Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name): a breath of fresh air in anime
One of the biggest drawbacks of anime is that it tends to suffer from the cheap, fast, and good dilemma.
If you’re buying any kind of service, you face this dilemma. You can get stuff done cheap and fast, but the service’s quality is usually not all that good. You can get good work delivered quickly but you probably will need to pay extra. Finally, you can get good service on the cheap but don’t expect the provider to deliver quickly.
The same dilemma sort of plays out in anime. Fans often are left to face difficult choices between the quality of three factors-plot, character development, and art.
I had this dilemma in mind when I first viewed Kimi no Nawa (‘Your Name’). I was wondering which factor will suffer. The fact that no other than Makoto Shinkai, the force behind The Garden of Words and 5 cm per Second somewhat set my mind at ease, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Sure, Shinkai made a name for himself with these classic romantic anime titles but past track record is no guarantee of future success.
Boy, was I in for a treat. This Funimation-produced romantic anime film was released in Japan last August and has gone down as an instant classic in the history of Japanese animation. First, it dominated the Japanese box office. Racking up total ticket sales well over $175 million USD, it dominated movie charts for nine straight weeks. Second, it was so well-received internationally that it is in the running for an Oscar award for Best Animated Feature.
‘Your name’ has gone on to capture the imaginations of both hardcore anime and casual movie fans all over the globe. And the fan mania over “Your Name” shows no signs of slowing down.
It’s easy to see why people from all over the world have simply fallen in love with this anime film-it has overcome the classic movie dilemma of character, plot, and art quality. Simply put, “Your Name” hit the ball out of the park on all three counts!
The first thing that hits you is Makoto Shinkai’s mastery of emotional narration. There’s that same lingering sadness that made 5 cm Per Second and The Garden of Words so memorable. You get really drawn into the internal questions and sense of yearning and aching the characters feel. Shinkai’s script is full of touching, poetic text that you just have to wonder at how he is able to pack so much meaning in such a small number of well-selected lines.
In terms of plot line, Shinkai treats us to the improbable romance of Mitsuha and Taki-all made possible by the urgency of a comet threatening to crash in Japan. A simple country girl in high school, Mitsuha has big city dreams because she’s so bored of rural living. Taki, on the other hand, is a high school boy from cosmopolitan Tokyo. In fact, he’s quite exposed to a few exotic cultures thanks to his part-time work at an Italian-themed restaurant.
One mystical day, Taki and Mitsuha, inexplicably swapped bodies. This exchange plays out a few days per week without any advanced warning. As they see the world through each other’s eyes, they gradually fall in love with each other.
Shinkai masterfully tells this improbable and fantastic story without sentimentality or coming off as cheesy. This deft handling of supernatural events in a casual believable way is what sets this instant anime classic apart.
Sure, any serious movie fan can easily point to movies like “Big” for the body swapping theme. Still, Shinkai’s explanation of the magical phenomenon behind the switch and the emotional intimacy of the characters seeing the world through each others’ bodies are what set this movie apart. I was quite surprised by the plot twist behind the phenomenon. I’m sure you’ll be pleased as well.
When it comes to character development, both anime and regular movie fans could not ask for more from “Your name.” You really get drawn into the emotional world of the characters. They are so easy to relate to-despite the fantastic plot vehicle of this film. Mitsuha and Taki’s actions, emotional range, and words are very believable and flow naturally from the plot. This creates a strong intimate emotional bond that spills over from the screen to viewers.
The art of “Your Name” doesn’t disappoint. This anime film’s graphics do an amazing job of conveying the fantastic premise of the plot and the emotional development and range of the main characters. Spare, to the point, and not prone to overdoing things or trying too hard, Shinkai showed the same stylistic graphic restraint that got him so many fans with 5 cm Per Second and The Garden of Words.
Finally, the soundtrack of “Your name” is both addictive and haunting. It’s so easy for the emotion-packed words to sink to your bones. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming some of the ditties in this film (all performed by the group Radwimps): Nandemonaiya (It’s Nothing), Supakuru (Sparkle), Zenzenzense (Previous previous previous life).
Compared to Shinkai’s previous work, “Your name” stands out as more humorous, well-rounded emotionally, and, surprising given the emotional connection it brings to life, ‘light-hearted.’ If you’re looking for one of the best anime films produced in recent years, you don’t need to go further than Kimi No Nawa. It feels like you’re watching a miraculous combination of great art, plot, and character development. This movie is quite a rarity indeed!