Since Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) was released in Japanese cinemas earlier this year, its director, Makoto Shinkai, has been repeatedly referred to as “the next big thing in anime” and even “the next Hayao Miyazaki”. If you’re not convinced by words alone, perhaps the numbers will sway you. Your Name is now the fifth highest-grossing animated film of all time in Japan and is the first animated film to BFI Film Festival’s Official Competition.
We managed to get tickets to the first of three screenings of Your Name at the BFI London Film Festival and the director, Makoto Shinkai, was there himself! He spent some time outside for autographs and selfies but, without exaggerating, just as he was about to take my ticket and sign it he was whisked away by staff. Still, it was a treat just to see the man himself in the flesh.
The good news is that there’s going to be further opportunities to see this film in the UK – Anime Limited will have some screenings around the UK in November this year and releasing Your Name on DVD in 2017. Check out Anime Limited for more details.
Before we dive into the review, here’s the trailer:
Let’s just say Your Name has almost certainly won this blog’s annual “best film of the year” award. It’s beautifully-told, full of rich and diverse characters, boasts a gorgeous soundtrack and has some of the finest art I’ve seen in an anime film for a long time. Next time someone says “anime’s childish”, I’m just going to gesticulate wildly at this film.
First things first; the plot. Your Name focuses on Mitsuha, a girl frustrated with her monotonous life in the remote countryside, and Taki, a Tokyo high school student and architectural buff. The arrival of a comet mysteriously joins them together as they begin to live out each other’s lives and leave messages for each other to find the following day. What connects these two strangers who live far away from each other and have never met?
Your Name is loosely based on a famous Japanese postwar radio drama and film trilogy about star-crossed lovers, but it isn’t simply a love story. It deals with other big themes, in particular growing up and those difficult teenage years. It’s downright hilarious in places, especially the early ‘body-switching’ scenes where Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body and vice versa. Naturally, the first thing Taki does is fondle his newly-discovered boobs (what guy wouldn’t?) but there are other less overt ways of portraying the differences between boy and girl. Taki, as Mitsuha, is notably more flustered and girlish but manages to set himself up on a date with her crush using her ‘feminine intuition’. Mitsuha, as Taki, struggles to keep up with her responsibilities as a shrine maiden and generally acts more tomboyish.
Religion and spiritual themes also play a fairly central role to the plot, but I won’t go into too much detail so as to avoid any spoilers. Mitsuha’s role as a shrine maiden in her little village connect her to the mysterious environment around her and the comet itself is otherwordly. You’ll likely finish the film with one or two questions, but that’s often a good thing. Show, don’t tell.
I can’t end this review without mentioning the gorgeous animation, which is incredibly rich and on par with many Studio Ghibli films. Whether it’s the grass in the countryside or glinting windows in Tokyo’s skyscrapers, the detail is fantastic. Combined with a beautiful soundtrack, which I’m now on the look for, Your Name can easily be described as an artistic masterpiece.
Makoto Shinkai (also responsible for The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimetres Per Second, The Garden of Words) is very worthy of all the praise that has been heaped on him, in particular since the release of Your Name. It’s hilarious, emotional and tragic in parts, so I recommend having tissues handy. It will most likely be one of the best anime films you watch this year.