After finding Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no koe) more proof-of-concept that completed film, and The Garden of Words (Koto no ha no niwa) solid but emotionally distant, Makoto Shinkai’s new film hits a home run for me.
Essentially a body swap sci-fi/fantasy, it tells the story of Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), two high school kids who periodically switch bodies. Mitsuha is from a beautiful small country town, whilst Taki lives in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. Whenever they wake up in their own bodies once more, they have only fleeting memories of their experiences as the other person, like an abstract dream clinging onto the edge of consciousness. In their attempt to find meaning in this strange turn of events, they find themselves heading towards disaster.
For those who worry that “traditional” 2D animation is dead, look no further than Your Name (Kimi no na wa). The film is stunning to behold. A mix of 2D characters and frequently three-dimensional backgrounds makes for jaw-dropping viewing. This is the new gold standard of 2D animation. Maybe I’ve been watching too many anime TV shows and not enough features (I’m looking at you, ‘Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles’) but I was frequently amazed at not only the detail of the images here, but the sheer numbers of elements in motion at any one time. It’s clear that a lot of painstaking work went into this.
Shinkai is a master of montage, and I’ve often found his short films to be too fast-paced as a result. In Your Name, the story actually gets time to breathe. This means, when we do get to his trademark montages, they’re all the more effective.
For all the praise I’m heaping upon the film, there’s very little original here. We’ve seen similar stories in Frequency or The Lake House, but it’s Shinkai’s ability to provoke an emotional response that makes this such exceptional viewing. The climax is an incredibly complicated piece of filmmaking, and seemed to almost stretch out for half an hour. Yet every moment of it was tear-jerking, pulse-pounding stuff.
Fans of speculative fiction should seek this one out. Those who want a romance that really resonates will be rewarded also. It’s a stunning piece of animation, and the 106 minutes fly by.Rating: