more. Your Name is uniquely Japanese in its setting and the outlook as a whole, but it’s also a universal tale of teenage life that spans time and space.
Looking At The Man In The Mirror
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, Your Name follows Mistuha, a young woman going to school in the rural town of Ito, and Taki, a teen boy in the big city of Tokyo. One morning Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body and is convinced it’s a dream. He realizes he wasn’t dreaming when he sees that Mitsuha had been in his body for a day as well. It leads to series of days where Mitsuha and Taki experience a different existence, sometimes with comical results, other times with heartfelt revelations.
Your Name gets a lot of mileage out of that high concept of body swapping. The gender swap angle alone leads to funny moments from mundane situations like ordering food, how to sit in a dress, or talking to your best bros. The biggest knock on the film is that it doesn’t fully exploit the setup, even speeding through interesting moments of identity confusion that could’ve been expanded to full scenes. Yet there’s still room for some social commentary about how “masculine” actions are viewed when a woman does them or vice versa.
There’s the same skillful specificity with how Your Name portrays a metropolis like Tokyo versus the small town of Ito. The streets of Taki’s Shinjuku feels ripped from real life, and you feel how exciting (or overwhelming) the city can be, especially when you unexplainedly have a new body. Mistuha’s Ito is the total opposite — a quaint, wild feeling of rural town that can either seem stuck in the past or warmly familiar. The two settings are sharply different, and you’ll need visual markers like that to keep track of a story that’s more intricate than it seems at first glance.
City Mouse Meets Country Mouse Meets Christopher Nolan
Not to spoil everything, but Freaky Friday allusions are just where Your Name begins. The film goes much deeper, into the unlikely connection between Taki and Mitsuha that spans years. These two would’ve never met otherwise, but now share this intimate connection that’s only expressed in the notes they leave for the other when each day of body swapping ends.
Like Mitsuha and Taki, you’ll want to keep mental notes on some details, because the plot snowballs into something closer to the dense, layered narratives of Inception or Paprika. As shifting timelines and whispered words build, it almost overwhelms Your Name‘s carefully constructed tale. Good thing Mitsuha and Taki are so well developed, letting you keep the biggest complexities straight as long as you’re focused on their relationship.
By the finale, all of Your Name‘s twists and turns lead to a touching ending that makes the journey worth it. Your Name also rewards multiple viewings, making it the special type of film that still has something to offer even when you know all its twists.
Is Your Name Good?
Until now, I’ve not referred to Your Name as “anime,” even though it absolutely is, because the movie’s appeal goes beyond traditional anime fans. Your Name has the kind of engrossing, universal quality of works by Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki. Even when it stumbles with some anime storytelling cliches or a plot almost too complex for its own good, the humanity of Mitsuha and Taki keeps you emotionally connected to the film, ready to start it over again once you’re finished. In a time when some of Japan’s master animators aren’t currently creating feature films, Your Name shows there’s a promising future for original, heartfelt stories in the anime world.