Your Name.

Your Name. ★★★½

Your Name. was my first experience with director Makoto Shinkai's work, and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. That said, Your Name. is not a film without its issues, and I do believe its quality was over-hyped.

The film opens with high-school teens Mitsuha and Taki realizing that they are somehow swapping bodies, and it utilizes this body-swapping trope in a unique way to create a mystery-romance story that carries the film for the first 45 minutes or so. One of the film's greatest strengths in the opening segment is the way that it does not hold its audience's hand at the start of the film to over-explain the body swapping that is taking place. Instead, Shinkai throws his audience directly into the drama and trusts in their ability to sort it out for themselves. This is confident, refreshing writing, and worthy of praise and attention.

Thankfully, just as the body-swapping romance begins to lose its luster and grow a little stale, Shinkai shifts gears and sends his protagonists on a quest that explores themes including love, time, and memory. This is the more compelling part of the plot, for sure, and contains the film's most emotionally-resonant scenes. However, the writing does get a little sloppy here, relying on some unexplained leaps and too-convenient happenings to move the plot along. When everything finally builds to its too-predictable ending, there is a hint of disappointment leftover from an otherwise fine film.

The strengths of the film are clearly its gorgeous animation and the clever, funny story. Everything frame of the film is detailed and vibrant, and it is a first-rate example of standard anime-style animation. My biggest issues with Your Name. are the development of secondary characters and the use of music. Many members of the film's supporting cast are static, underdeveloped characters that simply move the plot along. It makes it harder for the world to feel rich and real when the only characters with any depth are the two protagonists. Additionally, the use of silly pop song montages cheapens the film rather than adding to it. I understand this is a common convention in anime films, but that doesn't make it work here.

Featuring beautiful animation and an interesting, unique story-line, Your Name. is one of the better animated films in recent years, and certainly worth a watch (and probably a re-watch at some point). That said, it is not nearly as good as it's lofty reputation suggests (#81 on the IMDb top 250 at the time of this review and 97% on Rotten Tomatoes), so one may want to temper one's expectations.

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