Every time I’ve said that we have reached the peak of animation this year, another film comes along that proves me wrong. I first said it for Zootropolis, then Kubo and the Two Strings came along, and after I said Kubo and the Two Strings was the best animated film of the year, Your Name has come along. Over the past year, I’ve been getting more interested in anime, mainly thanks to one of my housemates, who has introduced me to more anime than just the Ghibli films, including Evangelion, Baccano, Redline and the films of Satoshi Kon. This, combined with my interest in films and TV episodes about body swapping made this film sound intriguing to me, and I was lucky enough to find a cinema screening of it and, as I said before, this is the best animated film I’ve seen this year.The plot focuses on Mitsuha, a high school girl living in the town of Itomori, and Taki, a high school boy who lives in Tokyo, who start transporting into each others bodies, at first thinking that they are just dreaming before realising that they are affecting each others lives. Through notes they leave of each others phones and on paper they communicate with each other, each eventually getting accustomed to the body swap and intervening in each others lives, Mitsuha helping Taki get closer to his female co-worker Miki Okudera and Taki helps Mitsuha become more popular at school, where she is a bit of an outcast due to both her participation in Shinto rituals and the fact that her dad was the town mayor. Eventually the body swap stops and Taki tries to find Mitsuha in person. Now the overall plot is intriguing but without strong characters the film would fall apart and here is where the film shines. I won’t go into too much detail here for fear of spoiling the film but the characters are very well written, very likeable, Mitsuha and Taki react very realistically to what is happening and the insights we get into the characters through the body swap are interesting, although the more interesting character is Mitsuha, mainly due to her family history. The performances by Ryunosuke Kamiki as Taki and Mone Kamishiraishi as Mitsuha meanwhile help make the characters complete, the delivery of the dialogue creating some heartbreaking moments whilst subtle shifts in the performances let you know when the body swap has taken place along with showing the changing nature of the characters as they mature as a result of the body swap. There are also really interesting themes regarding the nature of memory and dreams, with Mitsuha and Taki assuming that they are dreaming at first and having trouble remembering each others names. This also links into themes regarding time and how time impacts memories which helps to create some brilliant, heartbreaking moments at the end. It’s also a very funny film as well, the contrasting nature of Mitshua and Taki’s personalities at first creating some funny moments as they get used to each others bodies, mainly Taki in Mitsuha’s body, along with a brilliantly done montage where we see the impact they have on each others lives.
The main selling point of the film though, outside of the brilliant story, great acting and very well incorporated music is the quality of the animation. This is some of the best 2D animation I’ve seen in a long time. The character animation for everyone in the film is excellent, you could turn the sound and subtitles off and still get a sense of everyone’s character through the strong animation. The background animation is stunning as well, being as photorealistic as you can get for 2D animation at some points and some brilliant moments that use a more sketchy animation style but the best animation in the film comes through the depiction of a comet that forms the backbone of the film and words can’t describe how beautiful that animation is to see on the big screen, you need to see it for yourself.
Overall, Your Name is a brilliant heartwarming, funny and powerful film buoyed by very likeable and believable characters and some of the best animation I’ve seen all year. This year we’ve seen new highs in technical achievement for two different styles of animation, stop motion saw new highs with Kubo and the Two Strings and now Your Name continues the brilliant work in visual brilliance that has been coming out of Japan over the past few years.
My Rating: 5/5