Lives Unexpectedly Collide and Interconnect in YOUR NAME

Originally published on April 7, 2017

As a hardcore Miyazaki fan, I was absolutely stunned when I learned that his Academy Award-winning film, SPIRITED AWAY, became the second highest-grossing anime film ever last year, when Makoto Shinkai’s YOUR NAME exceeded it. Apart from its worldwide box office success, the film had also received positive reviews and presents a unique concept: Two teens who’ve never met – a city boy named Taki and a country girl named Mitsuha – randomly swap bodies a few days a week. With its run in the U.S. kicking off today, I decided to take the time and go check it out.

The first forty minutes of the film is very much like FREAKY FRIDAY; with comically awkward situations when Taki is in Mitsuha’s body and vice versa, playing tricks on each other, and so on. However, a twist occurs when a major event changes the course of their weird relationship as well as their fates, and it’s up to them to set things right not only for themselves, but for everyone around them.

The writing and the storytelling is incredibly well-crafted. As interesting as it is to have the teens swap bodies at random, if the whole film were solely focused on just that plot maneuver, then I believe it would have been worn out after a while. The change of tone and the plot twist gives the story more meaning to this crazy occurrence, and how through living each other’s lives, Taki and Mitsuha can be able to help each other in the long run.

The animation is beautiful. Normally any anime outside of Studio Ghibli tends to throw me off by how exaggerated the characters are animated to be. While I can understand that kind of liberation that comes with animation, it doesn’t usually sit well with me. But in the case of YOUR NAME, the characters are animated without the usual exaggeration, the settings were well created and insanely detailed, and even scenes such as when the comet is making its way across the sky were gorgeous to look at.

What was noticeable to me is apart from the qualities that made YOUR NAME unique, it also had a number of (often unnecessary) traits that are associated with anime. Examples include how Mitsuha’s scenes often feature her dressed in her school uniform, a soundtrack comprised of seemingly out-of-place rock music, and the general plot that revolves around a boy and girl whose feelings for each other grow overtime. Despite the traits, they don’t take away from this otherwise well-executed film.

This is the first anime film I’ve seen that either wasn’t produced by Studio Ghibli or doesn’t set its story around one of the however many Legendary Pokemon that are out there. While SPIRITED AWAY exceeds YOUR NAME in my not so humble opinion, I strongly believe that this Shinkai creation is a memorable one that’s definitely worth seeing as many times as your eyes can handle.

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