Reviewing: Your Name (2017)

 

"Taki" (left) and "Mitsuha" (right) from "Your Name".

Courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.

by Cole Albinder

Let’s face it: the movie industry isn’t quite what it used to be. You can’t go a day without hearing about a remake, reboot, or sequel to an existing property, or setting up one movie as part of a planned franchise. Originality exists, but it doesn’t take center stage anymore; movie studios think they know what audiences want, when what they really want is something they haven’t seen before. That’s what brought people to see movies in the first place: to experience characters similar to or far removed from you or I, places we thought we knew but didn’t, and to leave the theaters with questions about life itself and our role in it. I recently had such an experience when I took in Your Name, a Japanese anime film about a boy from Tokyo and a girl from the countryside who form a connection when they start switching bodies on a regular basis.

Still with me? I hope so. Body switching seems like it’s an overdone concept, right? There can only be so many times where two people experiencing each others’ lives can be entertaining: both versions of Freaky FridayThe Change-Up, etc. But Your Name takes this trend and out of it spins a story that’s equal parts heartwarming, soul-crushing, and hysterical.

Courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.

Our main protagonists are Mitsuha, a high school girl living in Itomori (an otherwise fictional town in the Japanese countryside) and Taki, a high school boy who lives in Tokyo. Mitsuha yearns for a better life outside of Itomori, one that doesn’t involve her estranged, commanding father (the town’s mayor) or participating in rituals for her family shrine. In a fit of frustration after a ritual one night, she wishes she could be a handsome Tokyo boy in her next life. The next morning, she wakes up in the body of Taki, a boy of her age who just so happens to live in Tokyo. After  going through one increasingly awkward (yet hilarious) day of Taki’s life, she returns to her own body the next morning. However, it is shown that Taki has had his own misadventures in Mitsuha’s body, and they realize that they switch bodies once every day or so. After a while, they accept this swap as routine and begin influencing each other’s lives (Mitsuha becomes more popular in school, Taki successfully asks out a co-worker), forming a deep connection in the process.

At its core, Your Name is an unconventional love story, one that takes a somewhat overused concept and reworks it significantly, so that we don’t always know what’s going to happen. I enjoyed the twist revealed later in the story (which I won’t spoil here, but it’s a big one) and felt for each of the main characters, being likable just for being ordinary and not special in any way. It’s an emotional roller-coaster, but in the best of ways, and I hope to see more films like this that not only take challenges, but also provide deeper connections with their audiences.

Courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.

 

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