Sgt. Pepper (aka Johnny Kashmir)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here's a review I should have finished months ago but didn't due to a fatal combination of finals and lethargy.
As I’ve entered adolescence, trials of the academic mold and of humanity tower over me (though not as severe as I may suggest here). An unfortunate yet beautiful weakness of mine centers heavily around infatuation. Such feelings seldom evade a human, there have been times where they manifest for female peers with a military background through some circumstance. By the time I discover this, they vanish, leaving me to contemplate an unborn future where I may have spoken up. Melodrama aside, this sort of longing mirrors the crux of the plot of the record-breaking anime film Your Name, and the emotional resonance present in Makoto Shinkai’s latest alongside its ambition amount to what I’m fairly comfortable in saying may very well be the best animated film I’ll see all year.
Your Name opens to the glimmer of comets (and a J-rock montage that falls into the acquired taste spectrum), and then presents a day in the life of its protagonists: Mitsuha, a teenage girl becoming increasingly resentful of life in her sleepy mountainous hometown, and Taki, a Tokyo native juggling the rigors of high school and a job. However, one morning, something feels off for both of them. Quickly, they realize the weight of their situation: They have begun a cyclical phenomenon of switching bodies. From there, the two begin establishing communication with each other and dabble in each others’ personal lives, eventually deciding to meet up in person. However, forces beyond their control might just interfere with their budding rapport.
Shinkai’s crafty storytelling buttresses Your Name significantly. Shinkai’s eye for detail emanates within not only the nigh-photorealistic environments spread across the runtime but also in the dynamics of its central characters; For example, when Taki is in Mitsuha’s body (and vice versa) they maintain said body’s voice and vice versa. These two characters are ones we learn about through their actions, and their contrasting responses to their constantly changing environments keeps the film chugging along at a pleasant pace. Much credit for the film’s ability to do this lies in an endlessly riveting genre-juggling act - at first it works agreeably with the coming of age dramedy with quite the sense of humor but eventually delves into puzzling yet immensely satisfying sci-fi work (I won’t delve into spoilers, but for me it brought to mind Interstellar and Arrival, though Your Name in no way emulates them in a blatant manner) in the second act onward. Not all of it may clear itself up within a first viewing, but it certainly elevates the film to truly ambitious heights often avoided by genre peers on western shores. It’s not to say that every single thread in this cinematic tapestry is securely tightened for maximum coherence (there are a couple plotholes that the director has conceded bring down the film, which he couldn’t outright fix given production constraints), but Your Name’s inherent ability to remain no less than enchanting makes these sporadic loose ends relatively unnoticeable during the runtime.
Also brought to the table by Your Name is a somewhat unconventional but subtle romance, at least within my experience, in that longing spawns from the protagonists’ growing sense of understanding each other through quite literally walking in their shoes. The vast barriers of distances quantifiable and not galvanize the storyline while ringing true to quite a few experiences we all share (such as the one I cited above). To some this may seem a bit abrupt given the film’s runtime but within this context, where they compliment each other through their own personal experiences, it works like a charm. For all the admitted conventionality of some of its conclusion, Mitsuha and Taki’s story will certainly pull heartstrings delicately yet with enough assertion that pangs will consume much of the audience.
Some say Akira Kurosawa’s golden age of samurai films qualitatively trampled over the bloodless, safe Westerns of America. Likewise, Your Name stands far above much of its western contemporaries in the realm of animated fare, mostly on account of its singular narrative, sincere characters, and its eye-popping visual caliber. It transcends the barrier between the anime fan and its skeptic, and definitely deserves notice in a year dominated by sequels to subpar films and the death throes of creatively exhausted studios.