It broke open the Japanese box office, and to delight of Japanophiles across Australia, it’s made its way to our big screens.
For those with no experience in anime, Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name) would be an excellent starting point, given its romantic vibrancy, its awing flights of fantasy, and its minimal reliance on the young adult genre’s more annoying tropes.
Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) has spent her whole life in Itomori, a quiet country town, and longs for the city. After expressing a wish to be a “handsome Tokyo boy” in her next life, she wakes up having transported into the body of city kid Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), only later realising that he has woken up in hers.
As the film opens with a trite and gaudy music video sequence backed by pop-rock soundtrackers Radwimps, one feels cause for concern. This kind of seishun eiga (youth film) cutesiness isn’t often toyed with by creator Makoto Shinkai, who is frequently referred to as the next Hayao Miyazaki. Fortunately, it’s short-lived, and there’s only one other pop sequence to grind your teeth through before settling in to Shinkai’s gripping narrative.
For all its cheesiness, Your Name compels with its fascinating interplay of dreams, time and identity. As Taki and Mitsuha swap bodies and lives, they develop a system of communication, a set of guidelines and, ultimately, a powerful friendship. Shinkai is knowing and coy in portraying how the teenage protagonists explore gender and their bodies, but rarely distasteful. Each time Taki wakes up in Mitsuha’s body and gropes ‘his’ breasts, the gesture is far more curious than lascivious.
For a Japanese director to tell a story in which young boys and girls can learn about themselves from each other is remarkably progressive, given the strong gender lines adhered to in Japanese society, but this is not Shinkai’s focus. Your Name is, almost inevitably, a tale of romance, and one whose greater implications ripple across space and time.
Shinkai excels at recreating his homeland and its spirituality, and both Tokyo and the Hida region in which fictional Itomori is located are faithfully depicted, giving us as an audience all the more emotional ties to place and person.
Even as the story transforms into something grander, and Mitsuha is somewhat damselled, it is not up to Taki to be the hero, or for lines of agency to be so boldly demarcated. Naturally, the ending is to be expected, but it is drawn so vividly as to sucker you completely into its emotion. After all, there’s more at stake than infatuation.
It’s full of bluster, melodrama and teeny-bopping saccharine, but despite it all, Your Name is a thrilling young adult story of discovery, romance and the unfathomable complexity of time.