If you’ve heard of Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, it’s probably in the context of the records it’s broken. When it came out last year, it blew past the work of anime legend Hayao Miyazaki to become the highest-grossing anime film of all time, drop-kicking a record that had been held by Spirited Away for 15 years. It became a box office sensation in Japan, where it became the second highest-grossing domestic film of all time and the first non-Miyazaki-directed movie to top $100 million. It set records in China, the UK, Ireland, Thailand. Basically, a good chunk of the world has fallen for this movie, and about nine months after its world premiere it’s finally schlepping itself over to the US for a modest theatrical release, courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.
If it’s playing near you, I’m going to need you to do me a solid and go right now. Even if you’re not particularly into anime. Neither am I. It’s fine. Bring the kids. Kidnap someone else’s kids and bring them. It’s for your own good.
Your Name starts out as something sweet, fun, and—though gorgeous to look at—not particularly out of the ordinary. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) is a girl who lives in a small village and yearns for big city life. Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) is a boy who lives in Tokyo. A couple times a week, when they fall asleep—surprise!—they switch bodies. A lighthearted comedy of errors ensues, with Mitsuha and Taki attempting to sidestep potential troubles by setting ground rules and coordinating with each other via notes on their phones and written on skin. It’s fun. It’s cute. Mitsuha-as-Taki has more game with Taki’s crush object than Taki ever did, and Taki-as-Mitsuha starts every day in Mitsuha’s body by groping his new breasts. It’s a little skeezy, but points to Shinkai (who also wrote the screenplay, adapting his own novel) for nailing exactly what a teenage boy would do in Taki’s situation.
Though at each other’s throats from a distance, Mitsuha and Taki eventually begin to feel for one another, though they’ve never actually met. Taki decides one day that, hey, I actually only live a train-ride away from Mitsuha’s village—why not go see her? And there’s where Your Name takes a twist.
I would recommend not knowing the twist beforehand, though for those who just can’t stop yourself, it’s this: Mitsuha and Taki’s timelines are separated by three years. Throughout Mitsuha’s timeline, there’s been talk of a comet that’s going to pass over soon. When Taki gets to Mitsuha’s village, he sees it was struck by a portion of the comet that split off from the whole, leveling the village and killing Mitsuha. It’s there that Your Name takes a turn from a sweet coming-of-age comedy to something moving and profound, with a third act that rivals any recent animated release for suspense. (Though PG-rated, there are moments that may be too frightening for younger kids, namely [spoiler] a shot of Mitsuha’s town being hit by the comet. If your kid’s particularly sensitive or, say, younger than six. I’d be cautious here.)
None of that gets into Your Name’s biggest strength, which is that it’s gorgeous. That’s not a surprise—Shinkai is known for realism. But I didn’t expect the extent to which some of the landscape shots, in particular, would take my breath away.
Look at this shit. This is hand-drawn. And that’s not even the best of it! Those are just the shots that happened to be in the trailer! I’ve seen Your Name twice—the first time a press screener on my computer, the second time on the big screen, because you have to see this movie on the big screen if at all possible. There’s a 2001 Space Gate-esque sequence that had me in full hand-to-my-heart mode. To hell with Smurfs. Go see Your Name.