Animes are generally outrageous in story and short on character, but once in a while you get a nice gem of an anime that reminds you this genre has a lot of good stories to tell, even if it takes years to find it.
Your Name is one of these gems.
From director Makoto Shinkai, the innovative mind behind Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, comes a beautiful masterpiece about time, the thread of fate, and the hearts of two young souls. The day the stars fell, two lives changed forever. High schoolers Mitsuha and Taki are complete strangers living separate lives. But one night, they suddenly switch places. Mitsuha wakes up in Taki’s body, and he in hers. This bizarre occurrence continues to happen randomly, and the two must adjust their lives around each other. Yet, somehow, it works. They build a connection and communicate by leaving notes, messages, and more importantly, an imprint. When a dazzling comet lights up the night’s sky, it dawns on them. They want something more from this connection – a chance to meet, an opportunity to truly know each other. Tugging at the string of fate, they try to find a way to each other. But distance isn’t the only thing keeping them apart. Is their bond strong enough to face the cruel irony of time? Or is their meeting nothing more than a wish upon the stars?
Your Name looked interesting. Two characters, two different places and a potential tragic love story towards the end. Not quite Grave of the Fireflies, thankfully, but close enough for a hook. What came out of viewing this film over the weekend was not only a tremendous respect for director Makoto Shinkai’s ability to blend humor, romance and a dash of tragedy, but the director’s ability to tell a competent story with no down time and beautifully developed characters through amazingly written dialogue that had a perfect amount of exposition to keep the story logically moving forward.
In short, this anime is not one to be missed, folks. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
The first act starts with our two main characters waking up and living their respective lives…in each other’s bodies. Taki, a socially awkward high schooler, wakes up in Mitsuha’s body trying to make sense of why his dreams are ‘feeling’ so real (inference intended) when inside the body of a young woman. Equally as freaked out, Mitsuha finds herself in Taki’s body and improving the life of the high school recluse, especially in his dating scene, which desperately needs help. Eventually, both start to realize that their perceived dream is real life, as the ‘dreams’ start to affect their real lives, which have days missing from their memories. That’s how the first act is built and where it ends.
The first act has a bit of Inception mixed with a heavy dose of Freaky Friday as its make up. With no hand revealed in the first act on what the heck is going on, a huge hook (story) is thrown to the audience that keeps eyes glued to the screen and butts in the seat. That hook is solid, well-written and evenly built.
The second act starts putting together how Taki and Mitsuha start to handle their situation once they realize that what they’re going through is not a dream. Each starts to help the other improve their life, even going as far as leaving notes, much like in Momento, to keep the other informed on what is happening. The duo specifically start to put their changes in their phone calendars to help keep track of activities. Eventually, both characters start to slowly fall in love with each other, as that is an expected outcome to the situation. Taki starts to find out where Mitsuha resides and gathers up his friends to go find a city in a drawing left in his house that is supposed to be where she lives. The drawing has a city by a giant lake/inlet. Exploring the country area of Japan, and finally finding the location of the city, Taki hopes to find what he believes to be the true love of his life. Taki does find the city, but sadly only destruction and death reside in it. The city Mitsuha lived in had been hit by a comet that broke up in the atmosphere —- three years ago, thus tragically killing everyone, including Mitsuha.
The second act is packed with humor at the beginning, lifting the audience up with a good natured love story structure, where something fun is bound to happen. It’s such a beautiful setup for the enormous reveal at the end of the act. The audience is having fun, looking for the way the two love birds are going to meet and then BAM! The fun romantic comedy that is lighthearted becomes a serious drama that has you screaming at the film to figure out a way to save Mitsuha’s life. It’s a powerful way to end a second act and one that resonates profoundly as the film starts the third act.
The third act of the film is brilliant. It changes the entire flow of the story and pushes the audience’s attention into pure urgency with Taki. Will Taki figure out how to save Mitsuha? Is the past going to change? Will Taki and Mitsuha ever meet? How will they meet if they get through the first questions? So many things for the third act to answer and I can tell you that it does answer them all with meticulous and methodical care. It may not be what you expect, but it concludes with a heavy heart attached to it. And on that note, I will end the third act explanation there.
Folks, I don’t say things like this often, but Your Name is one of the best animes I have seen in the last 20 years of my life. It’s a magical love story that will take you through an emotional rollercoaster ride that ends properly, even if it’s not the way you want it too.
Put this anime on your list of serious films to explore in 2017. You won’t be disappointed.