Sunday, April 9, 2017

Your Name.

After its original release in Japan, Your Name., written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, proved itself a cultural phenomenon, breaking Japanese box office records and becoming the highest grossing anime film of all time. It released to critical and audience acclaim in its home country, which led to a US release by Funimation, both in English dubbed and subtitled formats, starting with a limited theatrical run. The success of the film intrigued me to where I watched it in the nearest location screening the dubbed version (I’m aware some locations only screened the subbed version). After my viewing, I can honestly say that the acclaim for Your Name. is well-deserved.

Mitsuha Miyamizu (Stephanie Sheh), a girl who lives in the country, and Taki Tachibana (Michael Sinterniklaas), a boy who lives in Tokyo, begin to have strange dreams about each other’s lives. These dreams are frequent enough that they eventually realize they are repeatedly swapping bodies, and lives, with each other. As the body swapping continues, they begin to leave more of an impact on each other’s lives while the true nature of their situation slowly comes together.

Though the story has elements seen in other films, including The Lake House and Freaky Friday, Your Name. manages to use these elements in an effective way. As the plot gradually ramps up, it’s easy to root for the main characters and want them to find each other and finally get together. The story manages to combine humor, drama and romance in an emotionally engaging and poignant combination, while also presenting its supernatural elements within a world that is itself presented as surprisingly realistic.

The realism of the film’s world is captured in simply phenomenal animation. Every single detail, down to the body language of the characters and appearance of anything from buildings to smoke, feels about as real as you can possibly get with traditional animation. This helps draw the viewer into the world and helps certain actions come off more realistically. What also helps is the expert use of lighting and a bright, life-like color palette.

In addition, the English voice acting is excellent in carrying the dialogue and allowing the viewer to become emotionally invested in the characters. Notably, the movie features a rather minimal use of music, as well as the occasional moment of complete silence, which increases the impact when music is an element in a scene and allows the original music by Radwimps to stand out, such as during a montage or the animated opening sequence.

Put simply, Your Name. is a must-see. While some plot elements have been seen in other movies, this film manages to combine them in an emotionally engaging way. The realistic setting is also an effective backdrop for the more supernatural elements, aided by some of the best traditional animation to date. With an anime film like this, it’s a shame that not a whole lot of people seem to be interested (if my screening was anything to go by). If you have the chance to see it during its theatrical run, do it as soon as you can. If you can’t, watch it on the inevitable home video release.

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