Japanese 'Your Name' is a fascinating, genre-bending piece of animation

Posted April 7

Mitsuha Miyamizu, voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi, and Taki Tachibana, voiced by Ryûnosuke Kamiki, in the Makoto Shinkai anime "Your Name." (Deseret Photo)

“YOUR NAME” — 3 stars — Voices of Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryo Narita; PG (thematic elements suggestive content, brief language and smoking); in general release

It would be easy to dismiss a contemporary film that uses the age-old body switch formula, which feels like it’s been around forever. But writer/director Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name” enhances the concept, then tacks on a strange time travel twist that, while challenging to follow, results in a memorable piece of Japanese animation.

In this case, the switchees are Mitsuha Miyamizu (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Taki Tachibana (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), a pair of teenagers in modern Japan. Unlike most of the protagonists in these kinds of movies, Mitsuha and Taki don’t know each other. In fact, at first they assume their body-swapping encounters are just really strange dreams. But eventually, the humble girl from the small village of Itomori and the big-city boy from Tokyo realize that whenever they go to sleep, they are waking up in the life of a real live human being … of the opposite gender.

Their reaction to this gender switch — the teens are understandably shocked by their new body parts — is just one reason parents might want to consider reserving this PG-rated film for their older children. Another reason is that it’s a serious challenge to follow.

Once Mitsuha and Taki understand what is happening — even if they don’t understand why — they begin using each other’s smartphones to communicate, logging notes and messages to explain what they did each day in the other person’s body. As a result, Taki discovers an appreciation for the spiritual culture of Mitsuha’s family out in Itomori, and Mitsuha helps to foster a relationship with Taki’s co-worker crush Miki Okudera (Masami Nagasawa).

Shortly after Taki goes on his first date with Miki, though — a disaster since the poor shy boy is in his own body and unable to rely on Mitsuha’s female savvy — the body switches stop. Taki decides to track down Mitsuha, but when he finally makes it to her village, he realizes that while his communication with Mitsuha felt immediate, everything that happened in her body actually took place three years ago.

To explain more would be to give away too much of the plot, which, while complicated, is pretty fascinating. Suffice it to say, at this point “Your Name’s” body switch plot suddenly becomes something of a time traveling science fiction drama, complete with pop music interludes.

As mentioned earlier, the story can be a challenge to follow, and English-speaking audiences would be well-advised to opt for the dubbed presentation of the film (the fact that certain subtitles actually appear at the top of the screen further complicates matters). But “Your Name” is a challenge worth tackling, with a sweet and surprisingly romantic third act that feels fresh and original.

“Your Name” is a remarkably bland title for a pretty interesting movie, but Shinkai’s effort — based on his own original novel — is a curious blend of two complex genres that elevates both. It also features some strong animation, enhanced in certain scenes beyond its traditional cell style.

“Your Name” is presented both in dubbed English and in Japanese with English subtitles. Though it only drew a PG rating, it would be best-suited for older children and adults.

“Your Name” is rated PG for thematic elements, suggestive content, brief langauge and smoking; running time: 106 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photographer who also teaches English composition for Weber State University. You can also find him on <a href='https://www.youtube.com/moviereviewsbyjosh' target='_blank'>YouTube</a>.


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