Your Name: When Body-Swapping Encounters Adolescence

Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s latest animated film, has been making news and setting records in Japan (it’s currently the second highest grossing film of all time over there!) and after watching it, I’m not surprised. Your Name initially comes off as a light-hearted comedy but evolves into a film that touches upon various relatable themes that are woven throughout this story of adolescence, nostalgia, and love.

The movie focuses on two characters: Mitsuha, a high school girl who is tired of living in the countryside and Taki, a high school city boy living in Tokyo. After a desperate plea to become a handsome boy in the city, the two teenagers begin to swap bodies randomly, only to vaguely remember the switch afterwards, similar to a dream.

Their initial experiences of swapping bodies set up the comedic tone of the film, ranging from Taki’s wonderment of having breasts to Mitsuha making the moves on Taki’s female coworker without his approval. The supporting cast, Mitsuha’s and Taki’s family and classmates, add to comedy as they are completely confused to why their friends seem to act like someone else during certain days. This first half of the film serves as a nice way for the viewer to get acquainted with Taki and Mitsuha’s daily lives as well as developing their characters.

Body-swapping hijinks are high towards the beginning of the film.

After a particular event, however, the tone of the movie shifts to a darker one that delves into the themes that were lightly touched upon during the first half. Themes such as memories, family, tradition, and adolescence are interwoven well as the mystery behind the body-swapping begins to unravel. If you have seen any of Makoto Shinkai’s previous films, his themes of the past and trying to change it is very present here.

The plot of the movie is told very well, not only through the eyes of the main characters, but the supporting ones as well. From Mitsuha’s younger (and more responsible) sister and traditional grandmother to Taki’s loyal classmates and coworkers, we see how Taki and Mitsuha evolve and develop into more complex characters through their interactions with them.

One of the strongest points in Your Name is the art. Shinkai is known for having very detailed backgrounds in his films that do an excellent job in portraying life in Japan. From Japan’s traditional-bound countryside to the more modern Tokyo, Shinkai adds great detail to these contrasting settings. The quiet roads of the countryside that are filled with rice fields and train crossings as well as the near-perfect rendition of major Tokyo areas and stations really make you feel like you are there.

The sounds also contribute to the authenticity of the settings.  Coincidentally enough, I was watching the film with a friend who also lived in the sticks in Japan. He was having huge nostalgia flashbacks when he would hear the old-sounding P.A. announcements from the countryside saying “That’s my city! This is my city!” Meanwhile, I was smiling every time I heard the sounds of the doors of a convenience store opening, the jingle of a train arriving at a station, or the sound of a Boss coffee can coming down from a vending machine.

I really wanted to visit Japan again after watching this film. If you have ever been, you will probably get hit by some waves of nostalgia as well and if you haven’t, well, this is basically what Japan is like (aside from the supernatural side of things).

Your Name is a wonderful film that has a little bit of everything in it: coming-of-age, fantasy, comedy, romance, and drama that is all about the various ties you have with people, time and memories. It is clear that Japan’s recent hardships have influenced Shinkai’s creation of the story and he does a fantastic job in mixing it in this movie.

Currently, Your Name is on limited release in several theaters throughout the country and I highly recommend catching it on the big screen. While I cannot say anything about the English dub, the subtitled version is a great translation. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie and if you enjoy it, check out Shinkai’s other films. While Studio Ghibli may not have as strong a presence nowadays, movies like Your Name ensure that there will still be great animated films coming from Japan for years to come.