Or, as it is known in its native Japan Kimi No Na Wa. Brought to us once again from Director Makoto Shinkai who also wrote the screenplay. This Anime has definitely created a massive buzz in a short space of time. It was at one the point the Number 1 on MyAnimeList.com and Anime Planet which recently got overtaken by A Silent Voice, but I would be hesitant to say that will probably stick. The film’s also, so far, the highest grossing film in Japan in 2016 and that’s including a lot of the major releases that I have reviewed this year. Now granted, Anime’s do sell bigger in Japan, Studio’s Ghibli’s dominance at the Box Office being a prime example of this, however, that is still no small accomplishment especially considering the abundance of Super Hero movies this year. Makoto Shinkai’s name may not be that familiar to people who are not up on Anime, but if you want a reference, he wrote and directed the screenplay for Garden of Words and also directed Five Centimeters Per Second. I am now a huge fan of these films, Garden of Words, which I actually watched in preparation for this review, is pretty good, all things considered. It had some good drama and decent writing and the animation was gorgeous, but I didn’t fully buy into it. Five Centimeters Per Second, which I saw ages ago, was a film that frankly, I’m not getting why it has such a fan base, to me it was a prime example of trying to fit too much in to too little time, with so many people working on the film, it felt like too many cooks had spoilt the broth. This could have easily been rectified and should have been a series, but as it stands, it’s a movie that doesn’t work for me, though I can understand why some people really enjoy it. So what’s the big difference that Your Name has to these other films. Well, for one thing, this is the first time he has made a feature length film, by the minimal criteria it takes to get a feature length film released in cinemas in Europe and America. Five Centimeters Per Second came in at just over an hour and Garden of Words only 46 minutes long, which qualify for cinema release in Japan. All things considered, I was hyped by the buzz and I actually got my tickets, rather luckily, when it played at the London Film Festival and it was even screened in the new Embankment Garden cinema which has been specially built for the 60th anniversary of the festival. With all that buzz it was clear that I was very hyped to see it. A bonus was I then found out I didn’t have to go a see a film earlier that day, it qualifies for a review since the film will receive a general release that will be licensed by all the Anime and will be in cinemas, mainly showcase cinemas, but others cinemas are going to be included on 24 November which is lucky, because I am on holiday at that time. So with me finally getting a review out before a movie is released, and hopefully I haven’t broken any embargo rules by doing so, is Your Name worth rushing to a cinema in November for, for its very limited release.
Your Name is the story of two people, one resident in Tokyo who are both high school students, Taki (played by Ryunosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha (played by Mone Kamishiraishi). They have never met before but they suddenly have managed to swap bodies on random days. They keep diaries of each other’s actions on their smart phones in order to keep track of what the other is doing, and they have no idea how or why the switching is taking place, all we as the audience know, is that it is something to do with a comet that has flown close to Japan. The one day the swaps stop happening and Taki sets off to the countryside to find her but discovers that something awful has happened. I really don’t want to go any further than that because frankly this a film you should experience yourself. It’s one hell of a ride. Granted this is a very familiar setting to any Anime fans, after all, almost every Anime that comes out now is set in a high school and involves high school or middle school students. For some reason, Japanese writers want to write about Teenagers, however, at least they do a better job than most Western writers do at writing Teenagers. If there is one thing to say about this film, however, it’s that it is really going to set the Anime community on fire. This is a really good Anime movie.
In my screening, I was actually very fortunate to see a lot of people who didn’t look like they were regular Anime viewers, and that’s a good thing because I would like to see Anime get a large scale audience outside of Studio Ghibli films and if this film is the bar for it, then I am really glad, because this film is really very good. Why do I like this more than other films that Makoto Shinkai has done? Well there are two factors which I think are lacking in his previous two films, the first being, this film, unlike Five Centimeters Per Second, has a much better focus. The film really knows exactly what its plot is doing and the route it is going to take to get to its conclusion. Second of all, the characters, I really, really liked the main 2 characters, something that didn’t entirely work for me in Garden of Words. This film feels like Makoto Shinkai has listened to a lot of the criticism that has been thrown at his previous films and has really worked to improve himself. The film feels like a much better crafted story and as a result it means that we have a much more engaging film. The film also has a terrific sense of pace, the pacing is very well handled, if with a couple of hiccups and it feels like you are following these characters in what feels like a slice of life Anime with a slight paranormal edge to it. However, when the film changes focus it at least feels like it has earnt it.
The first half of the film is actually quite humorous and has a really nice charm to it. This wasn’t the most engaging part of the film, because I feel like I have seen a lot like this, but let’s face it, these are probably the sort of tropes that keep Anime fans coming back. There are these really nice characters with a relatable story and some humorous moments, but when the film got more serious and dark in the second half, it felt like it had earnt it, it also meant that those parts hit home a lot more because we had become accustomed to the characters and grown to like them so want to see them come out well, we want a happy ending, something that people who know about Makoto Shinkai’s previous films, will know is not a guarantee. I won’t go into too much detail about the second half of the film since it’s actually a decent plot twist which really shakes up the film in a way that makes the second half a brilliant experience. It adds a sense of depth and urgency to the film, something that I feel was desperately needed and made me want to see the characters come out well. It’s also apparent where the darker moments came from in the second half.
Makoto Shinkai was actually giving a Q & A session after my screening and he stated that one of the things that heavily inspired the darker moments of the film was several of the tragedies that had hit Japan over the years, most recently the 2012 Earthquake and that is very evident in the final product, even though those events aren’t specifically referenced.
If I go into any more detail, I fear I will ruin this film for you. One of the best factors is its two main characters, you really believe in these characters, I really liked them, you had fun with them and you want to see them come out on top.
