I’ve been a fan of the work of Japanese director Makoto Shinkai since watching 5 Centimeters Per Second a few years ago; his works have always struck a chord with me and even those I didn’t favour as much left me awestruck with the wonderful animation on show. With this in mind, it was a given that I’d be going to see his latest work, Your Name, as soon as humanly possible and having now done so, I can say just how breathtaking this movie is.
In the run-up to Your Name being released in cinemas I’ve read a lot about it, watched the trailers countless times and listened to the soundtrack. Despite all of this, however, I didn’t know much about the plot beyond the fact it involves two teenagers who don’t know one another and who swap bodies. A lot of reviewers have avoided delving into the plot in great detail and actually, I’m not going to either beyond the basics because to relay this information to you, to tell this story for you, will leave you without the ability to fully enjoy this piece.
Our story is centred around two teenagers: Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu. Taki is a high-school boy living in Tokyo, while Mitsuha is a high-school girl living in a rural town who dreams of living in a city like Tokyo. Out of nowhere, the two start swapping bodies and as they swap back and forth, experiencing each other’s daily lives, their lives change forever.
Now sure, this all sounds fairly generic and I wouldn’t blame you for reading this far and to think I and everyone else are crazy for loving this movie so much – but just keep reading. You see the beauty isn’t necessarily in the plot itself, but in the characters and the world around them. Makoto Shinkai has created Taki and Mitsuha and put them in a fairly generic concept and yet he twists, turns and moulds them into something truly magical by the time he’s finished. They’re high-school students, while I am 21 and living in a small city in the UK with little in common with them, but I connected to them on every level. They’re believable and portray real, raw emotions that very few characters in a setting like this do.
This movie isn’t just about how it stands on its on for me, though. What I also really liked about Your Name is how it shows the ways in which Shinkai has grown as a director. The story he has here is quite down to earth (if we’re going by anime genres then it’d be almost slice of life) and this isn’t unusual ground for him, as most of his works follow the theme of being, well, real. The problem I’ve always found with Shinkai’s movies is that they often have a flaw of some kind. 5 Centimeters Per Second is a bit disjointed, The Place Promised in Our Early Days loses its way halfway through, Children Who Chase Lost Voices runs for about 30 minutes too long and then Garden of Words ran for too little. With that said, it’s obvious to anyone (even if you haven’t seen one of his movies before) that Shinkai has consistency issues when it comes to the plot – however those are now gone. Your Name is not a short movie but I never once felt like it lost its way. From start to finish, it was a joy to watch and didn’t suffer from running out of time or dragging its story out. No, it was well planned and I think Shinkai has finally hit on what works for him.
I can’t talk about a work from Shinkai without mentioning the animation. The director is known for his attention to detail and the colourful, well-drawn skies that many fans label light-heartedly as “sky porn”. I think the fact Your Name has a fairly long running time works against it in terms of having animation that can trump Garden of Words, but having said that, I also believe this is one of his best works. There is even a montage of scenery at the beginning of the movie that is both a real splash of colour and totally beautiful (although I did say to my partner, jokingly, that it was Shinkai simply showing off his skill!). There is not a single scene in this whole film that hasn’t very obviously been thought out of months of planning and had countless hours put into creating it. It’s not just how the animation looks, but also how shots are framed and the various position of the ‘camera’ we’re looking through. They all click together in order to leave us with something special that not many other directors can provide. It’s also a real wonder of animation that, without any visual or audio cue to give indication, we always knew who was who when the characters swapped bodies. This is a Shinkai movie and even if his animation hadn’t screamed that it was his, I think a lot of other things now say ‘I am a Shinkai work’ because he’s found his way of creating stories.
The musical score, provided by Japanese band RADWIMPS, slots into Your Name a lot better than I had anticipated. Throughout the movie there are four vocal tracks used and having seen previous Shinkai works I didn’t think these would fit, however I was completely wrong. The soundtrack on offer here is a wonderful piece of work and intertwines perfectly with the story, themes and characters. It’s already on Google Music and iTunes, so definitely worth checking out after seeing Your Name.
While the movie is being shown both subbed and dubbed in the UK (although there are more dubbed showings than subbed), the showing I attended was with the English dub. Before seeing Your Name, I’d watched the dub trailer and wasn’t greatly impressed by what I heard but once again, the film actually proved my early opinions wrong. It did take a good 15-20 minutes for the dub to ‘click’ with me, but once it did I was set. Taki Tachibana is played by Michael Sinterniklaas (Leo in Fullmetal Alchemist, Age in Patema Inverted), and Michael played the world with a lot of emotion and put out some convincing girly tones while Taki was in Mitsuha’s body. Meanwhile, Mitsuha was played by Stephanie Sheh (Yui in K-On!, Nagi Aiza in Your Lie in April) who also put a lot of emotion into the role and managed to handle the character well, even while she was in Taki’s body. I would like to see the movie in Japanese to see how it compares to the dub, but that’s out of curiosity and not because of the dub’s quality.
Overall I think Your Name is the best film I have seen in the last couple of years, maybe even longer than that. It takes a really silly idea but somehow makes it work in a way that left me speechless. It’s so hard to talk about Your Name and I’ve rambled enough now, but I can honestly say that everyone needs to see this movie. It’s an amazing piece of animation and a true display of everything Shinkai has to offer as a director. To me, he is not the next Hayao Miyazaki, he is Makoto Shinkai.
Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name” is currently playing in cinemas across the United Kingdom and Ireland. To find your nearest showing, please visit www.yournamethemovie.co.uk.
Title: Your Name
Production: CoMix Wave Films
Distributor: Anime Limited
Version Reviewed: English Dub
Released: Out Now!