Every once in a while, there is something that emerges from the world around us that somehow entices and gently caresses our sense of wonder and delight. For myself, and many others around the world, the animated film “Your Name” does exactly that.
Released as “Kimi no Na Wa” in Japan in 2016, “Your Name” quickly took to the top of the film charts in Japan, gathering with it a great tide of both critical acclaim and the love of fans. It didn’t take long for many western audiences to fall in love with it, too. I had originally enjoyed this film in Japanese—with subtitles—back in late 2016; however, this review is for the English release.
Regardless of what language in which it is viewed, “Your Name” is nothing short of a beautiful film. In an age and culture where animated films are 3-D renderings (Toy Story), the Japanese style, popularly known as anime, is a breath of fresh air.
In America, the most well-known—and for very good reason—creator of these films is Hiyaho Miyazaki. It is almost strange, and dare I say taboo, to like another anime film over a Studio Ghibli movie. The love for “Your Name” is certainly one that is earned.
The plot is centered on a somewhat well-know trope: a woman and a man—though in this case a high-school-age girl and boy— are connected in a seemingly random way and find themselves switching bodies.
Here in the U.S., this is a well-abused trope for comedy and has seen its share of variants. Thus, it is something that may make some viewers, like my wife, skeptical, as we still cringe from all the terrible movies that came out of the ‘90s and early 2000s.
“Your Name” takes a different approach and has certainly mastered the concept of a romance built atop the body switch. Additionally, the movie takes a delightful yet heart-wrenching turn that will leave anyone on the edge of his or her seat as the conflict resolves in the later half of the film. I have to say that watching the movie the second time only makes it that much better.
One of my favorite elements of the film is the positively stunning artwork and masterful animations. In the markets of Japan and China, the skills needed to impress an audience with sheer environmental beauty are far higher. For those of us in the West, there will likely be very, very few cartoons that can match what stunning displays “Your Name” lays out—outside of Studio Ghibli, anyway.
Even with the gorgeous, breathtaking visuals, the strength of this film—and any good film, I think—lies in the pacing. Watching “Your Name” was not unlike sitting on an empty beach, watching the tides and the waves break on the surf.
It starts out with something of a jolt like the first wave you see when you get to the beach, laying hints in the very first seconds of the film that are soon easily forgotten. Then, the tide recedes and the water line is lowered; the pace of the film is gentle and enjoyable, taking its time to let you understand the world, ask questions, look for answers and get yourself attached.
Then, just when you’ve finally been lulled to sleep, you realize you’re in the middle of the high tide and scramble to get a hold of the situation. “Your Name” does just this, with the deep exposition rising from the depths in the distance to come at you like a tidal wave.
It breaks, and you’re given a second chance to breathe and really figure out what’s going on. From there, the audience is caught in a riptide that is absolutely exhilarating all the way until the end where, finally, we’re able to let go that pent-up sigh of relief.
“Your Name” is a beautiful, gripping and somewhat mysterious film that I believe everyone should take the chance to see. Even if animated films aren’t your style, this movie brings something everyone can appreciate. A word of warning: bring a box of tissues. Its almost guaranteed you’re going to cry (even if you don’t admit it), along with everyone beside you. Don’t worry, I totally understand.