THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
As of writing this review, this film is currently the highest rated anime on this site and naturally I was curious to what all the fuss was about. While this movie has absolutely amazing visuals coupled with a fantastic musical score along with great directing by Makoto Shinkai, unfortunately, the script and characters, in my eyes, could have been a lot better.
The narrative of this film centres around our two protagonists; Mitsuha, who lives in a rural part of Japan who is bored of her everyday life and wishes to live in Tokyo and Taki who, well...lives in Tokyo. There is literally nothing else that defines this character at all. One day they begin to switch bodies and live out each other's lives for short periods of time at regular intervals. Why this exactly happens is never explained to us at all and feels more like a plot convenience than any other supernatural or spiritual event of some kind.
The first half of the film plays out like your typical high school comedy and while this concept of a girl and boy switching bodies is not entirely original it still comes across as fun. Easily my favorite part of this film are the scenes in which we see how each of these characters affects each other's life and the consequences that arise as a result of this. The scenes in which they were instructing each other on what not to do when they're in each other's bodies, comes across as smart and funny and I was interested in a concept of how each person could have made one another appreciate their life more, or help to improve their life in some way. But that's all we really get as a whole. The characterisation and characters themselves felt a little weak and dry too but, despite all that, the first half is somewhat enjoyable and fun all the way through.
However, where I really being to lose interest is during the second half and this is where it becomes more apparent that the film is trying to ride on its own conveniences a little too much. For starters, the love that we're supposed to buy into, for me at least, came across as forced and boring. The two characters begin to muster feelings for each other and it comes across as superficial since they've barely even spoken in real life to each other and every time they do, they forget about each other immediately afterwards. Despite a massive threat of death looming over these characters, I simply didn't care since I was so uninterested in all of them since the film never gave me any reason to care from the start. None of the characters are barely developed and Taki especially has hardly any personality to speak of so it becomes hard to attach yourself onto him or to care for his struggles in the least.
When the film began to introduce time and amnesia into the mix, it felt like a cluster of ideas and themes that never really fit together nor played out in a satisfying way. A lot of the time the story felt way too convenient and some of the plot devices felt kind of lazy. To me, the fact that everyone was evacuated before the comet hit OFF screen felt really lazy and that scene could have been fantastic character development for Mitsuha as she would of had to finally confront her father and we could learn more about their relationship. I can perhaps understand that the writer may have wanted to create some suspense for the audience by leaving it ambiguous as to weather or not they escaped but since we find out only three minutes later it seems kind of pointless in retrospect. Some characters I felt were a waste of time and didn't really add anything to the overall plot. Miki could have been removed from the plot entirely and it wouldn't have made much difference. I feel as if the final shot could have been much more powerful if I had cared about these characters at all during the duration of the film
Now the film does do a good job in the FEEELS not because it was derivative of the characters (which it should be to feel a greater sense of urgency during the climax) but because of the beautiful animation and framing. Every frame looks amazing especially during the more emotionally heavy scenes and, as I said before, the directing for this film is fantastic. The frames are well detailed with high levels of movement and the music does a fantastic job at immersing you in its world. I can appreciate all of the effort that went into the technical side of this anime which is why it pains me to see the plot and characters being presented in such a weak way.
All in all, if you're able to look past the flaws in the script the film is highly enjoyable and it doesn't take too much to feel the emotion they try to convey through the cinematography. Just turn your brain off and enjoy the great visuals and the music.