By Drew Miller Hyndman
Your Name (or Kimi no na wa to our Japanese speakers) has taken Japan by storm, currently the 6th highest grossing film in history. I had the pleasure of experiencing this film at one of hundreds of one off screenings in the UK.
The original screenplay, from Makoto Shinkai, follows Mitsuha and Taki, two young people who couldn’t be further apart. Mitsuha, a girl from the rural town Itomori, who longs to escape to Tokyo and away from the old-fashioned village where everyone knows everyone. Taki, a boy of the same age living in Tokyo, with a passion for drawing and specifically architecture.
The two are thrust together in unlikely circumstances when they find themselves switching bodies on random days. It’s not a new concept, but the way it’s executed is extraordinary. Initially we are treated to the typical antics associated with this trope, albeit very well done if nothing new.
However, the story soon develops into something entirely unexpected. The film is an expert in the art of misdirection, it telegraphs you the signs of a twist and then when the twist happens you think to yourself ‘aha, saw that coming.’ But then it throws you another twist that catches you completely by surprise. It’s completely unpredictable in it’s predictableness and it’s perfect at toying with your emotions.
It is rare that a film brings tears to my eyes, especially with sadness or joy, but this film does it repeatedly and without any real effort. The story is both uplifting and sad and despite having some culture clash with the west as a Japanese film it remains relatable for anyone who has gone through their teens.
Speaking of culture, the film relies heavily on a lot of lore taken from the Shinto religion, one of Japan’s biggest and oldest religions. It’s a nice touch and adds a sense of grounding to the sci-fi nature of the film. It adds to the spiritual feel of the journey it takes you on.
This film has gained its hype from the visuals and it goes without saying that they are stunning. Animation Director, Masashi Ando, has worked on countless Studio Ghibli films and even the more recent Evangelion 3.0 film. It is a pleasure to watch and continues to amaze as the film goes on, a perfectly spread animation budget over the whole film.
With this being a Makoto Shinkai, creator of 5 Centimetres Per Second and Garden of Words, the expectations were high. He even hints at a relationship between this film and his film Garden of Words by bringing back Hana Kanazawa (Who is in everything, look her up!) to her role as Yukari Yukino, the teacher from Garden of Words.
Lastly, the soundtrack, in an animated work these can make or break a film. The entire soundtrack was performed by RADWIMPS, a Japanese rock band. A risk, to pin so much on just one set of musicians. Fortunately, the soundtrack is a treat, it perfectly sets the mood and definitely contributed to a few tears. Along with the theme, Sparkle, it sets the soundtrack apart as one of the best for a standalone film.
Your Name is showing at Harbour Lights Picturehouse in Southampton at 9pm on December 14th.