Although the movie does not officially release until August 26th, 2016, I was one amongst a lucky handful of people that were able to make it into the world premiere screening at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, CA this past week. Being a fan of Makoto Shinkai’s past works, I knew I couldn’t miss his latest production when I heard about it.
Although Shinkai’s previous works have been loved by many and have received good ratings across the board from critics and fans alike, Your Name felt like the ultimate culmination of what he had learned from making his previous films and listening to fans’ feedback. If you’ve seen any of Shinkai’s previous movies such as 5 Centimeters Per Second or The Garden of Words, you’ll feel right at home as his skill for creating emotionally gripping stories is no different here.
“Mitsuha and Taki are two total strangers living completely different lives. But when Mitsuha makes a wish to leave her mountain town and for the bustling city of Tokyo, they become connected in a bizarre way. She dreams she is a boy living in Tokyo while Taki dreams he is a girl from a rural town he’s never been to. What does their newfound connection mean? And how will it bring them together?” – FUNimation
In regards to the animation and overall visual quality of the movie, viewers aren’t left disappointed as the fluidity and vibrant colors that can be found in other Shinkai/CoMix Wave Films anime only seem to be more refined here than ever. While the industry seems to shift towards using CGI or tricks to streamline the process of creating a scene, CoMix continues to believe in drawing each painstaking frame to ensure that the viewer gets an excellently crafted experience that keeps you absorbed in the film. Shots that pan and rotate around a character move effortlessly and ooze quality. If you’re a sucker for eye candy and enjoy seeing something that has that extra level of love poured into it over cheaper looking CGI, then this is definitely something that you’ll want to see on a big screen to appreciate all it has to offer.
Although the movie is definitely not without its serious or emotionally heavy parts, Shinkai went above and beyond to craft a lighthearted atmosphere to keep the viewer lively and involved. The amount injected was undoubtedly more than he had put in his previous movies, but it was a very welcome change (and it kept the audience laughing to the point of tears, myself included). There’s plenty of humorous banter between our two main characters, Mitsuha and Taki, both in their dialogues when they experience the other’s lives as well as in their gradual process of getting to know each other while physically living in very different places. While this might seem a bit new to those expecting an altogether somber tone, it creates a greater sense of connection to the characters in the film as they seem like completely plausible figures that could exist in our own world.
Character development is handled well for a movie format and goes a degree above the bar that’d be considered good in connecting the viewer with what they’re experiencing onscreen. Although the viewer might be left with a wanting to explore Taki and Mitsuha’s personalities a bit more by the end of the story (and side characters such as Okudera or Masahiro could definitely be expanded upon), the beginning third of the film does just enough to get you to a place where you feel that you know enough about them to accept the rather quick progression of the storyline.
Even though this is another movie that relies on the audience accepting a completely impossible circumstance (two characters having the ability to switch places in their dreams and control the other’s life with real, impacting results), the overarching story is crafted and assembled so cleanly that the fact that the phenomenon isn’t explained (as to make it more real) doesn’t affect enjoyment in any way. The story is by no means not unpredictable, but the experience and build up to the final moments of the film are such an enjoyable experience that it hardly weeds its way into your mind as you watch it. That being said, there are still factors in the movie that are sure to surprise and satisfy even the most hardcore of Shinkai fans.
The music and sound were both expertly crafted and fit the movie so perfectly that I could think of no better replacement for anything. RADWIMPS’ performance for the opening theme “Zen Zen Zense” wholeheartedly fits the tone of the movie. During a Q&A with Shinkai, he specifically stated that he liked RADWIMPS from their past creations and requested them directly, so it’s not very surprising that it fits so well. Sounds from the ambient noises of cicadas in the summer to a page turning in a notebook feel genuine and realistic. Nothing ever came off as being distasteful, and that includes the excellent work done by the range of voice actors as well. Every voice felt committed to the character they were set to play, and no choice felt incorrect our out of place in my viewing of the film.
Finally, unlike Makoto’s previous releases, the movie has a more conclusive ending that is sure to leave viewers satisfied with what they receive in comparison to his traditional, more open-ended style of finishing off a story.