By JENSEN LIM LEONG
Kimi No Nawa or Your Name is the widely acclaimed animated movie by director Makoto Shinkai. The film has become the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and the highest grossing animated film in Japan, overtaking Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It released August 26, 2016 in Japan and will release on April 7, 2017 in America.
The film opens on Mitsuha, a girl living in a rural town near Japan’s mountains. She finds herself bored with town life and wishes to live in Tokyo. One day she wakes up in the body of a boy named Taki who, coincidentally, lives in Tokyo. Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body as well. Because of this swap, Mitsuha is able to get Taki a date with his crush, and Taki makes Mitsuha more popular at school. They switch bodies every other day until it stops randomly without reason, causing Taki to try and find Mitsuha out of pure curiosity.
A story where two people switch bodies is not an original idea; one only has to point to Freaky Friday or any number of American films that revolve around the body swap concept. But to categorize Your Name with these movies would be a huge disservice. One, it is not a comedy, and two, the concept of body swapping is only used as a device to focus on the lives and budding romance between the two main characters instead of being the main conflict. Without a doubt, that is both the film’s greatest strength and weakness. It allows the viewer to become absorbed in the lives and struggles of the two main characters, but because of the focus on only those two, there is no time to focus on all the side characters. There are about ten side characters and many of them feel like they fill meaningless roles. But, the film also has one of the more satisfying endings I have seen in awhile.
Makoto Shinkai’s work is nothing short of great. His animation has a wide array of expressions for his characters and contains many incredibly animated scenes. The renderings of certain locations and landmarks are pinpoint accurate to the extent that one could mistake it for the real thing. One of the locations included the National Art Center in Tokyo; having been there myself, the rendering of the museum was perfect. Seeing such an exact recreation of a place really highlights the effort the animation team put into making the set pieces as true to life as possible.
Shinkai is a good animator and director, but I feel his cinematography leaves something to be desired as none of his shot compositions added to the message of the film.
The music of Your Name is great and incredibly memorable. Listening to the soundtrack again by itself made me a little sad, and the fact that it could evoke an emotional response is proof enough that it did its job correctly.
Your Name is a great film. Although it is not without its flaws, Makoto Shinkai obviously put a lot of work and effort into creating his magnum opus. I do not think for a second that Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki, as some think he is. Shinkai’s work is too direct and not abstract enough to be like Miyazaki, and his directing and cinematography are not as refined. Shinkai is an entity himself, using a bit more of a normal storyline to jump into the eye of the public.
Your Name was a huge success in Japan, topping the box office record of 12 non-consecutive weeks at number one. It was the highest grossing 2D animation in China and the highest grossing film in Thailand. Unfortunately, I do not expect it to do that well when it reaches the American box office. Not only has it had little to no promotion, but also the film was unfortunately not nominated for an Academy Award after its submission from the August 2016 release date in Japan.