I have people tell me all the time that they'll never understand anime, they'll never watch it and they'll never like it. That's ok, because those people are all the more susceptible to have their minds blown wide open by 'Your Name', the latest Funimation film to make it's way into American theaters. (In fact, it opens Friday, April 7 at Celebration Cinema North in West Michigan!)
'Your Name' is currently the highest grossing anime film of all time, surpassing the works of the anime master (and a personal favorite) Hayao Miyazaki, the man who put Studio Ghibli on the map. Not only was it the #1 movie in Japan last year, the film is Certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes with a 98%. And after being able to watch it, I can whole heartedly agree.
'Your Name' is a romance ... but it's not a romance. It's a body-swap comedy ... but it's not a body-swap comedy. It's sci-fi ... but you get the idea. 'Your Name' refuses to be defined by one type of films, borrowing all the best parts of each and molding them together under one of anime's most prominent tropes - two high schoolers. Our leads are incredibly well-voiced in the English dub, with Mitsuha Miyamizu being voiced by Stephanie Sheh and male lead Taki Tachibana voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas. The pair have worked together before, both on Naruto Shippuden and Bleach.
The story begins as we meet our female protagonist, Mitsuha and learn a little about her life. Mitsuha is a very traditional Japanese girl, helping her grandmother take care of her little sister and their shrine while being taught the traditional ways in a rural town. She is a good student and a good person but longs for more as a comet passes over the town.
... and along comes Taki. A high school student in Tokyo, Taki is a guy who goes for it, 100%, no matter what 'it' is including his affections for a co-worker. Dude is just living his life until BAM, comet lights up the sky and he wakes up in the body of our female lead and we've got a story folks. The body swap is good for laughs at the start but leads to much, much more.
The pair is initially just finding ways to deal with switching places at random times and it evolves from there. They develop a deeper understanding for one another and eventually...look, this movie is a ride, an emotional thrill with not just deeply developed main characters but compelling stories for the side characters as well. This is a movie about love and loss and struggle and time and it's freaking incredible.
The fact that this movie did not win the Oscar for best animated film last year is a travesty of epic proportions. Not only does director Makoto Shinkai craft a brilliant film based off of his own novel, he made a strikingly beautiful work of art. This movie looks as incredible as the story is, the pair as deserving of one another as Taki and Mitsuha. Shinkai worked with animation director Masashi Ando who also worked on the Studio Ghinli masterpiece 'Spirited Away'. The landscapes themselves make this movie worth the price of admission in theaters. When you're noticing the way the water moves, you know the animation is incredible.
No seriously. Just stare at this and realize this image comes in the first 15 minutes of the movie and it only gets better from there.
The soundtrack was redone entirely in English for this release by RADWIMPS and frankly, is perfect. I am gonna need it for this summer to blast while I drive through the night.
FINAL RATING: 9.5/10 Red Threads Of Fate
If this is a sample of what director Makoto Shinkai is capable of, I want more and I want it now. 'Your Name' is a brilliant step forward for the anime genre and a brilliant animated film no matter where it was made. 'Your Name' hits select theaters Friday, April 7 so go and see it while it's here...and then pre-order the Blu-Ray like I just did.