When masterful creator Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement, it would seem there was an unlikely challenge to hold the mantle like he did for creating some of the most epic, beautiful and fantastical pieces of anime to date. But cue Makoto Shinkai, whose third feature Your Name, could launch his name into cult territory outside the shores of Japan.
On the eve of a passing comet, teenage schoolgirl Mitsuha wakes up befuddled, not quite feeling herself. In her small provincial town, her friends’ comment on her strange behaviour from the day before, none of which she can remember or explain. She pains to escape the small town life and estranged father, who is the town mayor and under the passing comet, she wishes to be a cute teenage boy in Tokyo. The following morning she wakes up more confused to find a body not her own and her wish come true, as a teenage boy called Taki. Mistaking it for a dream, she lives out the day of Taki, confusing his friends and colleagues, by his sudden personality transformation. Not going absent is Taki, who is equally bewildered to find himself in a teenage girl’s body, particularly one with boobs, that becomes a nice running joke throughout. When it becomes more than a one time event, Mitsuha and Taki establish that they are each other living one another’s lives on an ad hoc basis. Putting one another’s lives in chaos, they try to establish rules for one another to keep track of what each other has set themselves up for. Whilst at this point and entertaining, Your Name feels like a standard teen body swap comedy and it feels like everything is being rushed at this point and neither character facing any form of jeopardy. But when the comet passes, so does the body swapping and Taki’s memories of the events are fading as is his memory of Mitsuha’s name. Disappearing without a trace, Taki’s sets off to find her but comes across a dark discovery. With his recollections of their exchanges fading, Taki has to fight against time to remember her name.
Like his previous work, Your Name features some gorgeous animation that at times is breathtakingly stunning. The story is plentiful in wit and charm. When the plot looks like it might be a bit simple and looks like it is racing through without much depth or clout beyond humour, demonstrated by a slightly annoying montage more fitting for an anime TV series than this film, but just as Your Name feels like it’s running out of ideas, Shinkai throws in a twist that gives the narrative a further depth of twisted and loopy logic that launches the film’s trajectory into a mystery thrill ride and raises the stakes beyond first comprehension. When it comes to an end you might feel left yearning for more but left knowing that the name Makoto Shinkai is a name you are going to remember.