JAPANESE animation expresses its reliability yet again in world cinema with the anime Your Name, an interesting mix of genres that engages and impresses from beginning to end.
Mitshua is a country girl who secretly loathes her lifestyle in a town ruled by her strict government minister father, who embarrasses her by barking at her to stand up straight in the middle of town. She finds herself disillusioned with her lifestyle and at one point wishes to be made into a Tokyo boy in another life.
Funnily enough, fellow high schooler Taki lives in that lifestyle, combining his school studies with work as a waiter in a restaurant in the city.
In these two separate parts of Japan however, they awaken to discover that on various occasions they have awoken in each other’s bodies, thus forcing them to live the lives of their counterparts without causing much distraction and becoming accustomed to living like this.
As each alternate living their own lives combined with their other ‘lives’, Taki begins a mission of uncovering clues which could potentially result in these two strangers meeting at last, with an expected discovery looming.
On a first viewing, one sees a likeable piece but with a considerable amount more than your usual animation to absorb. That is why this is one of those films that requires a second viewing, specifically within days of the first viewing whilst still in the frame of mind. It is on the second viewing that there is much more to enjoy and not only makes the film easier to understand but ends up more worthwhile for the time spent doing so.
The main part of the success lies down with how enjoyable the company of the two main characters Taki and Mitshua can be. Observing these two young people who find themselves caught in this unusual scenario allows for an enjoyable story where we see two different walks of life effectively taken over by one another, notably in Taki’s job,
Travelling between a well-balanced use of comedy and drama, one sequence during one of the body swap moments occurs when Mitshua (as Taki) realises he has a job working at a restaurant. With the chaotic workload, she finds herself struggling to adapt to the chaotic workload Taki is used to, even failing to appease a customer whose pizza somehow includes a toothpick, and baffling his colleagues.
The humour continues to show in recurring segments when each of them discover how they have changed bodies, with the notice of particular body parts giving away the truth, much to their (understandable) horror. Playing more to teenagers is the aim of this piece which is hence why its best placed for that specific audience with its occasional use of non-crude visual gags. Along with the story, this does not play in the Toy Story-sense of aiming at all yet it succeeds at making a piece aimed at students in secondary school to young adults.
But as well as the comedic side, there is also the story that keeps us entertained as to whether they will meet in person, if ever. By leaving clues on one’s hands that serves as a reminder, that allows Taki’s quest to be helped by clues which bring him closer to his aims.
The mention by chance in a cafe of a town that Taki works out is where Mishura is based sets in motion a chain of events that provide a narrative that switches gears in the second half. Turning into a work with mystery overtones, it is one part of the film where a hybrid of genres come together to form a work that never dulls and sustains interest, even when elements of other genres come in.
Taki (as Mishura) is often seen causing gradual confusion to her sister as the continuous body-swapping makes her act differently to what she has acted before. There are moments like that which are purely delightful and they work respectably alongside various other sequences which take place throughout dealing with different themes, from acceptance to disillusionment to courage.
The contrast between the environments that our two leads are involved in shows an exploration into the different ways people live. In the town of Itomori, characters are seen disillusioned with the aspect of living in an area which though serene does play as uninspiring. In one scene an older acquaintance of Mishura confides that he has accepted his life will happen here, said in a resigned manner, which gives an idea as to how ambition plays as a thee in regards to Mishura’s Tokyo dreams.
In contrast, we see the a chitecture in the capital dominate the skyline where lifestyle difference is all but shown when Mishura (as Taki) explains that the price for food in a Tokyo restaurant is akin to what could be purchased for a month in her homeland. There we see the irony of someone who craves the city life, only to be taken aback at the cost of living, so we also see an interesting piece of social economic commentary too.
With its mixing of genres, a genuinely likeable duo onscreen and a charm perfect for this type of work, Your Name represents just why we are lucky that Japan makes this kind of picture.