Your Name Review: Embracing the Unexpected

Your Name starts out on the fluffy, cute anime side, but ultimately tells a moving and unexpected story of love, life, and human connection.

As an anime fan, it disappoints me that we don’t see nearly enough anime films make it here in the States. Most moviegoers might recognize the name of Hayao Miyazaki, or at least one of his most famous films. But aside from the occasional Pokémon film, we don’t see much else in the way of Japanese animation on the big screen. That’s the first surprise from Your Name, directed by Makoto Shinkai. But it’s certainly not the last.

Your Name takes place intermittently in Tokyo, Japan. In the rural town of Itomori in a mountainous area of Japan, Taki, a high school boy working a second job as a waiter. Mitsuha is the daughter of a family of shrine protectors and they are both dissatisfied with their respective lots in life.

Taki quietly handles his frustration, but Mitsuha gloriously screams her wish to become a “handsome Tokyo boy” in her next life off a cliff. Of course, we know where the irony is going. They both wake up to discover that their friends and family think they’ve been behaving strangely. Each remembers having a strange dream of the other, but the details become fuzzy as they go about their day.

Credit: Funimation

Swapping Places

Taki and Mitsuha discover that they’ve been switching places with one another every few days, with Taki in Mitsuha’s body and Mitsuha in Taki’s. They both struggle to fit in and work through the lives of the other on these days. But as they become more aware of their situation, they begin to communicate with and help one another. I won’t spoil too much, but the first half of the movie is mostly this. It’s very light-hearted, high school anime style. Though fortunately not so over-the-top that it becomes off-putting.

Fortunately, Mitsuha and Taki are both enjoyable personalities to spend time with. And the dialogue is refreshingly human. Their conversations with their friends and family neatly balance emotions without delving into tropes. Such as how Mitsuha’s little sister can be exasperated with her one minute when she catches her doing something on, and very friendly with her later on.

Credit: Funimation

Their body swaps are portrayed honestly, too. So while yes, we do get that exploratory moment of horror (or glee on Taki’s part) upon a teenager suddenly having genitalia they didn’t ask for, the moments are treated with the right amount of respect.

But more than that, we see the simple confusions of getting around Tokyo. Learning to wait tables, or even having basic social interactions with people each doesn’t know very well. So when their relationship blossoms through the messages they leave for one another, we’re delighted to find that in a far cry from a Freaky Friday mess. The two actually strive to better one another’s lots in life.

Just the First Part

But that’s all in the first half. If the movie were mostly that, followed up by a comical but satisfying conclusion, I’d call Your Name a decent film. But what truly makes it great is the plot turn in the second half. We suddenly discover a reason the swaps might have been occurring and an unexpectedly dire danger for one of the characters.

There’s some mildly Inception-level thinking to wrap your head around at one point, but the end result is a highly emotional journey for both characters. Not merely for the sake of one another, but also for the sake of finding a missing piece of themselves that they don’t quite understand.

Credit: Funimation

The Second Half

Your Name’s second half will have you gripping the arms of your seat right until the very end.  It turns out that the fluff of the first half was all a mere set-up to get you to love Taki and Mitsuha. And you will find yourself unexpectedly attached to both of them when their stories are suddenly in peril.

Though the fantastical certainly plays a part in establishing why the pair are having this experience in the first place, it takes a back seat to the real, believable details of each their lives and hearts. Turning an utterly ridiculous situation into something surprisingly relatable.

All of this is paired with gorgeous art dripping with light, life, and detail. From the shimmer of rain to the sparkle of a comet to the luscious anime food porn of each delicious dessert Mitsuha (as Taki) devours.

And though the film certainly has many apt moments of silence, several moments are paired with delightful, rolling music from RADWIMPS. I’ll also mention that, while I didn’t see the subbed version with Japanese voice actors, don’t be concerned if you’re normally wary of dubs. If you take your friends to see the dub, I promise that the English voice actors and writing are perfectly respectable.

Go See Your Name!

I can’t recommend Your Name enough. It perfectly grounds its fantastical elements in the day-to-day realities of humans just trying to make it through.

The film tells a love story that’s just as much a relationship between two people. It is about those people’s relationship with themselves and those around them. It took me places I never expected to go, even after the first hour of the film. Your Name does so with an earnestness that I rarely see out of any film. Its excellence is a testament to why we need more good anime films showing in the west. But it’s also a shining example of good filmmaking of any kind. Swallow your worries and go see it, and bring the tissues. I promise you’ll be surprised, too.