Masterful and meaty Japanese animation from Makoto Shinkai
Much as Spirited Away opened up the vibrant Studio Ghibli brand to international audiences, writer-director Makoto Shinkai's animation hit Your Name lays down a fresh benchmark in terms of narrative and visual quality, as he shows us why he's been dubbed 'the new Miyazaki'. A sugar-sweet love story told against a darkly shaded background of genuine tragedy, it's a stunningly rendered children's film, being released in subtitled and dubbed versions, which boasts more philosophical meat than most grown-up dramas.
Opening with a familiar body-swap motif, Your Name's protagonists are country girl Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and city slicker Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), who are inexplicably transported into each other's bodies. The teenagers enjoy the experience of playfully interfering in their counterpart's development, until Mitsuha abruptly vanishes. Taki sets out to discover who she is, or rather who she was; it turns out that Mitsuha's involvement in the destruction of her village through a comet strike has created a fractured timeline, which only Taki can unravel.
Garlanded with pop songs and rammed with poetic moments, not least the way that spiritual time-travel is portrayed as embedded in traditional Japanese customs, Shinkai's film is huge in scope, but rich in detail. The way that Mitsuha and Taki's situation is reflected in the beautifully drawn backgrounds is cinematically dynamic, and if the plot twists are sometimes taxing to follow, the pay-off is emotionally charged and finely wrought.
Japan has a strong storytelling tradition in terms of dealing with catastrophe, and Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima Daiichi all loom large over Your Name's fantasy. Remarkably, invoking real world tragedies does not overwhelm the fanciful name of Shinkai's film, but enhances and deepens the potential meanings. As the teenagers battle against time to carve out just one moment together in the face of death, Your Name offers audiences intellect, wonder and tears in equal measure.
Selected release from Fri 18 Nov.