Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is an ambitious, high-concept body-swap romance with an aesthetic beauty that places it among the best-looking animated films ever made.
Taki and Mitsuha are two high-schoolers living in vastly different surroundings. He, in Tokyo, she in the rural village of Itomori. Except one day, Taki wakes up to find he is inhabiting Mitsuha’s body, and vice versa. There is a lot of perfunctory humour to be found in this, and it does a good job of introducing us to the pair, albeit alienated from their ‘real’ bodies. Gradually, the other’s influence begins to change their own experience of the world, and they start trying to communicate through a system of notes and diaries. Thrown into the mix is an impending meteor shower dominating the news, which may prove a threat to Mitsuha’s hometown.
“a film best enjoyed on a purely sensual level”
Shinkai is one of many animators to have been tiresomely dubbed ‘the next Miyazaki’. His previous feature, 2013’s Garden of Words was undeniably gorgeous, every frame an intricate, sophisticated piece of artwork, but was let down by a fairly flimsy story. Your Name is a marked improvement on this; although the visual excellence still far outstrips the narrative or dialogue, Shinkai has this time applied his visionary animation to a story with much more likeable protagonists, an interesting (if well-worn) conceptual ‘hook’, and a powerful sense of consequence.
Your Name carries along at an impressive pace, sometimes reducing to a montage what some films would happily spend an hour on. The story can get sometimes get quite self-indulgent, a trait not helped by a generally obtrusive music score. Ultimately though, the film’s shortcomings are dwarfed by the beauty of the visuals. Potentially mundane like doors sliding open are rendered with near-photographic beauty, while the bigger stills – cityscapes, coastlines, the transcendent meteor shower – never once disappoint. The narrative may have touching, dramatically rich moments, but Your Name is nevertheless a film best enjoyed on a purely sensual level, destined for posterity by its toweringly rich aesthetic, arguably a high water-mark for animated film.
Image: Makoto Shinkai