Your Name review

A funny and moving fantasy romance, Makato Shinkai's Your Name is an unmissable animated movie. Here's our review...

There are some movies that don’t just deserve repeat viewings, but actively demand them. Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is so intricately woven and heartfelt that it could withstand being watched over and over again.

Your Name introduces two teenagers united by longing: Mitsuha, a girl who lives in the small, sleepy town of Itomori and feels stifled by its traditions, and Taki, a boy works part-time at a Tokyo restaurant and harbours a crush on Miki, an older student and co-worker. On random days, Mitsuha and Taki, strangers who live miles apart, abruptly switch bodies; Taki is astonished to find himself in a girl’s body and vice versa. Their disorientation and wildly different personalities baffle their friends and family, and initially themselves, since neither Taki nor Mitsuha can remember what happened to them after they switch bodies again the very next day.

Gradually, the pair begin to find their equilibrium, and even manage to communicate – kind of – by leaving diary updates on their phones or by scrawling messages on bits of paper for the other to find the next day. Mitsuha and Taki’s body swapping appears to have something to do with a comet that is due to streak across the sky – but what?

Makoto Shinkai’s movies are often compared to those of Hayao Miyazaki, in part because they’re so successful – 5 Centimetres A Second, Children Who Chase Lost Voices (called Journey To Agartha in the UK for some reason) and The Garden Of Words being among the movies that have not only found appreciative audiences in Japan, but also in the west. While there are common elements in Shinkai and Miyazaki’s films – attention to detail, a sense of melancholy – Shinkai’s films are more squarely pitched at a contemporary teen audience.

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Like The Garden Of Words, Shinkai’s previous movie, Your Name is a romance steeped in its country’s modern culture, yet Mitsuha and Taki are the kind of kids you’d find pretty much anywhere: itching to strike out on their own, awkwardly fumbling their way towards adulthood, compulsively interacting with the world through the phones. They’re good-natured, likeable characters, and remain the story’s constant as it shifts from light comedy into far darker territory.

Your Name is quietly haunted by the tragic earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and its events cast a pall over the movie as palpable as the atom bomb in Barefoot Gen or the Kanto Earthquake in The Wind Rises. With its teen protagonists, hints of romance and an overarching sense of the apocalyptic, Your Name resembles an animated Donnie Darko as much as the kind of body-swap comedies we’re familiar with in the west. Events in one character’s life wrap warmly around those in another until, by the final third, Shinkai has woven a tapestry that is bewitching and overwhelmingly tender. (The film has certainly struck a chord in its native country, where its takings have made it the most successful anime of the year so far.)

Throughout, the hyper-real clarity of Shinkai’s design and animation lends an extra dimension that wouldn’t have been possible to achieve with live-action: to borrow a phrase from Blade Runner, Your Name feels more real than real. Blue skies are breathtakingly blue; a cluttered computer nerd’s apartment is painted with such precision that you can pick out the rare retro consoles he has piled up on shelves (spice orange Nintendo GameCube and vintage Famicom, in case you were wondering).

The precise rendering of the everyday, present in all of Shinkai’s movies, reaches new heights here, with the recognisable and concrete – crowded subways, gleaming tower blocks – contrasted with the lush greens of the Japanese countryside and the startlingly dreamlike. One sequence recalls the surreal conclusion of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira in its use of abstract shapes, mixing 2D animated techniques with CGI to create an experimental-looking kaleidoscope of colour and movement.

For anyone who has a tendency to catch Japanese anime on DVD or, perish the thought, on YouTube, Your Name is deserving of the effort it’ll take to find in a cinema. Gentle, affecting and superbly crafted, Shinkai’s latest film might be his best yet, and marks him out as one of Japan’s finest anime directors.

Your Name is out in UK cinemas on the 18th November.

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4 out of 5