After what seems to be an endless string of animated films that focus on young moviegoers, director Makoto Shinkai has come to the rescue of older animated film fans. His “Your Name” is a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, desperation and hope brought to the screen with visual splendor.
His script has a few problems, but once the pieces begin to line up, this tale of comet-crossed lovers comes together in a surprising and pleasing manner.
High school students Mitsuha and Taki live very different lives. He goes to school and works in the bustling city of Tokyo. She has grown up in a quaint rural village where nothing happens. This all changes when a comet passes over the two cities.
Mitsuha wakes one morning to find himself in Taki's body and he in hers. They finally figure out a way to communicate. At the same time, each is beginning to find a true love for the other although they have never officially met.
Where this body leaping device takes the pair is a world-changing event. They just have to figure out what is happening before it’s too late.
Any more details would split the delicate structure of the story. Shinkai starts in such an obtuse way that there might be a tendency to give up on the story early. Stay with it. As the parts begin to gel, the result is a well-crafted story that will be even better with a second viewing to see where all of the elements began to emerge.
And, the director even sprinkles in a light touch of comedy that elevates the tale.
Generally, Shinkai tells the story in a typical anime style. This is evident through the exaggerated faces with overly large eyes and petite noses. This look is not original but as with most anime, the power comes from the backgrounds.
Whether its the sprawling city of Tokyo or the lavish forests of the Japanese countryside, Shinkai’s vision is one of a world that floats between the real and surreal. He’s not afraid to mix the crisp lines of a large city building with the soft textures of a tree exploding with fall colors.
There are moments when the movie looks like a dream come to life, a fitting design considering the two teens emerge in their exchanged bodies after a night of sleep. But, no matter how far the director takes the movie visually, the film is bound tightly together by the very unique love story at its heart.
It’s the uniqueness of the story and the unpredictable way the plot unfolds that is the strength of “Your Name.” This all gets supported by animation that accents each word like a eye-popping meteor streaking through the theater darkness.
“Your Name” starts slowly but becomes a tale of teen romance that is captivating.
Theaters will be showing both the dubbed and subtitled versions of the film. Check with the theater to make sure you are seeing the version you prefer.
Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Rated PG (mild action, language, smoking, suggestive content)
Opens: Friday, April 7