Your Name is For Lovers
Review by Aaron Haughton
Writer/director Makoto Shinkai's animated film, Your Name, is based off his novel (of the same name), which was published a month prior to the film's release, and tells the story of a high school boy and girl, Taki and Mitsuha, each complete strangers to one another and located in separate areas of Japan, who suddenly switch places, waking up to find themselves in one another's body; however, once they return to their own body, they can't recollect the other's name. This bizarre incident continues to occur until a comet flies across Japan, leading them to once and for all track one another down. It's a film about time, the thread of fate, and the connection between two young souls.
I've got to say that I'm not the biggest anime fan, and when I say that, what I really mean is I'm not really a fan of anime at all. My exposure to it fairly rudimentary and is practically nonexistent. I understand there's a multitude of wonderful anime films out there, but it's not something that I often, if ever, seek out. That being said, I saw this film all because of a glowing recommendation from a friend, who I think went to go see Your Name 3 or 4 times in the theater, coaxing me to see it in the theater environment; however, my aversion to anime led me astray. So, as soon as Your Name was available for Blu-ray release, said friend snatched it up and forcefully pushed it into my hands. Having just finished the film, I'm glad they did.
It's an interesting and audacious piece of art that's very sentimental and romantic, full of heart, charm and dazzling visuals. It's not perfect, but something so ambitious seldom ever is. The minor flaws can be overlooked by the animation's gorgeousity, the story's bleeding pathos, and the overall experience. It's an Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind that breaks through the space-time continuum. A more symbolic and moving Freaky Friday. A story of star-crossed lovers, minus an unfavorably tragic ending. In short, it's a compelling story told in an enthralling way.
Honestly, the less you know about the film, the better the experience will be, so this review will be intentionally opaque, but there's a lot to love about this extraordinary tale of fate and love. My only real complaint about the whole experience was that the first act was a bit clunky and confusing, and that the whole ordeal is ham-handedly explained via direct voiceover right at the end of the first act (around the 30 minute mark of about a 100 minute film). Once that's out of the way and you finally understand what's going on, the film picks up and doesn't really let go until the very end.
The heart of the film lies in the symbolism of the red Musubi (Mitsuha's guardian god, who rules over joining experiences and human connections) cord. A symbol that reinforces connection and joins the two main characters together. As Mitsuha's grandmother says in the film, "The braided cords that we make are the god's art and represent the flow of time itself. They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break. Then connect again. Musubi-knotting. That's time"
It's a pretty traditional love story at its core, drawing on cliches like destiny and that there's one true love for all of us, but it always feels fresh and honest in its approach and execution. There's a lot to relate to as well if you're not a sappy romantic, things like growing up and shaking off your awkwardness, resenting your rural hometown and wanting to move away to the big city. There's a very good reason why it's become the highest grossing anime film of all time, it's a universal story and it's one that not just fans of anime can enjoy.
At times, the animation is so realistic, it's like the animator's rotoscoped the entire film with the exception of the characters. The film was animated by CoMix Wave Films, which was also responsible for Shinkai's earlier films. They're a relatively young animation studio, being founded in 2007, but their work on Your Name shows that they have the chops to contend with the monolithic animation studios, like Dreamworks or Pixar.
This is a film that I'm glad I finally gave the time of day. Will the experience transform me into an avid devourer of anime? Maybe so, maybe no; too early to tell. Feelings about anime aside, I'd recommend it to anyone who's not seen it yet, as it's easily one of the more immaculate films to release so far this year, and it even has a pitch-perfect ending to boot. It's a film with massive rewatch value that should enrich the narrative with each new viewing. To quote Mitsuha's grandmother again, "Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up."
Lucky for us, we'll probably remember this one forever.
Rating: 4.5 red Musubi-cords out of 5.
What did you think? Did you love the film? Do you think it's one of the best animated films to release this year? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!