Makoto Shinkai makes some of the most beautiful and touching anime films. He is most famous for his previous critically acclaimed works The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004) and 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007). His movies tend to focus on romance and usually have sci-fi trappings as well. Shinkai's newest film Your Name became a wild hit in the summer of 2016 and is the highest grossing anime worldwide. It's fantastic to see his work finally get the recognition it deserves, and I hope this is the catalyst that gets people to take a look at some of his older filmography.
Your Name focuses on the lives of two very different individuals: Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a young girl living in the rural town of Itomori and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamik), a teenage boy living in the epicenter of Tokyo. For unknown reasons, a few times a week they switch bodies, though their memories of what goes on while swapped is hazy and dream-like. This leads to them becoming quite fond of each other, but a traumatic event threatens to tear them apart.
I watched the Japanese language version of this film and the voice acting was outstanding. Both actors change their voices to a masculine and feminine version to indicate who is in what body at any particular time and it's done very subtly. They even have certain mannerisms unique to each other and the attention to detail given to the gestures made and body movements is incredible. Shinkai loves to insert elements of science fiction into his love stories and he plays around with the concept of timelines and time travel in this film. He keeps it simple and doesn't let too many intricate details bog down the narrative. The characters are fleshed out and easy to emphasize with which makes the story that much more emotionally resonate. While this usually goes unnoticed in animated films, the editing in Your Name is excellent. It reminds me a bit of Satoshi Kon's (Paprika, Perfect Blue) style in the way it is cleverly employed to show the passing of time in interesting ways.
Every single scene in this film is a feast for the eyes. Shinkai makes the most gorgeous anime I have ever seen. The colors are saturated and sumptuous making even the most normal locations look like works of art. It's crisp and clean though it has shades of Impressionism from time to time, with one abstract scene that deconstructs the animation to fluttering lines and wispy strokes. No detail is too small to be noticed and embellished upon in this film--with shots of characters opening cold, condensation-covered drinks in the twilight or of sliding doors opening with a bang. There is something alluring and sensual about the mundane in Your Name--it somehow evokes feelings of nostalgia even though I have never seen these places before.
Yojiro Noda, the lead vocalist of the Japanese rock band Radwimps, composed the theme music of Your Name. The score fits perfectly and ramps up the mood of each scene. It's quiet and soft when it needs to be and energetic and epic towards the climax of the film. It's definitely one of the main contributing factors of why this movie is so effective.
Many people think anime is all giant robots and over-the-top flashy fights, but in Japan it is so ubiquitous that it covers every kind of genre you can imagine. If you are in the mood for a romantic comedy that will seriously tug on your heartstrings then Your Name should be on your list. Two lovers transcending time and space to connect is an inspiring story no matter what country you hail from.