What would happen if you were suddenly to wake up in the body of someone of the opposite gender, in his or her apartment and life, and he or she would wake up in your body and your life? What if this would occur often enough that your start leaving messages for each other?
Your Name (Kimi no na wa) is the new film by a director who is quickly making a name for himself. Makoto Shinkai has earned high praise already in Asia and among amine aficionados elsewhere for his films 5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words and more. These were all rather sort films of maybe 45 minutes, in effect telling short stories, often about young fragile love. Your Name stands in a direct continuation of this work, but it is a longer feature of more than 1.5 hour.
Your Name too is a romantic story with some science fiction or fantasy elements. Like most of Shinkai’s stories, it concerns a fragile new romantic love that blossoms up. Together with the pretty colors and minimalistic piano music, Shinkai often shows love as something fragile and bittersweet, framed in the lights and colors of the setting sun, and often doomed from the start. A certain vulnerability shines through his stories where the little moments of doomed romantic love are celebrated. It comes across as part of certain Asian cultures where everything is made hyperemotional, cute and vulnerable for its own sake.
Shinkai’s work stands out for its beautiful artwork. All his films are absolutely gorgeous to look at. Extremely detailed and with amazing color work. And, I have to say, with oversaturated colors and lots of lens flares. I have named The Garden of Words before as perhaps the most beautifully drawn animated movie ever. Your Name does equal the same level of dedication and craftsmanship. There are scenes that last perhaps for half a second, but they must have cost many hours of work to create.
The pace of storytelling is a bit unusual. The movie starts out with a musical number that shows scenes from the entire movie, like a music video about the whole thing. We get all these glimpses that only make sense later on. Then, at two or three moments in the film, we suddenly engage the warp drive and a montage/music video rushes us through months of time. I’m wondering if this is because Shinkai is more used to directing shorter films. In any case, it doesn’t work against the film, but it is unusual.
Overall, the film is definitely worth seeing, mostly because of how pretty it looks and for the fascinating little science fiction story that unfolds. But I’d wish that Shinkai would rein in the teenage melodrama a bit. I would be very interested to see what he would do with other kinds of stories.