[FILM REVIEW] “your name.” (“Kimi no Na wa”)

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High-school student Mitsuha is frustrated with life in her rural town, in no small part due to the scrutiny that comes with being the mayor’s daughter and heir to the family shrine. Her wish to live in the city comes true in a bizarre manner: she keeps waking up in the body of Taki, a boy her age living in Tokyo. Taki, in turn, ends up in Mitsuha’s body. As the two teens communicate and learn to live the other’s life without ruining it (while taking the liberty to make a few changes), they form a connection that turns out to be more important than they could have ever expected.

The body swap is a well-worn trope, but your name. manages to keep it refreshing. The typical comedic awkwardness plays out at first. But as the swapping continues, it’s fascinating to watch Mitsuha and Taki grow invested in each other’s life and relationships, leading to a mutual yearning to see each other with their own eyes. Both lead characters are well fleshed-out and genuinely charming in their own ways. They also play off very well against each other once they begin to interact; you’ll be happy to root for them. They’re complemented by an entertaining supporting cast of friends and family; the interactions between Taki-as-Mitsuha and Mitsuha’s sister are particularly hilarious.

But if you’re familiar with Shinkai’s work, you’re probably bracing yourself for some revelation that will give all this a deeper meaning and tug at your heartstrings aaaaand — yep, yep, there it is. It’s a simple yet clever twist, which sparks off a dramatic sequence of events that will keep you engaged until the final scene. But even as the story delves into more emotional territory, touches of humour are still present and a sense of optimism remains. It’s not as introspective as his other works, but this is probably the most accessible film Shinkai has made. It’s easy to see why your name. was a particularly huge hit.

your name.‘s animation is nothing short of a visual feast, something Shinkai’s fans have come to expect. The bustling heart of Tokyo is captured is in stunning detail. However, Shinkai and his staff truly impress with their depiction of Mitsuha’s picturesque lake town, Itomori.  While Itomori is a fictional place, it’s based on actual locations in Japan that you’ll feel a burning desire to visit. The blades of grass rustling in the expanse of greenery, the shining lake waters at sunset, the vivid colours of the comet streaking across in the starry night sky…Absolutely gorgeous. Wherever you are, if the opportunity to watch this film on the big screen presents itself, do yourself a favour and don’t miss out on this experience. Then, buy the Blu-Ray when it comes out so you can drool over the animation some more.

Having popular J-Rock band RADWIMPS, known for poignant lyrics that resonate strongly with youths, provide the music for a film about two young strangers connecting through a twist of fate? It’s so ridiculously appropriate, it’s almost cheating. While RADWIMPS’s Yojiro Noda does well enough on the background pieces, it’s the meaningful insert songs that are the highlights of the film’s excellent soundtrack. Shinkai apparently requested lyrics that would complement the characters’ actions and dialogue, and Noda certainly delivered, on top of ensuring that the musical style of each song suited the scene it played in (Sparkle was particularly fitting). It’s a relief that the distributor’s translators did not fail to recognise the importance of providing subtitles for these lyrics; insert songs don’t always get that treatment.

your name. is definitely not without flaws; after the story hits its turning point, it’s not hard to predict how it will end. And looking back, I’ve got a couple of niggling questions about a major plot point. However, for the entire duration of the film, I was completely swept up in a breathtakingly beautiful and emotionally gripping experience; it’s one I’ll be glad to relive over and over again.

TL;DR: A must-watch. Worth every second in the theatre and every cent spent.  Has all the hallmarks of a classic anime film.

As of this review’s date, your name. is still screening in WE, Golden Village and Filmgarde theatres in Singapore.

The soundtrack, which includes the movie versions of RADWIMP’s insert songs (Zen Zen ZenseSparkle and Nandemonaiya), is available from CDJapan and Play-Asia . But if you want the original versions of these songs Zen Zen Zense and Sparkle, you can pre-order RADWIMPS’s upcoming album, Ningen Kaika, which will be released on 23 November 2016.

your name. OST
Order from CDJapan
Order from Play-Asia

RADWIMPS — Ningen Kaika (Album)
Pre-order from CDJapan (Regular Edition)
Pre-order from CDJapan (Limited Edition)