Your name Voices of Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryô Narita. Directed by Makoto Shinkai. Rated PG. Opens Friday in select theaters.
Both 2016’s highest-grossing movie in Japan and the highest-grossing Japanese animated movie of all time, Your Name was a global sensation before hitting U.S. theaters this week (it will show in both subtitled and dubbed versions; this review is based on the subtitled version). Fans of anime may already be familiar with writer-director Makoto Shinkai, who rose to prominence in Japan with his literally homemade early efforts, but he’s not generally known in the U.S. the way someone like Hayao Miyazaki is. Shinkai has drawn comparisons to the legendary Miyazaki, but Your Name is more grounded and straightforward than a Miyazaki film, while still relying on supernatural elements.
The plot could be pulled from an American YA adaptation: Teenagers Mitsuha (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl living in a small town, and Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), a boy in the heart of Tokyo, find themselves inexplicably switching bodies seemingly at random, taking over each other’s lives and forging a deep, soulful connection without ever, strictly speaking, coming into contact. The body-switching premise is only the setup for a larger story that touches on themes of destiny and longing, with a romance that is both epic and intimate. It also sometimes borders on cheesy, thanks especially to the sappy pop songs from Japanese rock band Radwimps, but the exaggerated emotions are also part of the movie’s charm.
Mitsuha and Taki enjoy a kind of immediate connection that transcends the typical romantic progression, as they literally get inside each other’s heads from the very beginning. At the same time, their feelings go beyond love for each other, as their metaphysical predicament pushes them to ponder their place in the universe, and what it means to be human. Shinkai illustrates these emotions with stunning, mostly hand-drawn animation, including hyper-detailed backgrounds that bring out the beauty of nature and cityscapes alike. The characters describe their experiences living as each other as dreamlike states, leaving residual emotions even as memories fade, and watching the movie makes the same impact.