It is not always enough to say we enjoyed the motion pictures that slipped under the viewing net, because we loved them so. The wife spoke passionately about this recently. Far too many films go unnoticed, unseen, which means both the industry and the audiences are missing out. Landing a very limited run in Los Angeles so it could qualify for an awards run, Makoto Shinkai’s blistering wonder that is Your Name, had little chance of an Oscar nomination because of that. And it does matter, because films like this must be seen by all, beyond the awards voters and publicity pushers, and allowed the coverage to make them grow and flourish.
What opens as an anime picture that colors the skies with a meteor shower, quickly transcends any expectations we might have had, and soars on ahead into our blood stream. Your Name splashes intrigue and wonder into your face from the opening seconds and won’t take its foot off the gas from there til its very last moments. Effortlessly leaving live action for dead in spectacle and emotion, Japanese film-maker Makoto Shinkai based the screenplay on his own novel, where Mitsuha, a high school girl living in a mountainous town, and Taki, a high school boy living in the hustling urbanity of Tokyo, cross paths through a concept we’ve seen before, but I assure you never ever quite like this.
The fascinating enigma of the body swap set-up means the exuberant, exaggerated anime reactions are completely warranted and fitting here. The teenagers embark, unknowingly at first, on a kind of new age rediscovery in among the social and cultural landscape of Japan, that the brilliant, observant Shinkai nails. Friends and families of Mitsuha and Taki react with suspicion and head-scratching surprise at the undiscovered role-reversals – that Mitsuha appears “normal” today raises eyebrows, even declared possessed flippantly by a friend, while Taki wakes not quite understanding why he would have boobs, or tears in his eyes. Such moments, by the way, generating with ease touches of comedy and poignancy. They both have to handle the various day to day conflicts, while Mitsuha excels in sports, Taki shows off his feminine side unashamedly. Stereotypes not to be grumbled at, Shinkai embellishes the structure to make it simple for us to follow the switch and change in lifestyles and outlooks – thus keeping it accessible while establishing thoroughly complex, riveting scenarios. One after the other.
Hazy hues of lakes and mountains, with the metropolitan depictions of Tokyo city life, are blended with beautiful skies, city-scapes, rural beauty, all glazed with glorious rendering. The scope of the scenery is nothing short of breath-taking, reflections of sunlight following the characters, waters ripple with fallen leaves, nature plays a part in this multi-colored palette, sucking you into the familiar, very best parts of the world we love. The progressive music and energetic pop songs (Radwimps) play their part whether they are your cup of tea or not (they soon will be). The whole execution is a grand example of blooming animation, as warming as a summer’s day, and Shinkai doesn’t miss a thing. You have no qualms about not being able to take your eyes off the screen.
Mitsuha and Taki are great characters, their very existences, every motion and breath, derives from within us and what we experience as we grow and discover. Being the new world they can exchange messages through the dimensional states via writing on their hands and arms, or diary entries / note-taking in the smart phones. In doing so the youngsters get to know each other in a way that makes perfect sense, and is enlightening in all its developments. Your yearning for them to meet takes over your immediate life. Your Name goes well beyond the mere notion of body swap and instead delves so deep into the chemistry of human hearts and minds it lingers as a wonderful, enrapturing modern romance. Imaginative, melancholic, mesmerizing and utterly captivating, the intertwined story-threads throw alternate timelines at us, the despairing feeling of memories fading away, longing to be somewhere else, capturing that thing you feel is missing or you’re looking for. In all magnificent corners of Shinkai’s narrative, through emotional highs and lows, you are invested all the way. This doesn’t portray a magic world, as much as it reminds us just how magical this life can be. A film to treasure.