7/10 A week after a major Sony investment became a flop in part because of a white-washing controversy, the highest-grossing anime movie of all time quietly expanded to American theaters.
It deserves a much noisier reception.
Your Name. is an enchanting love story about rural Japanese woman Mitsuha Miyamizu (Mone Kamishiraishi) and brash Tokyo boy Taki Tachibana (Ryunosuke Kamiki). Under the tail of the Tiamat Comet, they begin to intermittently Freaky Friday into each other’s bodies for days at a time. Together, they nourish Tachibana’s budding office romance and bring Miyamizu closer to her family.
While anime is known far and wide for its more exotic tropes, Your Name. puts the style’s mundane calling cards on display. There’s loving detail in every composition, befitting something that was drawn instead of shot, but to a more pronounced degree and stranger effect than you see in most Western cartoons. Teenagers touching themselves and the making of Kuchikamizake, sacred sake brewed from a slurry of rice and spit, potential gross-out gags in more careless hands, are shot as everyday parts of life. In this manner, Your Name. shows off why Japanese media is so interesting to adapt for American audiences — when it isn’t scrubbed with cultural steel wool, that is.
Director Makoto Shinkai is known for putting normal emotions into fantastic frames, and that’s the core of the movie’s charm. Your Name. is a simple story about young people, and not even particularly a coming-of-age story, but it’s delightful.
Unfortunately, it’s also far too easy to split in two pieces, and the first half is distinctly stronger than the second.
After a couple of months, Miyamizu and Tachibana discover they have also been Lake Houseing each other, and Miyamizu is three years behind Tachibana. This is a huge problem, because that same three years before Tachibana’s time, a freak meteor split off from Tiamat and destroyed Itomori, Miyamizu’s town, killing everyone who was out celebrating the celestial event’s peak visibility. Tachibana spends the second half of the movie trying to Freaky Friday back in time and save his other half.
The sudden transition that sinks this phase of the movie, as well as the lengthy loss of Miyamizu, who had been set up distinctly as the more important character. Where well-executed twists are seeded and make sense in retrospect, there’s simply no hint that she’s about to die. It’s jarring, and you never get used to it.
At the same time, the casuality with which even a literal act of God is portrayed keeps the film on an even keel. Tachibana’s search for his lost partner builds to a tearjerking conclusion that wouldn’t have been possible without the first half of the movie.
Whether for its stronger or weaker moments, Your Name. is a calming movie and a joy to watch, the kind that desperately needs to come out more often.
Leopold Knopp is a journalism student at the University of North Texas. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.