A Review of Your Name

It is ranked number 4 on the list of highest-grossing films in Japan and the single highest grossing Anime film of all time. It has garnered worldwide acclaim and has taken the Anime community and the mainstream audience by storm. For a long, while it even beat out Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood on the MyAnimeList charts and even now sits at a comfortable #2. Yes, I am of course talking about Makoto Shinkai’s breakout success, “Kimi No Na Wa”, or “Your Name”.

Makoto Shinkai has been making movies for a long time. His bread and butter have primarily been romance films or dramas with a slower more realistic build. This also means a lot of his films can come off as slow, though this has not stopped his films from being incredibly popular. His earlier films tended to rely on gimmicks related to the Sci-fi settings of his worlds. Often these gimmicks were enforcing a message about how distance separates people, like how “Voices of A Distant Star” used the speed of telecommunications to stress the distance between characters who were literal planets apart.

This same message has proliferated his more recent work, such as “5 Centimeters Per Second” or “Garden of Words.” For the record, the former of those two is the only other Shinkai film I have actually seen, although I have seen many sequences from his other works. From what I have gathered, Shinkai’s films don’t often have very happy endings, and he is not afraid to end his stories with the characters’ relationships ending or never having started. Some may mark this against him, but I think there is value in the messages he conveys through these dramas.

Check out this trailer of one of Shinkai’s previous works below.

Today’s film, Your Name, is a bizarre beast, as it is surely Shinkai’s best work to date, yet arguably his most different. It once again enforces distance as a plot device separating the characters. It also features a magical gimmick in the form of the body-swapping the two leads go through. However, apart from that, this film is quicker, livelier and funnier than any of Shinkai’s previous works. That is not to say that Shinkai cannot deliver some feels, however, and this film offers its fair share of emotional gut punches, especially towards the end.

Your Name is delightfully engrossing. Mitsuha is a girl from a rural village in the Japanese countryside, while Taki is a busy boy from Tokyo juggling work and school to make ends meet. They collide when a strange paranormal force begins to cause them to body-swap. Now forced into this unfortunate position, the two work together to get through this strange happening, and at the same time grow closer together at the same time.

It’s a simple concept, but one that is made much more special thanks to Shinkai’s writing/directing, the film’s broad appeal, and its technical aspects. First and foremost, the writing and directing give the film a pacing and flow that is perfect for the sheer quantity of stuff injected into this story, but also to cleverly weave the narrative and save time.

For instance, the film’s first act starts with Taki waking up in Mitsuha’s body and fondling her breasts because, hey, what would you do if you woke up in the other gender’s body. Immediately following that, we begin to follow Mitsuha’s daily routine the next day, introducing the characters of her story and establishing her personality. This also means that the audience gets to share her confusion with all of her friends telling her how strange she was acting the day before.

Next, we show her experiencing the body swap and then seeing Taki’s daily routine, but through Mitsuha’s perspective first. The sense of unease and confusion that permeates a setup like this is made stronger by the audience experiencing it with her, cutting down on time and unnecessary dramatic irony.

This was a very clever choice and helps explain both the character’s backstories easily enough within the small time allotted. Mitsuha hates living in her boring rural town and dreams of living in the city, where she can get away from her strained relationship with her father. Taki, on the other hand, is living the life Mitsuha wishes she could live but does not exactly “have it all” as it were. He is mainly trying to put food on the table.

I think that Taki lacks depth because the introduction decided to focus on Mitsuha is the way it did. While I think that was the smarter choice and saved a lot of time, there are implications about Taki’s life and personality that never get explained. Taki’s relationship with his father never gets explained, and he has a bandage on his face, the injury it is hiding never to be explained.

We later will find out he is a talented artist and can recreate landscapes from memory, later factoring into his career decisions, but this is much later. In a sense, I know what Taki does, but I don’t know why he does it, or what his eventual goal is if he has any. His narrative goal is pretty clear once he takes the stage in the second act, but there is a lot lost in how he is established. My guess is that there were other scenes involving Taki’s goals and motives that got scrapped for time.

Despite all of this, I still find Taki to be incredibly likable, however. Your Name’s success stems greatly from its mass appeal and Taki’s broad goal of working his ass off to provide for himself, combined with his awkwardness in matters of the heart and his general attitude towards his circumstances make him one of the most broadly relatable characters you can find in movies.

In fact, all of the cast is pretty great. Mitsuha’s friends are a joy on screen as the best friends who obviously end up a couple. On the other hand, Taki’s friends don’t hold as much weight in the long run and feel a bit shoehorned in, but even then they make for some enjoyable and funny scenes later on. Mitsuha herself has personal drama and a yearning for a better life that most people can relate to on some level.

