This body-swap comedy has been making Studio Ghibli-level money at the Japanese box-office, and now UK anime fans can see what all the fuss is about
Japanese animation Your Name arrives on the UK’s shores with a degree of hype behind it unlike anything anime usually receives (unless Studio Ghibli is somehow involved). The reason: just three months into its theatrical run back home, Makoto Shinkai’s film is already, at the very least at the time of writing, the seventh-highest earning film – foreign or domestic – ever released in Japan.
Shinkai is best known to date for a filmography generally praised to the heavens for their dazzling, painterly animation, but often less so the scripts and characters they support. That complaint is less applicable to Your Name, a film where his effervescent young protagonists shine just as much as the glistening background details of every composition.
Mitsuha is a high school girl living in a small lakeside town, who longs for big city life; so much so that at night she dreams she inhabits the form of a schoolboy in faraway Tokyo. Except this is no dream. Every so often, Mitsuha really does take control of this urban teen, forced to live his life. And that boy, Taki, is suffering the reverse fate, controlling Mitsuha’s body in his own sleep a few nights a week.
Their respective uses of each other's forms leave strange consequences for the body’s owner to deal with the next day. Eventually clocking on to what’s happening, the pair begin communicating with each other, leaving messages on the phones of the other so they can pick up the pieces. A strong connection is formed, despite the two not actually knowing each other’s names, as a strange side effect is that neither can remember the other’s name when they wake up.
But then one day the body swapping stops and Mitsuha’s presence in the world seems to vanish. A celestial event that may have caused their shape-shifting shenanigans is also responsible for a cataclysmic disruption. And so this fantastical Freaky Friday riff enters the mode of Back to the Future, in that our heroes seek to correct a known forthcoming catastrophe through a fight against time and destiny.
The populist appeal behind Your Name’s domestic success makes a lot of sense upon watching. It’s got a high-concept premise that Shinkai exploits to its fullest comedic potential in a stellar first act, before then working a fine balance between sweet sentiment, mind-bending existential crises regarding death and our place in the universe, heart-wrenching romance, a probing of traditional gender roles, and (most surprisingly) one of the only good films concerning mass destruction via comet. One might say it leaves a deep impact. (Sorry.)
Your Name will screen in both English language and Japanese versions, and is distributed in UK cinemas through Anime Limited and National Amusements
To find a screening near you, go to yournamethemovie.co.uk