Makoto Shinkai’s latest anime film, Your Name, is a wondrous exploration of love. The story follows the bond between Taki (a Tokyo high schooler), and Mitsuha (a high schooler living in rural Japan), who wake up to find that they have swapped bodies. These shifts take place at random, centering around the time a comet is to pass earth. At first the two think that they are just dreaming, but soon begin to realize that these changes are reality. In order to help one another, the two begin to leave notes for the other to follow. In Taki’s body, Mitsuha begins to help him start a bond with a coworker, while Taki in Mitsuha’s body aims to help her become more popular in school. Over time the two begin to grow a bond unique to any they’ve ever known, and begin to fall in love.
What the film gets right immediately is the awkwardness and innocence of young adult lives. This is most effective when it comes to the scenes with Mitsuha in Taki’s body. She is a girl stuck in rural Japan, itching to get out and live a fuller life in Tokyo. When she finally has the chance in Taki’s body, it is great to see her wander in exploration. Taki has his moments as well in Mitsuha’s body, exploring a more serene and peaceful means of life that help him to grow. Whether it is through scenes of the two working, hanging out with friends, or thinking about their dreams, the audience gets a real sense of character within the two. Instead of falling into anime archetypes, Taki and Mitsuha feel like actual people with hopes and goals.
Your Name treads the path of balancing sci-fi elements, comedy, and romance. The body swapping starts off quite comedic, as the two try to adjust to their new bodies. The sci-fi aspect of body swapping may not be the most original concept today, but thanks to the liveliness of the two main characters, it’s enjoyable to view. One thing that is odd however is that the beginning of the film spends more time focusing on Mitsuha exploring life through Taki’s body. Towards the end we get more of Taki’s perspective, but when it comes to the little quirky moments of joy, we don’t get nearly as much with him.
The twist towards the middle makes for an unexpected surprise, and that’s when the characters and ideas of the film begin to come together. After the twist, the characters’ perspectives shift, and we start to see much more of Taki. The second and third act give some means of connecting to him, even though there are much less heart-warming moments compared to the beginning. In the end, Your Name is a romance film before anything else. The tools of comedy and sci-fi are only vehicles to tell the story of two teenagers who yearn for something more in life. The use of body swapping allows the characters to find their missing piece, and begin a journey into love. As a pure romantic tale, Your Name shoots for the stars with laughs, smiles, and happy tears.