Your Name

Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi 

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes

by Jericho Cerrona

In adapting his own novel, writer-director Makoto Shinakai has essentially created a genre collage with Your Name; hopscotching from romance, sci-fi body-swap comedy, time-travel yarn, and into something altogether more ambitious with reckless abandon. Though the film will no doubt be praised for storytelling audacity, particularly in the twist-heavy third act, the picture is best during the hushed simplicity of its early moments. It's almost as if, fearing audiences would find the intimate longing of his two central characters too generic, Shinakai piles on the plot reversals to the point where the heart of the story becomes mired in overstuffed narrative machinations.

Things begin quaintly enough with the introduction of Mitusha (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi) and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), two young characters living on opposite sides of the spectrum, both geographically and metaphorically. Whereas Taki lives with his father in Tokyo, Mitusha resides in a small village with her sister and grandmother, but both seem to harbor similar yearnings. Essentially, Taki and Mitusha hope to escape their surroundings; to be free, to explore, to unburden themselves from the stifling environments they find themselves trapped in. The catch here is the gradual realization that the two strangers have been randomly switching bodies, a trope Shinakai mines for its inherent humor as well as emotional weight. Eventually, they figure out a way to communicate, keeping tabs on where one swap ends and the other begins, leading to some body-switching dating hijinks and unwanted outbursts. 

In exploring the possibilities of seeing the world through another's eyes, Your Name is keenly aware of both the thrill and downsides of such a scenario. At its best, the film gets at the small disappointments and larger devastation of realizing the universality of aimlessness, no matter where one resides geographically. Once a falling comet is introduced (a metaphor for the nation’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami) and the body-swapping ceases, things start careening into time-bending directions which speaks to Shinakai's noble ambitions even as it deflates much of the film's early charm. To be fair, the cosmic-spanning grandeur of the finale is gorgeously rendered; with a blend of photo-realistic animation and dreamlike colors splashing across the screen, but the manic overdrive of the storytelling still feels at odds with the picture's simple romanticism.

The idea of thinking you've met someone before, have known them in some past life, or even lived inside their body through a distant memory, is a palpable thematic device ripe with erotically-charged undercurrents. Your Name is therefore at its most sublime when leaning into such feelings; locating Mitusha and Taki's inexplicable pull toward one another and the tensions arising out of the uncertainty of romantic entanglement. Ultimately, however, since Shinakai wants to blow our minds as well as tug our heartstrings, the film's emotional core gets sidetracked by its own attempts at one-upping itself narratively. Rather than being wowed by the  time-space-continuum weirdness atop a mountain during the climax, we long for these characters to return to the vibrant simplicity of their surroundings in order to locate that very basic thing that makes us all human; a yearning to connect.