Your Name concerns two teenagers. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishirashi) is the daughter of the mayor of a small mountain town in the western part of Japan. Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) lives in Tokyo with his father. There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two, except two to three times a week, seemingly at random, they wake up in each other’s body. Now for most films, this body switch mechanic would be the whole story. But Your Name basically rushes through the two trying to make the best out of the situation, revealing a much deeper, much more emotional cosmic narrative as it goes on.
There’s a lot more to this movie than the seemingly cutesy premise. The film really starts taking off when these two characters start trying to look for each other. It turns out that neither Mitsuha nor Taki can exactly remember their time inside the other’s body. The memories fade like a distant dream, leaving only a vague longing. And it turns out that the separation between them may be more than just geographic. The film ends up bending time and space itself as it sketches out this delicate romance between two people connected by the cosmos in a completely inexplicable and latently tragic way.
The story just goes in unexpected directions. It plays out as three separate chapters, each with its own distinct style and tone. The first third is a funny little comedy about a very strange situation. The second part is like a Haruki Murakami story, documenting an odd romantic search for a memory that isn’t quite there, for a love that might not even be possible. And the third part is an adventure climax that offers up a thrilling race against time. And it all works together, the three fantastical sections all grounded with the same depth of feeling. This is a story about comets and magic and body switching, but at its heart it’s really just a story about being young and confused and in love.
And it all looks amazing, too. The visuals also contribute to holding this weirdly massive story together. The character animation is simple, but crisp. And when the film decides to go stylized, the result is just gorgeous. But where the film really comes alive is in the background. The digitally painted backdrops are just brimming with life in a way that just undeniably beautiful. No one draws a sky like Makoto Shinkai, and every time this film tilts the camera up, it evokes a sense of wonder that goes beyond what should be possible with a drawing.
The film does rely a bit too much on montages that play out like music videos. It at times feels like it’s forced to rush through things, and it’s just relying on the music to convey the relevant emotions at any given portion. Thankfully, the music, provided by the Japanese band Radwimps, is pretty catchy. The soundtrack seems to have been conceived as a whole album from the band, and one does get a sense of how they all fit together.
Your Name is a thrilling piece of animation. It just goes so big and so strange, unafraid to go into grander, more complex directions as it tells this story of two kids who don’t really know how they’re connected. It just starts to tell a story about Japan as a whole, about the neuroses of a generation growing up in a nation still so in touch with tradition while also being one of the most modern, technologically advanced places in the world. The film brings them together underneath the same beautifully drawn sky, looking through past, present, and future for whatever it is that they’re supposed to be looking for.
YOUR NAME OPENS IN LOCAL CINEMAS ON DECEMBER 15.