From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls.
The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint.
When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, it dawns on them. They want something more from this connection—a chance to meet, an opportunity to truly know each other. Tugging at the string of fate, they try to find a way to each other. But distance isn’t the only thing keeping them apart. Is their bond strong enough to face the cruel irony of time? Or is their meeting nothing more than a wish upon the stars?
Makoto Shinkai has an extensive filmography under his belt. I am sad to say that Your Name is only the second of his films I have seen and it won’t be the last. The first one was Children Who Chase Lost Voices, which was beautifully animated and scored. Your Name filled in a gap that I felt was missing from that film in the area of plot.
At first, things start of a little slow but you hang in there knowing that any good story has a little setup work. Once we realize that Mitsuha and Taki are switching places and have become aware of it, things get interesting. In true teenager fashion, they use their phones to leaves notes for each other worried the other might mess up their life. The first time they switch bodies, the reaction they both had to their new bodies was hilarious and likely on the mark. I mean they are teenagers after all.
Shinkai sets us up with a fairly common premise: One lives in the country and dreams of the big city. The other who lives in the big city dreams of the quiet countryside. I always try not to read other reviews or too much synopsis of a story before going in so that I can be surprised by the twists they setup. It wasn’t until they both finally tried to call each other that it finally hit me that they were from different times.
In fact, I doubled down on that when she started talking about the comet and we didn’t see it in the sky at all or talked about when we were with Taki. The cruel irony of what happen to Mitsuha and the town as Taki goes in search of this girl he has never met sets in and you really want there to be a happy ending for them.
This is where Shinkai’s writing and story telling really takes into account all the little details. We learn that Taki and Mitsuha are connected by a thread of time. A band Taki wears that suddenly he remembers getting from the first time they met 3 years ago in Tokyo. The question is whether she met him in Tokyo because of the body swapping or if she would have met him in Tokyo had that never happen. It’s an age-old time travel question about cause and effect. So if he had never met her in the first place but then did because of this connection, how did he have the connection in the first place?
Then when they finally see each other on the cliff side, during Twilight, it hits again. The teacher in class at the start of the film talked about the spiritual realm and the bleeding over that occurs during ‘magic hour’ or twilight. You almost have to watch the film twice to catch-all the little seeds planted throughout. It makes you enjoy it even more every time you catch something new.
Much like his other film, Your Name is beautifully animated and scored. Your Name works in a sense of adventure, slice of life and science fiction all melded together. Shinaki has been compared to Hayao Miyazaki many times and that is an honor in and of itself. However, for me he stands on his own with his unique story telling. His ability to take simple and deeply complex ideas and mix the two together in a way that leaves the viewer stunned is artful.
The ending you couldn’t help but smile at it. The english dub, which is what we saw, was well cast by Funimation. It will be shown in US theaters starting April 7th. You can find showings here in your area. I plan to watch this film again in subbed format. I find that localization can sometimes leave some dialog and inflection lost in translation.
We give Your Name an A rating for well written story, beautiful animation and score. Here is a clip from the english dub for you to preview.