[WARNING OF SPOILERS AHEAD. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON WATCHING THE FILM. OTHERWISE, ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN – THEY ARE NOT CORRECT, THEY ARE JUST MY OWN. THANK YOU]
Now, back in July, I watched Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice) for the first time and proclaimed it to be one of the best anime films I’ve ever watched. I will confess that this has changed since watching Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) – A Silent Voice is still a spectacular piece of cinema and a must watch, but Your Name has to be above it if both are put on a list. At first, I wasn’t going to write a review for Your Name as I imagine every anime fan – and then some – has seen this film at some point and heard so much about it, I may as well fade in with the rest. But I can’t – this is an out worldly fantastic film that my opinions must be made with everyone else.
This film overcome my expectations but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect – it does have a few things that bug me, but they are things that can be somewhat ‘overlooked’ and simply left alone.
Before you read any more of this review, just know this: Your Name is just as amazing as everyone else says but it is something you have to watch yourself in order to truly understand why this is one of the best – and highest – grossing animated films that may even beat Studio Ghibli.
The story itself is nothing particularly ‘special’ – we follow two teenagers with slight dilemmas. First, we are introduced to Mitsuha Miyamizu who lives with her grandmother and younger sister, but isn’t very popular at school due to her being the mayor’s daughter. We also meet Taki Tachibana, a boy who works part time and has a crush on one of his coworkers, Miki Okudera. Mitsuha – dissatisfied living in a rural mountain town (Itomori) and embarassed by her family tradition of kuchikamizake (the making and fermenting of sake by chewing it), she wishes to become a handsome boy in her next life. She and Taki begin body swapping a few times a week, leaving eachother journals of what they have done while helping eachother with their (respective) problems. Then one day, they no longer body swap. Despite Taki trying to contact Mistuha, all evidence of their interactions disappear. In fear of losing all of his memories about her, he travels to Itomori (from Tokyo, bearing in mind) to find her, only to find that a comet killed the entire village three years ago. Taki manages to find the sake Mistuha made before she died, drinks it and manages to body swap again. They meet in kataware-doki (‘twilight’) where Taki warns her of her fate. Their first meeting is cut short, but Mistuha – with the help of her friends Tessie and Sayaka – come up with a plan to save the people. You do not know if the plan worked as Taki watched the comet fly past in Tokyo, however they meet again as Taki has a job interview, presumably a few years later, despite not remembering eachother.
So, there is a bit of fantasy mixed in there, but I suppose because the comet is never really mentioned in the synopsis of the movie at any point, the film seems like a teenage, body swapping, romance story that has been told a few times at this point. But because of the twist of the comet, then the twist of Taki and Mitsuha’s timelines being off by three years, it makes the story much more interesting and actually – to a certain extent – a bit more suspenseful. With the story also cutting back at forth to the future and the past, it never gets dull.
There are some great themes too: suspense; growing up; romance. Unfortnately, the romance aspect does fall a little flat for me in a way that I thought it was a romance movie before I watched it, then I thought it wasn’t as I was watching it, then knew it was after watching it. However, that scene where Mitsuha finds that Taki wrote “I love you” on her hand instead of his name really hit my heart (in a good way). Romance anime is my thing, so maybe I’m just a snob.
Hands down, this film beats any of Studio Ghibli’s animation with a sucker punch. There is no scene that is not fully animated (aka, Seraph of the End or Yuri on Ice stills that are pretty derpy). You can tell a lot of skill and love went into making this film look as beautiful as it should. And honestly, I think that’s why one of the best things about this film is because it’s animated – how else do you catch the beauty of a falling comet or a rural Hedian-era inspired landscape? Had it been live-action (which there be in Hollywood with J.J.Abrams and Eric Heisserer), I don’t think certain scenes would have been ‘pulled off’ as brilliantly as they were.
This movie was produced by the CoMix Wave Films studio, who are well known for their beautiful scenery and crisp-clear animation (sadly, I have not watched any of their other work, so I cannot compare).
Many of the backdrops were inspirited by real-life locations for the fictional town of Itomori (Hida of the Gifu Prefecture is said to be the main inspiration, which would make sense with it’s many mountains and forests).
I love the soundtrack for this movie (I actually listened to it as I was writing this review) as it has a mixture of upbeat piano music for those light-hearted moments, twinkly orchestra-like ambiance for those tense moments, and the voice Yojiro Noda of RADWIMPS fame to create such a unique and beautiful (yes, I know I’m saying that word a lot) soundtrack that blurs my eyes with tears from just hearing a few notes. RADWIMPS songs especially – “Yumetōrō“ (“Dream Lantern“); “Zenzenzense“ (“Past Past Life“); “Supākuru“ (“Sparkle“); “Nandemonaiya“ (“It’s Nothing“) – are memorable and have been stuck in my head ever since I watched it. I may not understand all the words, but I understand the feelings that come across in these songs – what love is truly about.
Sadly, this is where the film is let down a little bit. While I did like all the characters that appeared in this film, I didn’t really…feel anything for them particularly, like I have with, say, the Kumo brothers in Laughing Under the Clouds. I think what I’m trying to say is, when the characters had particular things happen to them – like the small flashback to Mistuha’s backstory of how her mother died and her father walked out on them – yes, I felt sad for them, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I think because so much was going on, there was no real time to bond with the characters, especially Taki and Mistuha.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anything for them – I felt so sad for Taki when he discovered what happened to Mitsuha – and cheered them on as they got through life, but they just weren’t special in my eyes. Mitsuha is the typical-misunderstood-but-trying-to-do-her-best type of girl, while Taki is the happy-but-shy-knows-what-he-wants kind of boy.
The same can be said for the support characters – I don’t remember Taki’s friends’ names and Mitsuha’s sister and grandmother appeared less than often that I couldn’t create a interest for them. The characters are good, but they are not the strongest point of the film.
This film is a true beauty in many aspects – visually, in sound/musically, storytelling and just overall feeling. Yes, I have pointed out that some of the romance aspects and the characters are a bit of a let down for me, but I still think this is the best non-Ghibli animated film I have ever watched. Despite being “there’s not much romance and suddenly Mitsuha and Taki belong together” and “I know I should feel bad for Mitusha because of her parents, but I don’t really”, it tells a story of a human bond in such a gorgeous blend of emotions and visuals, it is impossible for me to feel like any part of this film is bad. I haven’t seen or heard many of Makoto Shinkais’ works, but I will be watching more after watching Your Name.
Skinkai himself stated that the film is far from perfect and believes that it would have been better with more time and a large budget, which I agree (to a certain extent with). This film is only 107 minutes, in which to tell such a large-scale story as this in is not a lot of time. Had the film been longer, then maybe my issues of character development and romance aspects would be ironed out.
Your Name is a film about falling in love in the most unexpected places and doing your best to make sure no dream – or bond – dies without a fight.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! Until next week, stay tuned! (And yes, my Overwatch Character Guides will return next week, I just needed a break).
I highly recommend listening to Your Names’ soundtrack too. Just whenever – studying, writing, messing around on the internet, background noise, anytime.