Are there issues with the plot, yes, a couple. First being that a couple of the jumps feel a bit sporadic and I while it wasn’t an issue for me, I feel some audience members may struggle in telling who is doing what at what time, something I feel the dub might actually fix for people who speak English as their first language. That is not meant to be disrespectful for people with Japanese as a first language, I am just saying that people may not pick up on a lot of the nuance that the Japanese actors are giving these roles, again this is not a knock on their performances, which I thought were good. There is also something that is thrown in, in the second half, which I would be lying if I said I didn’t think was a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, but you know what, I was so wanting it to happen, that I didn’t care really and it didn’t bother me as a whole, but I thought I should mention it. Basically, I would like to call it Clannad syndrome, anyone who has seen Clannad and Clannad After Story will know what the hell I am on about!!
While I did feel like this film got an emotional reaction out of me, especially in its ending which I thought was really well done, I don’t think this Anime hit me in, for the lack of a better term, “the feels” the same way that like When Marnie Was There did, I’m not saying it didn’t manage this, I was really invested in the film, but it didn’t quite achieve the same degree. But you know what, those are minor nitpicks, I still really liked this story. It’s a wonderful story, a great allegory for long distance relationships and the desperation to save ones that you love. I really feel the story has to be experienced to understand half of what I have said.
As for the acting. I saw this film in its original language with sub-titles, there was no dub out at the time of writing this review, though as I mentioned Anime Limited has gained the license to the property for UK distribution and I suspect, given their ties with Funamation and by extent, now Crunchyroll, we could expect a distribution of the film in the UK and depending on whether Funatation want to:
a) license the film and
b) add a dub,
we will see how the film turns out. I will leave a comment below this review if this film ever does receive a dub, but as of this moment, I can only talk about the sub-title version. I think the actors deliver really good performances in this one. A couple of the characters aren’t in the film all that much so they don’t get too much time to shine, however, where the film really hangs, is the two lead characters. Both Ryunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi deliver some excellent performances and they really sell their characters. It’s a bit difficult to tell when they are inhabiting each other’s bodies since it’s more changes in the character’s movement and expression, something that is owed to the brilliant animation of the film, but that’s probably to my ear since English is my first language and I suspect many of the Japanese members of the audience at my screening got it a lot more than I did. Again, I will be interested to see how this is affected in a potential dub. The rest of the cast do deliver good performances however, and I feel the cast as a whole is pretty dam good.
The last thing to talk about is the production. Oh my god, the animation is great in this film. This may not be Ghibli standard animation and some people may think it to be a slight downgrade when compared to Garden of Words, however, I thought that one of the things about Garden of Words was that I felt the animation was so good it made hiccups in the plot more evident, it’s almost as if the animation was too good and it also made the whole thing feel a lot too photo realistic for its own good. While this one has very similar animation, I feel it is more reigned in and it’s definitely to the film’s benefit. I really, really, thought the animation was great, even stunning at times. The camera moves and pans around this animation brilliantly. The character designs are also very good, giving us characters that look familiar to Anime fans but at least feel somewhat distinctive enough. It’s not just good 2D hand drawn animation, there is also some good 3D animation added in there and even some really good rotoscope animation for a scene involving a ribbon ceremony early on that was made by filming Kabuki actors.
The strength of this film is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is really good for a lot of parts and again this soundtrack is a very familiar style to Anime fans. What also will be familiar, is the film’s opening, which to me was one of the most bizarre parts of the film because it feels more like it starting to be the opening to an Anime series more than it does a movie. It felt like the opening I had watched for one of my series on crunchy roll or a DVD than it did a film. I even contemplated in my head at one moment whether I would be skipping the intro or playing it every time, something that I had no point debating, but my head kind of went into auto pilot. Again nitpicks, I have to do it, I am a reviewer.
Your Name is a very, very, very good film.
The film gets released in the UK on 24 November and please go and see it if it is playing in your area. I will give you a link to the website on how to book tickets. http://YourNameTheMovie.co.uk
Makoto Shinkai said in his Q & A session that he has got a blank piece of paper and the only thing he is sure of is he is not going to make a family film but will probably do another film about Teenagers and growing up, something I wouldn’t mind him straying away from soon, but I will be very interested to see what he does next on the back of this film which has taken Japan and the rest of the world completely by surprise.
Well, now that we have talked about the first ever animated film to be nominated for Best Film of the London Film Festival Awards,
let’s do some mini reviews that I have seen since my last review.
Unfortunately since I have been at the London Film Festival, most of the films I have seen, I can’t talk about, those being The Red Turtle, which will get a review when it gets its general release next year, and I am already working on that one and Lion, a film that I’m not sure if I will review because I’m not sure how I feel about it at this point and I also want to see if it gets any Oscar nominations since I may end up talking about it if it does! I did, however, get the chance to see the new BFI production War on Everyone.
War on Everyone: Is a pretty decent cop comedy, all thing considered, even if it is about the 2 worst cops imaginable. You have got an interesting pair in Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard and the film has a really strong opening. The downside is that the strong opening wears out and the film slowly loses its energy before going to a really kind of dark ending which feels out of place, out of tone and incredibly unnecessary. It’s not a bad film, I am glad I saw it because it gave me a few laughs, but really, I can’t wholly recommend it. Not too bad.
Well, that was my week, hope yours was just as good.
Now it’s time to get ready for my next review. Join me on 28 October, 3 days before Halloween, when I will give you my review of the latest Dreamwork’s Animation, Trolls, oh and for the record there won’t be any mini reviews of Trolls since I saw the film a day after Your Name.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading this review as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and I know this is the highest grossing film in Japan this year and may even break the top ten grossing films in Japan ever, but I really would like this film to do well whilst I am on holiday, so please do try and go see the film in November, Thank you very much.
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