Your Name has such incredible mainstream appeal because, as YouTuber Digibro puts it, “What genre isn’t this movie? It’s got comedy, drama, death, destruction, sci-fi, fantasy, psychology, adventure, suspense, and even an arthouse scene.” Shinkai displays an understanding of the tropes that have captured the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide and has combined them together. I highly recommend checking out Digibro’s critique of Makoto Shinkai’s work below but BE WARNED, there are spoilers for Your Name after 58:25.

Shinkai’s mainstream appeal aside, he seems to be breaking the mold of his films in how he develops the story. From a pacing perspective, Your Name is like a whole other director’s work. At the end of the first act, once the characters realize their circumstances, the film does something unexpected for a Shinkai film. It bursts into a montage of beautiful time-lapse city animation as the audience is presented with narration from the leads and vignettes of the two living each other’s lives.

I say this is unexpected because so much of Shinkai’s filmography prides itself on a slow natural build to create these romances and to really hit home the messages within his movies. Your Name has its priorities straight when it comes to pacing and while it is easy to excuse this as a way of juggling all of the different plot elements, it is far more accurate to say that it is a diversion tactic.

Your Name has some plot holes, but the film’s attempts to mask them are not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, the fact that I never thought about these contrivances during my first couple viewings is a testament to Shinkai’s directing and how he engrossed the audience into his story, not giving us the time to really question how the mechanics work, or more accurately, don’t work. That is not to say that these contrivances are without fault, though.

Without spoiling anything, the exact mechanics of the body swapping create some pretty big plot holes that will surely leave many asking “why didn’t they do this?” or “why didn’t they notice this?” It’s a shame too because all it would have taken was one extra scene or line of dialogue to explain it. After all, the film does a pretty good job of explaining the body-swapping as a result of Shinto magic.

If I have any other major complaints about Your Name’s story aside from the plot holes and contrivances, it is the lack of a believable romantic arc between the two leads. While that montage was pretty fun and inherently necessary to make sure that people didn’t pick up on the bullshit, it did hurt my ability to buy their romance around my third and fourth viewings.

Shortly into the second act, suddenly the characters seem like they have fallen for each other (or at least Mitsuha for Taki), despite the scenes before that showing them frustrated and inconvenienced by each other. It is not a huge deal breaker, though. After all, Your Name is a film about people who fall for each other by virtue of having walked many a mile in each other’s shoes and then to have suddenly lost that connection.

I won’t pretend I can’t relate to that sense of sadness at the sudden disconnect from something I have grown accustomed to. Even so, An additional scene or two showing what made them fall for each other would have helped. It might have even made Taki a more interesting character.

Regardless of your investment to their romance, however, the climax to Your Name is spectacular. Taking a surprisingly action-oriented route, it pays off everything that came before it in style and with many a tear shed. It is hard to be disappointed by this ending. Digibro describes it in his video by saying that the ending of Your Name feels like a happy ending to his other films before it, and I would agree.

From a technical perspective, Your Name might is not as impressive as 5 Centimeters Per Second of Garden of Words, especially in the background art. That being said, to imply that this makes Your Name’s art any less than great is a gross underestimation. Backgrounds and close-ups are still hyper-detailed and beautiful as always.

Plus the character designs were done by none other than Masayoshi Tanaka. This is the man that brought Anohana’s characters to life and who is currently gracing us with his work again in Darling in the Franxx. Additionally, Comix wave has put these characters to animation in style not seen in any of Shinkai’s other works.

As for sub versus dub, I would have to say that both versions are phenomenal. There are some jokes related to proper use of pronoun use that is lost in the dub, but the English actors chosen for the film all excel in their roles. This one of the better dubs you will find on the market and if you are planning on buying the film, you can’t go wrong with either.

Finally, the music is done by Japanese Rock Band Radwimps. Apart from the really popular tracks like Zenzenzense, they also produced some really somber and beautiful pieces that fit the emotional climax perfectly. My favorite track being Sparkle, for its perfect timing in the movie and the inspiring buildup the song carries.

Your Name is a film for everyone and in the best way. It combines countless tropes and gimmicks but comes into its own entirely based on how it juggles these elements, creating a multi-genre roller coaster that encapsulates what people go to the see movies for. If you still have not seen it, you owe it to yourself.

I hope you enjoyed this long overdue review of a film that most of you have probably already seen. What did you think of Your Name? Did it live up to the hype? Leave a comment below and tell me what other movies I should check out. Thank you very much for reading and as always, see you next time.

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