Can you remember a dream after you wake up?
Title: Your Name. (Kimi no Na wa)
Publisher: CoMix Wave Films (JP), Funimation (US)
Original Creator/Director: Makoto Shinkai
Release Date: April 7, 2017
Mitsuha has been acting a bit funny lately. Her friends tease her, asking if she remembers her name or where her locker is today, and Mitsuha has absolutely no recollection of any of those events! The last thing she needs is even more attention; as the daughter of the town’s mayor and granddaughter of the local shrine’s priestess, Mitsuha is already in the spotlight more than she would care for in this isolated little town. It’s enough to make her scream out across the valley “Make me a Tokyo boy in my next life!”
Taki, a Tokyo high schooler, has also been acting strange lately. He can’t remember where he works, is ordering the most outlandish sweets at the cafe, and is even acting more feminine in front of his friends (not that his friends really mind, as they admit). After Taki wakes up one morning to an entry in his phone diary about how he walked his senpai home the night before, something he has no memory of, he and Mitsuha put it together. The dreams they’ve been having lately, the ones they can barely remember upon awakening, aren’t dreams at all but the result of the two of them switching bodies!
For a story that involves several scenes of Taki-as-Mitsuha squeezing their boobs, and Mitsuha-as-Taki worriedly realizing “there’s something down there,” this is a surprisingly sweet story and easily director Makoto Shinkai’s most commercial film to date. Children Who Chase Lost Voices was Shinkai’s first foray into a more commercial work where he placed less focus on the relationships than in his previous works (although that movie is still largely about connections) in favor of trying to make a more family-friendly film — obviously heavily influenced by other heavy hitters like Studio Ghibli movies. Here Shinkai has tweaked his focus again; his trademark bittersweet romance and longing is back but this time it’s in the form of a teenage romance, unlike most of his other works. Despite the fact that Mitsuha and Taki are so far away from each other the two of them develop a very fun relationship, between setting down rules for what the other can do in their body (not that is always works, Mitsuha is getting confessions from her female classmates and Taki is suddenly going on dates with his senpai) and writing “IDIOT” on each other’s faces. Despite the fact that both of them are absolutely terrible at acting like each other, no one around them seems overly concerned which makes the situation feel more like a low-stakes rom-com.
Shinkai is best known for his visuals however and here as well the movie pivots slightly towards a more commercial work. The “more ideal than real” visuals are still here but they’ve been toned down a little bit. The color pallets feel a little more ordinary than extraordinary, more literal than fantastical, but the movie still looks amazing, especially in its big scenery shots. Also returning for the first time in a few works is the space imagery! Both Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days used the idea of outer space as a metaphor for the distance between connections and while Your Name is set firmly on Earth, the approaching comet seen in the middle of the movie’s poster seems to be a nod back to Shinkai’s earlier works. I feel that this is also the most memorable score to a Shinkai film; while I’m not a fan of the English-language version of the insert songs produced for the dub I do like both the insert songs and background pieces across the board. It’s one of the few soundtracks that’s interested me enough to buy recently.
Even as a first-time viewer I can see why the movie has an innate re-watchability to it and it’s easy to see why people were flocking to see it multiple times, thus making it the highest grossing anime film worldwide and it achieved that even before it had a worldwide release. I’m not particularly fond of any of Shinkai’s previous works but this wasn’t even “just” a great Shinkai film for me, this was a great anime film in general. If you have a chance to see Your Name‘s spectacular visuals on the big screen I highly encourage you to do so. While the story obviously won’t change between the theatrical and home video releases, Your Name‘s visuals look marvelous on the big screen in a way that few films do.