I’m a bit late to the party on Your Name. Lauded the world over, the Makoto Shinkai film received a limited run here in the UK last year but sadly not in any venues local to me. Though I may seem lazy in the face of an associate who went up and down the country to catch various showings.
Luckily, the film has been so well received that Anime Limited are actually bringing it back into cinemas, this time as IMAX screenings.
Mitsuha is a teenage school girl residing in a small Japanese village, where she helps maintain the local shrine run by her family for generations. Stifling under the ennui of her life, she wishes she could be in Tokyo instead. Taki already is; a boy of the same age whose time is split between school, a part time job and enjoying the various amusements of Tokyo with his friends. By some unexplained phenomenon the two awake in the other’s body. Initially discounting the experience as a bizarre dream, the testimony of friends and family makes them realize this is really happening and the two begin a life of unscheduled body swapping, influencing each other’s lives with their differing approaches. What is the cause?
As you might be able to tell from that starting synopsis, Your Name is a title that you can’t discuss too heavily without giving away much of the plot and as I so often do with titles I’ve enjoyed I don’t want to rob first time viewers of that experience.
The initial premise will undoubtedly call to mind the likes of Freaky Friday and similar stories where characters swap bodies to learn a lesson about appreciating what they have. There is a hint of that but thankfully Your Name instead offers a far more creative and emotional story than a simple morality tale.
I was actually asked by some transgender friends what I made of the body swap angle and in response I have to warn any from that segment of society not to raise their hopes. Your Name isn’t offering any kind of commentary on gender disassociation. This is a pair of opposite sex teenagers comfortable in their gender finding themselves trapped in the body of the other side, with the film largely playing for laughs the way they respond to their borrowed forms and each other’s problems, with Mitsuha offering a softer approach and vice versa. The fact that they keep swapping back and forth rather than being trapped also helps the story to avoid over done clichés of body swap tales (coming soon to a kids TV cartoon near you). Indeed once the question of why this is happening begins to be explored and secondary characters get drawn in to the main plot they actually offer a welcome example of subtle scepticism rather than buying into something so incredible.
Although Mitsuha and Taki are joint leads, there really is more of a focus on Mitsuha’s life than his. This includes a subplot about tension between the two senior figures in her family. This recurs across the film but never seems to get the attention it deserves. I don’t want to make it sound poorly done but some of the backstory of the film is further explained in spin off novels that have been licensed for English release. Keeping the focus on Mitsuha, Taki and their respective friends really works well as our two leads genuinely are the heart of this film and the ones you’ll want to see every available second granted to exploring their adventure. Everything you need to enjoy the film is right there on the screen.
That’s perhaps an apt transition to discuss the IMAX presentation. I saw the film on the same London based IMAX screen I viewed The LEGO Batman Movie on and for those who might be used to just their local traditional cinema there really is a world of difference. IMAX screens are massive and all-consuming though on this occasion it leads to a concern that I know I wasn’t the only one to raise. The screening I attended was subtitled and while I have no problem with subtitled productions, the sheer scale of the screen meant a battle between keeping up with the subs and the actual action on screen. This can be an issue as sometimes the centre of attention that the subs are for might be backed up by a quick secondary action in the scene that provides exposition or character details. I adjusted to it across the screening but I have to offer the suggestion that it might be wise to attend a dubbed screening on this occasion.
The visuals themselves are mighty fine. I don’t think this is the absolute best looking Japanese theatrical animation I’ve seen but it’s definitely up there. Rich, vibrant and lovingly detailed. The likely hurdle for me is I think the trademark character animation of Kyoto in A Silent Voice was better.
Much of the film’s soundtrack is indie rock vocal tracks by RADWIMPS and it works well to punctuate emotion. One of the more bizarre uses is the film having a TV anime style OP after an initial cold opening rather than the more traditional opening scene of a theatrical production.
The majority of the Japanese voice cast have worked primarily in live action films and television, with secondary roles being played by names more familiar to anime fans such as Aoi Yuki as Mitsuha’s friend Sayaka. The decision seems to have been made to generally cast actors close to the character’s ages, with Mone Kamishiraishi and Ryunosuke Kamiki delivering perfect peformances as Mitsuha and Taki respectively. Young Kanon Tani likewise works well as Mitsuha’s younger sister and I think it’s always a benefit to cast actual child actors where possible rather than getting an older actor just to do a squeaky voice.
To reiterate, I’d heard a lot about Your Name. How great it was, how people cried, etc and while I thoroughly enjoyed it my experience wasn’t that emotional. But in the hours and days since it has haunted me. I’ve found myself wanting more and even getting weepy in retrospect. To me, that’s the mark of a great film. When it consumes a little part of your soul long after leaving the cinema you know you’re on to something good. Absolutely recommended.
Your Name will be presented by Anime Limited at select IMAX venues across the UK and Ireland Wednesday 23rd August in both subtitled Japanese and English dub, with select venues offering further screenings from 30th August. For venue details and to book tickets, please visit the official website.
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