As a child of the ’80s, I’ve seen my fair share of body switch movies. From Freaky Friday to Change-Up, it has all been pretty much done, right? Not quite. Somewhere from that small slither of untapped potential, Your Name. puts its own twist on the genre. Considered an Oscar snub, Your Name. only had a 2 screening theater run in the U. S. despite breaking records in Japan and other countries. On April 7th, that all changes with a proper theatrical release, that will also debut the dubbed version, and I suggest you make the trek to witness an instant classic.
Based on his novel of the same name, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. follows teens Mitsuha and Taki, who have nothing in common until a month before a comet is due to pass by the Earth. What seems like an all too realistic dream in someone else’s body gets real when the messages they leave for each other get answered.
With it happening a few times a week, the two of them work out a system of rules and record keeping to navigate each other’s lives. With Taki being the city boy from Tokyo, and Mitsuha from a shrine in a small town just outside of the Tokyo, their differences help and hinder each other, forming a bond neither realizes at first. Yet, just when you think you have this movie figured out, it swerves.
The first act is the body switch movie we’ve all come to expect: some boob and pee jokes, relationship problems, and loveable sidekicks along for the ride. However, the first tip off that something is different was the way we are introduced to the situation. Rather than run with Taki in Mitsuha’s body, we get to see her pick up the pieces from a day she doesn’t remember. Likewise for Taki, but it’s all a trap. Coming off of a cute, bordering on saccharine sweet at times, first act, the second hits hard with the first emotional gut punch. And you better believe Your Name. loves to dole out the emotional gut punches, sometimes in a combo. I was shocked to realize my jaded, cynical self almost felt a human emotion. Almost. But that’s not enough because, along with kicking the feet out from under your heart, the rules change.
When the body switching stops, the real movie begins. A genre mash-up of fantasy, romance, and comedy, Your Name. doesn’t have any weak spots in any department. In movies like this, especially when toying with already set rules, plot points can get murky or ignored altogether, but Your Name. seems to work hard not to insult your intelligence. Even the secondary characters are kept from being clueless pawns, giving them enough smarts to know something is up, including a few who understand the situation all too well. It’s those little touches that seem so little yet pay off big, allowing us to buy in and get tagged by those gut punches rather than roll our eyes at trope #24.
The only odd moment comes at the beginning, when the cold open leads to essentially a TV show intro. It’s a weird beat, but Radwimp’s music coupled with the gorgeous animation makes it work. In an interview, Shinkai had said that the movie is unfinished in his eyes, as he and the animation director wanted to add more, but I can’t imagine how. CoMix Wave Films knocks it out of the park while managing not to overuse the cgi, saving it mostly for the background and inanimate objects. But don’t get me wrong, the cgi isn’t anything to sneeze at either.
I admit I wasn’t too jazzed walking into Your Name. but I was made a believer. A few steps removed from being Disney family friendly, it’s an instant classic. It feels like a new school Miyazaki film, which explains how it is the first non-Miyazaki anime to gross over $100 million, to go along with its long list of awards. If you’re prone to tear up, bring some tissues, and if you’re a stone heart, just be warned: it’s gonna get dusty.