Tuesday, April 18, 2017


One of the highest grossing films of 2016 throughout Asia is Makoto Shinkai's latest anime 'Your Name.' It has been playing recently in select North American cities with a limited release on certain dates. Luckily, I managed to catch one of them!

I saw the version in the original Japanese language with English subtitles. But for many of you, especially if you're interested in taking friends and family who are not hard-core anime enthusiasts, I'd highly recommend trying out the English dub if you're not particular. This is because the subtitling is hard to read on a large theatre screen. Also, as someone who loves to look at the art and animation, in particular a Makoto Shinkai film with its stunning beautiful backgrounds, having to go between the visuals and the subtitles is a conflict of interest. If that's also what you're into, then you'll want to appreciate this on the big screen as comfortably as possible. Hard to do when you're trying to read the subtitles at the bottom... Of course, there are certain Japanese language jokes that might be missed; or rather there are some good jokes in there that I have absolutely no idea how the dub version handled... But if it were up to me I'd have personally made the trade-off in favour of enjoying the movies' wonderful visuals as much as I could.

'Your Name' is a supernatural story where a young girl, Mitsuha, the countryside daughter of an influential family; and a Tokyo architecture student city boy, Taki; both begin waking up in the morning to discover that they are switching bodies. Much like other body swap genres of stories, these two opposite personalities must become accustomed to being someone of the opposite sex and upbringing. They experience each others lifestyles and problems, and must cope with it as best they can so as not to arouse suspicion. Attempting to maintain the other's way of life until they find a way to fix what is happening proves to be difficult, but there are also certain advantages where one of them can attempt to overcome issues in the others life that the other can't. A strategy of  communication goes back and forth between them using notes and cell phone messages to instruct the other about what happened while they were swapped. Then provide advice so that when they swap back the other person can now 'remember' what they did the previous day and how to handle certain things. Much hilarity results from this complicated process and both characters become very endearing as they grow closer to each other through living each other's lives.

Now, unlike other body-swap stories 'Your Name' doesn't stop there as the body-swapping isn't the entirety of its plot. The film takes a VERY interesting turn and tonal shift in its story partway through for which the body swapping only serves as the set up. To say any more would be to spoil it, so it's best that you go in there with as little information as possible! What begins as a supernatural slice of life comedy soon becomes a thrilling race against the clock as events are set in motion where we suspect that the experience that both Mitsuha and Taki are going through might be related to a phenomenon of a passing comet in the sky.

Makoto Shinkai once again revisits the same theme of all his previous films about people separated by distance, time and space. You might imagine this would get repetitive, but he proves us wrong with 'Your Name' being his most interesting lovers separation story by far! Everything in 'Your Name' is an improvement on his past work, from characters to plot. In fact, 'Your Name' is perhaps his most mainstream movie thus far; and its success across Asia, even doing well in North America, helps to prove it! In my humble opinion, out of everything in his career, this is his best movie by far!

Once again, animation fans will love the attention to detail of backgrounds and scenery and animated visual effects that are stunning and vibrant as always. A fine reason to appreciate it on the big screen if you get the chance!

Now, while I greatly enjoyed the film, I wouldn't oversell it. If you are wondering whether this film is better than some of Hayao Miyazaki's classics such as Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke... then your expectations are too high. In my opinion, 'Your Name' is not better than Hayao Miyazaki's best films. I don't want anyone to go into 'Your Name' with over-hyped expectations just because it broke Studio Ghibli's previous records at the Japanese box office.

'Your Name' is a very good movie with a lot of heart, great production values, and will be very appealing to a wide number of people due to it's very clever take on a familiar and not uncommon genre of story. Essentially it is a charming 'feel good' movie that also manages to be thrilling; but it is not without some nit-picks where certain cases of convenience or mcguffins occur to get the story moving forward.

'Your Name' is most definitely worth checking out! And a must-see for any fan of Makoto Shinkai! Here's hoping the film's success brings on many many more! Don't miss it!