Your Name / Kimi no Na wa (2016)
Dir: Makoto Shinkai
This film could very easily have passed by my attention, when I first saw the poster at my local arts centre cinema I hadn’t heard of it at all. My interest was peaked by first a quick IMDb search there and then which showed the score to be 8.9, which is spectacular. Then a more than glowing review from Mark Kermode convinced me to go see it and I’m so glad I did.
A boy and girl who don’t know each other have recurring body-swap experiences, spending days in each others bodies and getting increasingly involved in each others lives.
‘Your Name’ is a really beautiful Japanese anime, this time not from studio Ghibli, though it is right up there with the very best they have produced. We’ve seen body-gender-swap films before yet this really rises above many of those. While it has all the humour you might expect from some of the forseeable difficulties that arise, it doesn’t stay at just that level, really exploring the wider implications and pushing expectations in ways I didn’t see coming. There are aspects to the communicating with each other that are a little reminiscent of something like ‘Frequency’ especially with the idea that a celestial phenomenon is linked to the strange occurrences, and the film works well to develop the emotional connection involved with the characters being so interwoven in each others lives.
There’s also a wonderful element of where the characters live, making use of the differences between country and city life, allowing for lots of Japanese culture to be featured and some of which is integral to the story developments. The two locations feature different scenery, all beautifully animated, ranging from wide rural panoramas to vertical urban cityscapes. Variety is also seen in the clothing the characters wear, from business suits to traditional Japanese costume, all of which make the whole film a rich feast for the eyes.
The opening titles are very much like you might expect from an anime television series, complete with catchy song, which when I saw it felt a little strange for a feature film, yet at the same time has a certain familiarity even to me as just an occasional viewer of the genre, so I can see how it would not feel out-of-place at all to the domestic audience especially in the teenage target audience. I also loved the use of music throughout the film, at times it has a relentless quality that enhances the characters determined action on screen yet it maintains a delicacy with lots of simple piano arrangements and repeated themes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I’m really happy I got to see it at the cinema so I could appreciate all the beautiful animation on the big screen. The story is really developed perfectly without resorting to capitalizing on just the funny side of the odd situation the main characters find themselves in, making it one of the very best body-swap films ever made, certainly the best I’ve ever seen. There are twists and developments that had me completely engrossed throughout and it’s well-worth searching for and seeing if it’s showing at a cinema near you.
‘Your Name’ has been nominated for some Annie awards including best Independent Feature. Sadly it missed out on bigger awards such as the Academy Awards although I think it would have been absolutely worthy of a nomination and is a film that will have a lasting appeal and audience.