By Steve Manzo
With the number of movie sequels and remakes that hit theaters today, it can feel as if Hollywood has completely run out of original ideas. “Your Name” does nothing to help their cause. The reason for that is because it wasn’t made in Hollywood at all.
Originally releasing in Japan in 2016, this animated film came way of director Makoto Shinkai and Japanese animation studio CoMix Wave Films. Before having its limited North American theatrical release this year on April 7, it had already become the fourth highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and the worldwide highest grossing anime film of all time and for good reason. This film boasts one of the most unique premises for a film that has been seen in a long time with interesting characters and a strong emotional impact.
“Your Name” is about a teenage girl from the countryside named Mitsuha, and a teenage boy from Tokyo named Taki, who seem to have frequent dreams about living out someone else’s life for a day. They start to realize that dreaming isn’t the case when their friends tell them about how they acted like a completely different person the day prior. When they saw the results of their dreams, both realize that they have been switching places with each other. Just like a dream, their memory of what happens to them as the other person is unclear after they wake up. They set up a way to communicate with each other through leaving notes behind as they try to figure out who each other are, why this is happening and how they can finally figure out a way to meet one another.
The plot can be a bit tricky to explain and can sound similar to “Freaky Friday,” but it is truly a unique work of its own with plenty of twists, turns and surprises. The less known about the plot going in, the better the experience will be.
One point that should be made is that this movie is not a kid’s film. Not that is has anything too offensive, but there isn’t anything geared towards a child audience in this film. This point is emphasized because the mindset towards animation in America usually has it labeled as “kiddie fare” and some may avoid this because of that fact. In Japan, however, animation is treated as just another medium through which to tell any kind of story including fantasy dramas like this.
The quality of animation in this film is absolutely fantastic. The backgrounds and landscapes shown are worthy of framing and hanging up on the wall. American animation studios have, for the most part, given up on traditional hand drawn animation, so getting the chance to see it on the big screen once again was a treat. Computer-generated animation can look great too, but there’s something about knowing that the movie was made with artists drawing with pencil and paper that makes it all the more awe inspiring.
The film does a really great job of getting the audience emotionally invested. The characters are written very well with lots of curiosity, ambition and heart, and the film makes you really care about the characters and the journey they go on. Side characters including Mitsuha’s two close friends are also a joy to watch. The three of them together give off a vibe of “The Goonies,” which is always endearing.
“Your Name” is definitely worth a viewing. It truly is a theatrical event that is unlike anything the U.S. has seen for some time.
Instead of seeing the usual movie theater fare like yet another “The Fast and the Furious” movie or another Disney movie remake, give this a watch instead. You’ll definitely be in for a surprise.