Japan’s biggest box office hit of 2016, Your Name, finally made it to Salt Lake City and I had a chance to check it out.
This metaphysical fantasy romance tells the story of two Japanese high school students–Taki, a male student who lives in Tokyo, and Mitsuha, a female student who lives in a small town outside of Tokyo named Itomori. The two are peacefully living the lives and traditions of their respective cities and families until one fateful morning when they inexplicably switch places for a day (think Freaky Friday). This strange and unsettling spirit swapping keeps happening every few days. It’s novel but unnerving, because when they have traded places, their brains don’t remember what happened during their respective absences.
Ultimately, they learn to adapt to it by leaving each other messages and notes in their cell phones and even by writing on their bodies to communicate with each other. As their communication grows, so do their feelings for each other–even though the swapping makes it unclear if they will ever be able to meet face to face. Looming in the background of it all is a giant comet which in one way is bringing the couple together, but it is also a dangerous, fateful force that could separate them forever.
The story is far fetched, yet it works, mostly due to the incredible visual treats that are on every frame of the film. Director and self-taught animator Makoto Shinkai and team have created an animated Japan that is based in realism but enhanced with a distinctive, impressionistic beauty. I loved both the animation of the metropolis of Tokyo and the country living of Itomori. And some of my favorite visuals were those of the night sky with the comet and stars swirling stunningly overhead.At certain points of the film, I wondered if I was watching an anime version of James Cameron’s Titanic, another romance set amidst a fateful occurence, but the soaring visuals and satisfying conclusions made me abandon the comparison. Your Name is a crazy fantasy that provided a very satisfying film going experience for this animation fan and hopeless romantic.
I highly recommend seeing this film on the big screen. Make sure to check out the Your Name website for the film’s current U.S. release schedule. In my market, two versions were playing–one in Japanese with English subtitles and the other with an English dub. I saw the Japanese version with English subtitles and loved it.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars