A mega-hit anime not produced by the named Studio Ghibli, the up-and-coming animator Makoto Shinkai’s fifth feature-length film,YOUR NAME is Japanese box office champion in 2016, grossed¥23 billion (circa US$190 million), the fourth largest in the history ever.
It starts as a gender-swapping yarn in the present day, Mitsuha, a motherless high school girl from a mountainous region, who lives with her grandma and a younger sister in their family shrine whereas her estranged father is running for the mayor of the town, grouses about her stagnant rural life and dreams of being a boy living in the big city, when a mysterious comet strikes across the firmament, it seems her wish is granted, she wakes up in the body of Taki, a high school boy in Tokyo, and vice versa, the swapping alternates on a daily basis and rebounds to both despite the initial confusion and the side effect of fading memories, Mitsuha becomes popular in the school with Taki takes over her body whilst Miki, the co-worker whom Taki has a crush on, starts to feel closer to him thanks to Mitsuha’s feminine intervention. Laden with generic but scintillating humor (Mitsuha’s habitual gazing and fondling of her boobs when her body is inhabited by Taki, but ostensibly not the other way around), zippy editing rhythm and hooky J-Pop anthems, the chucklesome paragraph reaches a halt when one day, Taki finds out that the swapping stops, and what follows are his dogged endeavor to looking for Mitsuha’s village whose name eludes him with a bolt from the blue waiting down the line.
Apparently and inexplicably, their temporalities are not uniform, but separated by three years, andShinkai’s savvy script circumspectly introduces the time-warp into the plot, which evolves into a touching and urgent past-changing undertaking for Mitsuha, facilitated by the numinous power of the traditional mouth-chewed sake andinterlaced with atranscendent vis-à-vis in the twilight hour during which the two nearly have time to write down their names. The cataclysm cannot be averted but at least many lives are saved, yet, hampered by the fading memories of each other’s names, will they be reunited in the same universe? You bet! Although the ending has a strained elation blatantly turning a blind on the odds of two individuals actually pass by each other randomly in a metropolis like Tokyo.
Shinkai’s virtuosity of devising picturesque scenery is an extraordinary feat to be reckoned with, a spate of celestial splendor and awe-inspiring landscape are scenery porn to hungry eyes, sometimes spiffed up by flashy juxtapositions of memories and hand-written sketches. Nevertheless, being someone who hasn't been versed in the realm of anime, one might wantonly hazard that the human character is a weak link in the process, their looks are invariably pedestrian and shy of memorable distinctions, perhaps it is an intrinsic defect in the animation where the niceties of facial expressions are still quite a challenge to visualize in technique terms. However, nothing can possibly deny that YOUR NAME is a massive success and an infallible testimony of Shinkai’s faculty to carry on the anime torch from royalties like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
referential points: Hayao Miyazaki’s SPIRITED AWAY (2001, 8.8/10), MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988, 8.0/10).