Where so many movie romances begin with a charming meet-cute-and-progress-from-there, audiences can never be quite sure whether the central couple in “Your Name” could ever meet, even though they have a weird habit of waking up in one another's bodies.
An endearingly loopy mix of time-travel, body-swap, and disaster-movie ingredients that's already a massive hit in its native Japan, this unconventional romance hails from the imagination of Makoto Shinkai, a talented up-and-coming animation director who has dedicated himself to creating some of the country's most stunning anime ever since.
Kimi no Na wa, or Your Name's fantastical premise skips the usual love at first sight cliché and introduces us its would-be couple - Tokyo teen Taki and provincial schoolgirl Mitsuha, under far more intimate circumstances. So, rather than worrying about all the things that could potentially come between them, as it normally would in a romantic drama, here the suspense hinges on whether these two characters will succeed in figuring out who they actually are and from there, why the cosmos deemed them worthy to connect in the first place.
Initially, Taki and Mitsuha weren't sure of the body swap occurrence, mistaking days spent in a complete stranger's skin as vivid dreams. This is until through their friends' and family's reactions they come to the realisation. Of course, neither has any clue how to handle being thrust into the other's life, surrounded by strangers in a place far from their own homes. It takes a few such switches before they even learn to communicate, and longer still before they discover how to use the arrangement to their mutual advantage.
Sooner or later, this playful setup gives way to a far more elaborate supernatural scenario, one that exploits a feeling not unlike déjà vu, but only stronger, as neither character can seem to hold onto the memory of what they did while out-of-body for long. Meanwhile, the puzzle becomes increasingly clear to us, as we gradually come to understand the significance of a gorgeous meteorite-sighting atmosphere teased in the film's opening seconds.
Audiences would be hard pressed to find any animator capable of rendering more beautiful skies, or landscapes other than Shinkai. His work just goes to show that the tradition of hand-drawn animation isn't dead. His earlier films, “5 Centimeters Per Second” and “The Garden of Words”, are two of the most beautiful animated features ever made. The director and his team have found a way to keep the aesthetic alive and further beyond it, even while doing all of their drawing on tablets and screens. Among the innovations of Shinkai's all-digital approach are the director's signature hyper-realistic backgrounds, which are more than mere paintings, but shimmer and change perspective in ways that the old cellular-based techniques never allowed.
Technically, to say anything more would be a spoiler. The only way to understand it is to swim in it for yourself, feel your own heart braid around these two lives, and gaze up in awe at the silvery arc that falling stars trace across the sky.
Tamim Bin Zakir aka Shwag_Lord(PSN ID) is an enraged individual who seldom thinks of being generous to others. Feel free to devour his tranquility at firstname.lastname@example.org