I was blown away by the posters and promotional images alone for Your Name, a gorgeous Japanese animation with some of the most stunning visuals I’ve ever seen in a film. In one scene, a character gazes out over a glistening lake, the sun shining down in just the right way, creating elegant streaks of light across the screen and making the beautiful landscape sparkle. I believe the line spoken in that moment was “Whoa,” and that’s exactly what I was saying to myself the entire film.
Your Name tells the story of two high schoolers living two very different lives in Japan. Mitsuha, a slightly insecure teenage girl, wakes up one morning in the body of a boy without explanation. Taki, a Tokyo boy, wakes up as a girl. As the two kids live on in the life of a stranger, communicating with one another by writing on their skin or leaving notes in the other person’s phone to try and figure out what is going on, they grow to appreciate one another’s life.
This film tells an unconventional romance in a lighthearted and enjoyable way at first, and in a very heavy and impactful way by the end. The first half of the film is almost like a comedy, and it deals with its body switching mechanic in a very fun way. Naturally, some weird things go on while one person tries to figure out why on earth they’re living as another person, so there’s plenty of humor to set the tone and make for an enjoyable introduction. I had a huge grin on my face for the majority of the first half of the film, because it does such a great job at creating a strange, feel-good atmosphere.
The story takes a different and completely unexpected turn by the third act that I didn’t see coming, but it totally changed my view on the film. At first, I was enjoying it as an unusual, lighthearted animation, but as the plot rose toward the climax, building up a surprising amount of suspense and emotional power, I became very affected by the film.
One of the things Your Name does best, and does better at than many modern American films, is letting its characters grow and develop organically, never forcing them upon the audience. Mitsuha got to know Taki, and Taki got to know Mitsuha, by experiencing what it was like to be him. We aren’t told who these characters are. We’re shown through charming “fun and games” type scenes that progress the plot, are enjoyable to watch, and introduce who the characters are in a natural, authentic way.
I grew to love the characters as they became closer to each other, and it all felt real and tangible. There is so much humanity infused into them that they never once seem like movie characters. The effect this excellent writing has on the story is so refreshing. Far too many animated films rely on mascots and caricatures to sell toys and merchandise, and any messages that those films try to portray to children have no lasting impact because the characters were just colorful troll dolls singing songs. Your Name relies on perfectly fleshed out characters that you can relate to and connect with to tell its story, along with breathtaking visuals and a striking emotional punch that tie it all together flawlessly.
— Camden McDonald