Anime review: Your Name

A review of the award winning anime film "Your Name" or "Kimi No Na Wa." It is the latest film from award winning director Makoto Shinkai,...
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    Movie: Your Name
    Japanese Title: Kimi No Na Wa
    Release Date: 2016
    Genre: Romance, Slice-of-Life
    Director: Makoto Shinkai
    Screenplay: Makoto Shinkai
    Studio: CoMix Wave Inc.
    Running Time: 107 mins.

    Without trying to give too much of the plot away (it's best if you go into this movie knowing as little as possible), Your Name is a romantic-dramedy told by way of body switching. A country girl and a city boy are as different as could be, until a comet streaking through the sky brings them together.

    The Review
    Top-Notch Animation
    Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the animation is amazing. I watched a low-res version of this, so I know I’m watching it again, just to be able to see it in that good quality, high-definition resolution.

    You watch a Shinkai movie for three things: the feels, the trains, and the animation. This movie has all these things in equal measure, but it’s the art that stands out immediately. Stellar animation is just par for the course for Shinkai, but I feel that it bears emphasizing here. After all, it’s always so fulfilling to see him try and challenge that Blu Ray/1080 pixel resolution.

    Every frame shows excellent attention to detail, that in most shots, you’ll be distracted by the scene’s backgrounds and scenery. I’m always so amazed with any animator who can make an urban city look good, but I’ve yet to see anyone who does it as well as Shinkai.

    It seems that he continues to up his game with each release. Just when I thought Garden of Words featured his most exquisite animation, Your Name comes and throws that out the window entirely. Featuring nice, subtle mash-ups of CGI animation and hand-drawn beauties, this movie is sure to please the eye of even the most casual viewer.

    A Soundtrack Best Left Forgotten

    One of Shinkai’s more annoying quirks is his unwillingness to let go of his emotional pop songs. In The Place Promised in Our Early Days, the music plays a huge role in the story’s progression, so the music was well-used there. In 5 Centimeters Per Second, the song placement works and lends more weight to the movie’s resolution. In Garden of Words, it was just plain awkward. But in Your Name, it becomes full-on obnoxious.

    Not content with just playing a song once, this movie plays a song a record four times. Were they even the same song? Frankly, I can’t bring myself to care. The song was good when it played at the beginning of the movie, because it seemed an ingenious way to introduce the main characters’ different lifestyles in a quick three or four minutes.

    But when more songs began to play towards the movie’s end, it became tiresome and corny.

    An Exhausting and Stressful Affair

    Now for the good stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong – I loved that this was a stressful experience. Getting stressed with a movie means getting invested in the movie, which is always a good sign.

    For the first time in a while, I wanted to know badly what would happen next. But at the same time, I was also scared to find out. It was also the first time in a while that I found myself hoping hard for a good ending – anything less than that, and I knew it would have rendered the entire movie irredeemable.

    I’m a Shinkai fan, but I used to have little confidence in his ability to tell a good story. But after seeing this, I’m sure my opinion of him has changed. I’m pleased that he’s able to come out with a good, complex story without having to indulge in sad feelings.

    The movie’s third part, however, characterized the negative aspects of exhausting. The moment protagonist Taki started his monologue as an adult, I near breathed a sigh of relief. “Now there’s the Shinkai I know,” I thought. But then, I remembered that this was nothing to celebrate, especially since this movie had been so good until it got to its final ten or fifteen minutes.

    But don’t let this put you off from watching the movie. The wind-down after the intense climax is tiring and a return to form for sad, mopey Shinkai, but I suppose that was inevitable. Everything leading up to the ending was a trip and a ride, but the moment the story began to wind down, it indulges in chasing its own tail for a bit before giving you that satisfying ending.

    A Story to Remember

    What Your Name does is take time-old concepts of body swapping and romantic dramedy to make something that isn’t entirely new, but memorable all the same.

    It’s a good experience just going through the story alone. It’s filled with all sorts of curve balls to keep the plot interesting, and even introduces some new things to think about when it comes to the genre.

    The humor doesn’t hurt it either. While the humor doesn’t take up a big part of the movie, it still makes up some of its more memorable parts. Naturally, having to switch with someone of the opposite sex calls for all sorts of jokes. But thankfully, the switch is handled as tastefully and naturally as possible.

    Boob-grabbing? Not sexualized in any way, just something I think most guys would do when they wake up in a girl’s body (I know I would). Crotch-touching? Just a by-product of the natural curiosity that comes when a girl suddenly wakes up in a boy’s body.

    What it boils down to is a nice, simple, heartfelt, sincere, and genuine story that’s sure to pull heartstrings.

    The Protagonists and All Their Friends
    Your Name is a movie that has character – and a lot of memorable ones too.

    I got unreasonably giddy to see so many other characters share the screen with both protagonists. More characters means more room for banter, which means a livelier story. What’s particularly nice about the side characters is that none of them were written to add unnecessary conflict or drama for the sake of the plot.

    Both groups of friends for both Taki and Mitsuha only served to enrich the plot further. They were there to actually help the protagonists develop. They weren’t a nuisance, nor did they interfere unnecessarily in any way. It was great, just to be able to watch all of them interact with each other, and as I’m always a fan of ensemble casts, watching their relationships progress was a treat.

    The definite dark horse for the movie would have to be Mitsuha’s younger sister, Yotsuha, who undoubtedly gets some of the better lines and reaction shots.

    A Nice Change of Pace for Shinkai
    For the first time in his filmography, the characters are all bustling about and trying to do something about their problems, instead of sitting around and whining about their feelings. There’s a reason why Taki’s the first Shinkai protagonist that I actually like. He succumbs to the occasional whining, but for the most part, he’s actually proactive enough to do something about his feelings.

    Another reason to love this movie is the equal focus it gives to its two main characters. In Shinkai’s other movies, the story is told from the perspective of just one character – usually the whining boy – but in this one, both parties are given equal amounts of screentime. Now that we know how they both feel for each other, there’s no need for sad monologues to fill in the silence.

    Long-time Shinkai viewers will also note that Your Name takes on a more light-hearted tone compared to previous movies. Without the monologues, characters are free to talk and interact with each other. The result: added humor and a refreshing break from the heavy introspection and sadness.

    This isn’t to say that the sadness is bad. On the contrary, it’s one of the things that keeps people coming back to Shinkai. But because Your Name has such a different tone, he’s able to attract a whole new audience as well. And for those who’ve seen everything the man’s filmography has to offer, this new movie provides a very refreshing shift that keeps his stories from becoming stale.

    The Verdict

    Highly recommended. This here’s the good stuff, and if you’re a Shinkai fan like me, then this could also prove to be the man’s most fulfilling work. And if this is your first time viewing anything by him, then this movie's a good one to start with.


    If you like this, you might like:
    Millennium Actress (2001)
    The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006)
    5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

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