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Review: Your Name

April 7, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Already the highest grossing anime film of all-time, and a giant blockbuster hit in its native Japan, Your Name is finally arriving in North American theatres, and I’m happy to report that the film deserves every bit of the hype that has been surrounding it for months now.  This is a beautifully animated and intricately plotted anime knockout, that keeps us hooked with engaging characters and a narrative full of surprises.

The film follows Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a teenage girl who lives with her grandmother and younger sister in a small mountain town in Japan where her father is the mayor, and Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), a teen boy who goes to high school in Tokyo and works at a fancy Italian restaurant.

The two lead very different lives, separated by lifestyle, location and gender, until one morning when they start waking up in each other’s bodies, allowing them to glimpse the ways that the other one lives.  Through this, Mitsuha and Taki start to develop feelings for each other, but there are mysterious circumstances involving a passing comet linking them together that they must overcome in order to stay connected.

This is the basic setup for Your Name, and I wouldn’t think of revealing any more of the plot, because this is a film that continuously finds new ways to engage, surprise and move us, right through to the perfectly staged final scene.  Directed by Makoto Shinkai, adapting his own novel of the same name, this is the sort of film that should be experienced knowing as little as possible about the plot the first time around, and practically begs for multiple viewings afterwards.

The animation is consistently beautiful, and the film is often breathtaking on a visual level, especially during several lyrical montages.  But Your Name is equally impressive on a thematic level, seamlessly weaving together a complex narrative that skips around and plays out on different timelines.  The film is completely confident in its staging and also refreshingly presumes the intellect of its audience, allowing viewers to work out the mechanics of its plot at the same time as the characters.

There is a twist partway through that takes the story in an exciting new direction, giving added dramatic weight to the plot and allowing Your Name to become deeply moving.  The rest of the film plays out in exhilarating, almost breathless fashion, as we barrel towards the unforgettable climactic moments.  The story masterfully draws us into its two main characters and allows us to deeply care about them as we discover the ways they are closely interconnected, which makes the film’s eventual payoff all the more poignant and bittersweet.

The film explores heady and thought provoking themes of identity and the convergences of time and fate, but it also operates on a purely emotional level that makes it universally accessible.  Richly layered both narratively and visually, Your Name is a brilliant work of art that should be savoured, and is right up there with the best of Studio Ghibli as one of the greatest anime films of all time.

Your Name is now playing in limited release at selected Cineplex Cinemas in Toronto.

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