When I first looked at the theatrical posters for Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, I was not particularly intrigued by its images.
School boy meets school girl.
Quelle surprise, the poster narrative for the Japanese animé experience.
Do I want to subject myself to two hours of torture by watching something so overdone?
But thanks to some free tickets—always excellent motivators—I have come to learn why Your Name became the highest grossing animé film worldwide, having surpassed Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
Your Name took everything I expected and turned them upside down, and all the while managed to provide a complete experience.
Yes, Your Name would be classified under the “Body Swap” sub genre. It’s an animated drama whose story is told via two teens, Taki and Mitsuha, switching bodies via supernatural means.
In other films that fall under the same classification—such as Freaky Friday or It’s a Boy Girl Thing— two protagonists literally walk in the other’s shoes for some time until both learn a valuable lesson in mutual understanding and respect, thereby triggering a revert to normalcy immediately or soon after.
Your Name does none of those things.
Okay, maybe one. Taki and Mitsuha do switch bodies, but it’s more sporadic. Temporary, perhaps.
And although our heroes learn what it’s like to live in the other person’s shoes, this is not the reason for their body swap.
Taki and Mitsuha must swap bodies in order to avert a grandiose threat, one that affects not just them, but also dangles the lives of many others in the balance.
Your Name offers a nice, little genre bait and switch. And does so effectively.
To be honest, this should be all the convincing you need to see the movie but if more is needed, power on.
Your Name does not stop at the inversion of its genre; it supports the experience by providing excellent writing.
Makoto Shinkai offers a story that comes full circle, a noticeable feature if one were to pay close attention to the pacing, the dialogue where no detail is too small, as well as the symmetry in the opening and closing images.
It also must be said that, while it may seem that one protagonist is more dominant in the story, Shinkai pulls that protagonist back and highlights the actions of the other. Both contribute equally, like two halves of a circle.
Visuals and music are often under-appreciated in film and I confess I am one of those who still do not fully recognize the full scope of their effects.
Because writer, duh.
But both the visuals and music act as the cherry and icing that round up the Your Name experience.
While Spirited Away was most known for the uniquely intricate animations of its spirits and demons, I would argue that Your Name carves its visual identity by providing beautiful time lapsed sceneries.
Credit goes to the film’s production company, CoMix Wave Films, and Makoto Shinkai’s direction and cinematography.
With regards to the film’s music, Japanese rock band, Radwimps, provides the bulk of the soundtrack.
In the words of Shinkai: “I thought I could entrust [the Radwimps] not only to provide music but to do so in a way that the music will (supplement) the dialogue or monologue of the characters.”
The Radwimps do just that, creating mixes that reflect the “rock” sound of Taki’s city youth, the “folk” sound of Mitsuha’s rural serenity, and the “hopeful triumphant” sound that reflects the film’s theme of being lost.
And then being found.
O, Na, Na, What’s Your Name?
There is no way around it. Your Name follows the formula that would spell out commercial success.
It does have its share of logic hiccups, which shall not be mentioned here, lest you yearn for spoilerific details.
But if you have come this far and are still not making your way to the theatres, it must be mentioned again:
Highest grossing animé film! That’s got to count for something.
Your Name is currently on limited release so stop delaying, Reader.
Whatever Your Name might be…