Have you ever considered that when you gaze into the sky and focus on one particular star you are sharing that particular sight with hundreds or perhaps thousands of others in distant lands who just happen to be looking at that exact same spot at that exact same time? Sometimes a little perspective brings the world closer. But what if you were to share more than just a vision and what if it somehow binds your lives together? Makoto Shinkai’s exceptional animated film Your Name explores just that.
So I went into this film with ringing endorsements all about. Makoto Shinkai has been hailed as the new Hayao Miyazaki the mastermind behind such greats as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke; so naturally I was very intrigued to see what he is all about. You know what? I think they might be onto something!
Your Name tells the tale of two Japanese teenagers who, after strange circumstances one twilight evening under the gaze of a great glowing meteor passing by the Earth, become completely intertwined in each others lives, literally!
The first protagonist we meet is Mitsuha a high school girl living in the beautiful but uneventful lakeside town of Itomuri. Fed up with the small town politics and having to follow her family shrines dull ancient traditions. She longs for a life of more excitement and wants to move to Tokyo in a different life, so much so that she even proclaims that ‘I wish I was a boy in Tokyo!’
Well sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for! The next thing she knows she is waking up in the body of Taki a rough and ready, and forever late, high-school boy living in the bustling crowds of Tokyo. She simply dismisses it as a dream and enjoys the ride, all the while worrying that she won’t wake up. Meanwhile Taki’s friends wonder why he has suddenly become so feminine.
Meanwhile, Taki wakes up in Itomuri in the body of Mitsuha. He doesn’t waste too much time settling in; I mean what do you think a teenage boy would do in a girls body an notices he has some new ‘features’. He soon discovers the beauty of Itomuri and a tranquillity rarely seen in his native Tokyo.
Taki and Mitsuha dip in and out of each others lives and bodies and pretty soon they realise that they are not simply dreaming. They begin to understand their predicament and use some creative tools to communicate and begin to make the most of the situation. What follows is a journey to understand each others souls and overtime their bond becomes deeper and things get ever stranger.
The animation in this film is magnificent, there is seamless blend of reality and the fantastical. There is almost a dream like undertone to the scenery, Itomuri and Tokyo both have their own unique and strange magnificence that really moves and comes to life with some flowing free-hand animation and a very vibrant colour palette. On top of this the characters themselves are draw with such a delicacy that all the complexities and subtleties of human emotion real comes out of the screen.
Above all else Shinkai explores that deep foreboding feeling of longing that we all have from time to time; whether it be for a different place, a different time or a different person. Like many adolescents finding their feet in the world both of the characters have a deep idealistic lust for change and feel uncomfortable and awkward in their own different worlds. Their unique relationship soon becomes their vessel to explore and develop, helping each other out along the way.
Now when it comes to anime I know the awkward and embarrassed teenage protagonist is such an over done concept that more often than not portrays it in a farcical and immature manner, but in the case of Your Name this awkwardness comes with a maturity and sense of anxiety that I think is rarely shown. The characters both have a great wariness of not belonging and, to go back to my star analogy, there is a mystical comfort in realising that there is someone else out there they can relate to is gazing at the same sky; it’s an overwhelming and very warm feeling.
This film is a real gem. It is a very sweet and heart warming film with a great sense of humour and some quite heart wrenching moments throughout. You might be fooled into thinking based off of the synopsis that it is going to play out like an elaborate episode of Quantum Leap but this films plot is an intertwining journey that will take many surprising paths.
Shinkai has created a masterful piece of work and I thoroughly look forward to seeing more from him. Japanese animation might has found a new treasure.