Your Name Review
I am a casual Anime fan, I have been known to partake of shows like Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, HunterXHunter, Azumanga Daioh and Mushishi. However, I am a massive animation nut and I will consume anything that is creatively animated or has some interesting story to tell. Personally, I have never really been comfortable with the term Anime, I always considered it part of the wider animated medium. Separating Anime from that seems damaging to it as it is relegated and put to one side and most of the world seems to ignore the vast majority of the animated work put out by the land of the rising sun. We do get mainstream Anime successes, like most of the shows I mentioned, the films of Studio Ghibli and now the films of one Makoto Shinkai who has made a name for himself with emotionally rich and visually stunning films. One such film, released by Anime Limited on Blu-ray, is Your Name. In it, Mitsuha lives in a small lakeside town while Taki lives in Tokyo. The two have never met, but fate has other ideas. Every day the two switch places, living each other's lives and as they do they grow closer together but little do they know a monumental tragedy is rocketing toward them at the speed of sound.
Your Name is the highest grossing animated film of all time and the highest grossing film of all time in Japan for good reason; it is gorgeous. Like his previous work, 5 Centimetres a Second, Makoto Shinkai has created a film that you could literally frame every frame and hang it up as a work of art. The use of light is phenomenal, day or night, the subtle interplay of streetlights, dappling of the trees and the warm glow of lamps are something that I could bask in all day. Similarly, the painterly backgrounds that mark the film’s cutaway shots are stunning and where I think the film shines as the audience is able to admire the quiet beauty and wallow in a world you can almost feel as you watch the sunrise and the trees sway in the wind.
Alongside the, quite frankly, spellbinding visuals, I have been listening to the soundtrack all week. It is the first time that I have ever sought out an Anime score, and it is something that I would highly recommend anyone listen to after watching the film. It is full of simple piano riffs, either jaunty and hopeful or melancholy and wistful, but expands into orchestral suites of sweeping grace or upbeat and comic. All these are interwoven with the occasional J-Rock provided by Radwimps who give it a slightly more modern edge and, in the film’s more emotionally climactic moments, adds an edge or that final punch that can break through even the most cynical of hearts.
Beyond that, the film has so much more to offer. It contains a story that speaks to the awkward teenage longings; about coming to know yourself through others. It does so with a gentleness and a tact that is sometimes sorely lacking in most teen films. There is a warmth and a gentle humour that is so heart-warming that it feels like being immersed in a soothing bath for the soul. Each switch serenades its audience with hi-jinks and a wistful longing to belong powered by some of the finest and most likeable characters I have seen in a while. I personally really enjoyed the way that the film lacked that initial "ew I'm a..." sequence found in most body swapping films and instead had an accepting and progressive attitude to gender and sexuality.
This story and the characters are brought to life by the wonderful central performances by the Japanese and English voice cast. Ryunoske Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraihi are able to change the tone of their voice to audibly show who is in which body and it is the same with Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh. The rest of the cast does a tremendous job of fleshing out the world of memorable and likeable characters that endear themselves to the audience to make the tragic and hilarious action hit all the harder. They also power the story, at least at the start, and while you come for the visuals you stay for the characters and you watch again and again because of them as well.
Your Name has got some problems; the mystical stuff did start to feel a bit much at the end of the film. I liked the sequence that came toward the end of the film, it was well animated but the film leans heavily on a single metaphor that can get strained. Similarly, the sudden switch in perspective, while a nice touch to see how the experience enriched Taki's life, signalled a downward spiral into a standard rescue narrative that lacked some of the impact that the more character driven and emotional moments had. I would have liked it to have explored the personal introspective moments rather than move to introduce something so bombastic. Finally, this may have just been my sensibilities, but a running joke of Taki fondling Mitsuha's breasts every time he wakes up in her body, after the second or third time, got a little bit creepy.
Other than the film Anime Limited provide a great disc, with crystal clear visuals and audio. It offers three tracks; Japanese with Japanese songs, English with Japanese songs and English with English songs so you can choose your preference. Extras-wise this is perhaps where the disc falls short, with only trailers of the film, Anime Limited's Catalogue and Makoto Shinkai's filmography. However, the main feature more than makes up for it.
This film is a treat for the eyes and ears. Anime Limited have done a great job in transferring all of the great audiovisual elements to the Blu-ray. You can really feel the warmth of the sun through the TV screen and the sumptuous score carries you away into a gentle and beautiful coming of age story mixed with some science fiction and gender-bending. Regardless of the lack of extras, Your Name is still a standout animation that makes it a must own for anyone with an appreciation of the art form of the moving picture. This is one purchase you will not regret.