is the second highest grossing domestic film in Japan, second only to a
Miyazaki film. In some ways, the teen body-switch Macguffin is comfortably
nostalgic, evoking memories of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s I Are You, You Am Me, but it also displays a post-Fukushima
sensibility. Perhaps it came along at the perfect zeitgeisty time for Japanese
audiences, but it is still more than sufficiently universal to sweep up viewers
of any nation in its tragic romance. Anime does not get much more emotionally sophisticated
than Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. (trailer here), which screens as
the opening spotlight selection of the 2017 New York International Children’s Film Festival.
Tachibana is a bit of a mess, but the Tokyo high school student works hard at
his part-time job waiting tables. Mitsuha Miyamizu is a very together student,
but she would much prefer to live in Tokyo than the provincial Itomori, because
she is embarrassed by her overbearing father, the most likely crooked mayor,
and the Kuchikamizake rituals (sake brewed from chewed-up and spit-out rice)
she is forced to participate in. Even though they are strangers separated by
miles, Tachibana and Miyamizu start waking up in each other’s bodies. It
happens regularly enough they develop a system leaving notes for each other on
their smart phones of what transpired while they were swapped.
they bicker via voice memos and generally angst out over the ways they disrupt
their respective lives, but naturally a strange attraction percolates between
them, even though they never met face-to-face. As a result, Tachibana grows
alarmed when the switching suddenly stops. In fact, he is so concerned, he sets
off to find Miyamizu offline, or whatever the right term might be, only to learn
her hometown was destroyed several years prior in a freak comet collision.
this point, Name takes a turn into Il Mare territory, introducing unexpectedly
fantastical, temporal, and spiritual themes. Frankly, Shinkai’s adaptation of
his own novel is almost assuredly the most mature and potent movie romance you
will see all year—and its anime. Seriously, if you are not carried along by its
sweep and earnest pluckiness than you really must be old and mean.
Miyamizu and Tachibana are appealing but imperfect teenage characters, who are each
surrounded by believably distinctive social circles. Anyone living in the first
world, broadly defined, should be able to relate to the body-switchers and
their friends. A perfect case in point is Tachibana’s rather endearing crush
relationship with Miki Okudera, a college student also working at the restaurant,
whom Miyamizu finally asks out, on his behalf.
Arguably, the first act body-switching business
is like cinematic comfort food. We have seen it before, but it always seems to
work. However, even reasonably committed anime fans are likely to be surprised
how original Your Name gets and how
deep it goes. The characters, especially the co-leads, are gracefully rendered
and many of the visuals are quite striking. Very highly recommended, Your Name. screens this Saturday (2/25)
at the SVA Theatre, as the opening spotlight of this year’s NYICFF.
Labels: Anime, Japanese Cinema, Makoto Shinkai, NYICFF '17