Your Name is a Japanese animated film that was written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, who is also named as the film’s cinematographer, art director, and editor. Your Name was ranked Japan’s No. 1 film of 2016, and thanks to Funimation Films, it has been brought to select theaters in America as of Friday, April 7, 2017.
The premise of Your Name revolves around the lives of two teenagers named Taki Tachibana and Mitsuha Miyamizu. Taki lives in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, while Mitsuha is from a rural town. The two live very separate lives in very different places, and are unlikely to ever meet. One night, everything changes when the two wake up in the other one’s body. They continue to swap places like this at random times and in random places. Suddenly, they must adjust their lives to work around this odd change, and they quickly develop a desire to meet the other.
The trailer for Your Name paints a dramatic, melancholy picture, that is as beautiful in its artwork as it is in every other way. The score for Your Name, which was written and performed by the Japanese group Radwimps, brings a new layer of depth that accentuates every other aspect of Your Name‘s trailer. The imagery in Your Name is so masterfully done, that it is almost easy to forget that it is an animated film.
There has been no shortage of body-swap films. There are the classics about two people switching places, such as the many versions of Freaky Friday or the Disney Channel original, Wish Upon a Star. There are films where children wish themselves into older bodies, such as Tom Hank’s Big or Jennifer Garner’s 13 Going on 30. There have even been films where people have switched bodies with animals, such as in the fantasy epic The 10th Kingdom. Your Name, however, promises much more than simple childish antics.
From the trailer alone, it is clear that Your Name is unlike any other body-swap film thus far. The characters of Your Name live such vastly different lives, and they do not appear to waste time trying to prank each other or any of the other juvenile occurrences that are common in films with similar premises. There is a romance aspect to Your Name. The characters want to find out who the other person is, and why they suddenly developed this ability to swap places with each other. They get the chance to see what life is like in another person’s shoes. Perhaps they will get the opportunity to learn more about themselves along the way.
Japanese animated films like Your Name are not a new thing in the United States. Many people are familiar with the films by Studio Ghibli, the most famous of these being My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. These films give American audiences a look into Japanese culture in a way that is entertaining and enjoyable. Your Name appears to be the same way, relying heavily on its cultural background to help tell the story. Those who are already somewhat familiar with Japanese culture will be able to enhance their knowledge, and may have a deeper appreciation for Your Name than those who have never been exposed to it. That is not to say that those who have never experienced Japanese culture will not be able to enjoy the film. Those people will get the chance to experience something new and exciting.
From the artwork, to the soundtrack, to the characters and storytelling, Your Name seems to be a film that is not to be overlooked. The struggle of young people to discover themselves in a world that can, at times, seem too big for them, is one that almost every person in the world can relate to. Add to that the bittersweet aspect of a blossoming love that fate tries to prevent, and it is plain to see why Your Name was rated the No. 1 film of 2016 in Japan.
[Featured Image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images]