The Japanese anime film, Your Name, is currently breaking box office records in Japan, Korea and China, but it is slated for released in North America on April 7. What can North American audiences expect to see?
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Your Name presents the curious case of two teenagers who inexplicably wake up to switched bodies. Mitsuha is a female high school student living with her grandmother and younger sister in a small town with two bars, but no café in Gifu Prefecture. Taki is a male high schooler who lives with his father in Tokyo, but works part-time as a waiter.
Mitsuha and Taki soon get a handle of their intermittent swapping by leaving messages for each other on their respective smartphones. Thus, the teens go from simply trying to keep the phenomenon under wraps to actively improving each other’s lives, and developing a unique bond.
Just as a comet is slated to pass, the body swapping ceases suddenly. Taki is unable to contact Mitsuha and goes searching for her village based on nothing more than visual memory. Finding her location does not equal finding her, as it turns out that their connection crosses boundaries of space and time. Reconnecting with Mitsuha becomes crucial to saving her and her fellow town residents from annihilation.
The reasons for the box office success of Your Name are clear: the hand-drawn animated film is beautiful, and it has a titillating fantasy premise paired with a crowd pleasing story of young love overcoming impossible odds. Besides finding the movie more sentimental than I like, though no more sentimental than most young romance anime, my main complaint about Your Name was how rushed and overstuffed the movie felt.
With each teenager’s experience in the other body to explore, the mystery of the teens’ separation to solve, and then, a comet’s disastrous trajectory to race against, the 107 minutes running time was simply not enough. Clearly, this film should have been turned into a series that could easily have spanned multiple seasons.
However, since the director, Makoto Shinkai decided to translate his novel to film, Your Name resorted to the usual cinematic short cuts of montages, and a time skip after the climax. Not to mention, the romantic feelings between Mitsuha and Taki seemed to occur as a default of their unique shared experience, rather than the result of interaction, so its arrival felt abrupt. It is a wonder that Shinkai managed to retain the charm and emotion in his film that won Asian audiences over.
Anime fans will undoubtedly embrace this film as Asian audiences fan have already done. More cynical viewers may find themselves wishing that the director had taken his time to tell the story in order to build a more convincing argument for the swell of sentiment.