Jul 5, 2016
TheKillerAngel (All reviews)
“Kimi no Na wa.” (Your Name) opens with a radiant comet traversing over the night sky, splitting apart into various meteors that illuminate and streak the heavens. Stars and celestial imagery often feature in Makoto Shinkai’s films, and the brilliance of the opening set piece could be dismissed as eye-candy. However, its significance is not fully understood until much later.

To speak of names, one does not invoke Makoto Shinkai in conjunction with the phrase “happy ending.” To say that he has made his fame off producing romance anime is only half the story, as his work’s exploration of themes such as distance and unrequited love often impart a wistful and bittersweet aftertaste. “Byousoku 5 Centimeter” (5 Centimeters per Second), his most famous title to date, is both loved and reviled for its directorial willingness to defy the sort of resolution that viewers have come to expect out of the romance genre.

While “Kimi no Na wa.” continues to incorporate motifs and concepts familiar to past Shinkai works, it reflects a maturation of his artistic vision to tell a tale of love and determination that transcends time, distance, and even apocalyptic odds.

The film centers on two characters, Mitsuha Miyamizu – a schoolgirl in rural Japan who dreams of going to the city, and Taki Tachibana, an aspiring architectural student in Tokyo. With the passing of a rare comet, the two start imagining out of body experiences in which their consciousness swaps with each other while they sleep and dream. This leads to no shortage of comedic moments, as the two characters take turns exploring and manipulating their alternate lives – and bodies. As the nature of their dreamlike, out of body experiences is revealed, the two resolve to meet each other. But in their attempt to do so, a dark truth of their relationship emerges, accelerating the story and replacing the comedic elements with a suspenseful quest to find each other and ultimately, race against time. “Kimi no Na wa.” weaves a complex, multilayered narrative that explores the struggle of human emotions against fate. You can feel Mitsuha and Taki’s determination, confusion, and desperation as they toil against temporal reality, a journey that leaves viewers equal parts thrilled and emotionally exhausted.

Makoto Shinkai reaffirms his place at the forefront of animation, as the film’s stunning backgrounds and fluid motion easily make this one of the most visually ambitious anime of the past year. Superb art direction and character designs with the assistance of Masayoshi Tanaka (AnoHana, Toradora, KokoSake) give the film a modern, colorful aesthetic.

Though some might be repelled or jaded by segments that feel like emotional manipulation – especially when considering Shinkai’s past filmography – “Kimi no Na wa.” succeeds in delivering an engrossing experience, complete with magnificent set pieces, laughs, and heart-wrenching, gripping drama. This film — the culmination of Shinkai’s skill in exploring the melancholy aspects of love and distance, is just as much a lesson on the value of finding happiness through unshakeable resolve, initiative, and overcoming doubt and hesitation.