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Ever since the 1980's, anime has slowly but surely crept into the American film market, with films like Akira and Ghost In The Shell blazing a path for the domestic debuts of the Studio Ghibli canon and other films of that ilk. Yet there's still a lot of work to be done, as most of these films are shown in limited release, making their potential audience really weigh the pros and cons of going out of their way to partake in their delights. Director Makoto Shinkai's latest film, Your Name, is the latest film to pose such a question, and the answer is simple: you should do everything you can to see this gorgeous and moving work of animated art.
Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) is a student who waits tables outside of school hours, and has a crush on a girl he works with. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) lives in rural Japan, and wishes for a life in big city Tokyo, away from the familial drama she calls routine. Little do these two know that a comet's passing will set off a chain of events that involves body swapping, some very meticulous note taking, and a mystery that could change both of their lives.
Your Name has been hyped to death, as not only have critics taken a shine to it, but the film has made over $300 million on the international market alone. Thankfully, the adaptation of writer/director Makoto Shinkai's own novel lives up to the positive buzz that's permeated the internet. In an era where CGI tales of simple moral lessons dominate the world of animated entertainment, this film stands as a testament to just how effective of a medium animation is when it comes to telling a story of deep emotion and lush symbolism. The hand drawn art to Your Name entrances the eye, and allows its central story to be told in such an alluring manner that it only enhances Taki and Mitsuha's thematic relationship.
Even more impressive is the fact that somewhere in the second act of Your Name, the film shifts from a romantic comedy to something almost completely different than advertised. What's so special about this tonal shift is the fact that the movie doesn't lose a step of momentum when it shifts gears. So while the focus and tone may have changed, the film's deliberate pace doesn't suffer any sort of slowdowns or problems of inaccessibility. The first act's set-up shifts onto an unexpected path of events, each more complicated than the ones that preceded them. And yet, it's the attention to detail that really makes the jump work, as you're just as invested as you were frame one.
As with any anime, Your Name will give you a choice on whether you want to experienced the English voice dub, or the original Japanese with subtitles. For the purposes of this review, I watched the film with the English subtitles, and I had no problem following along with the action and the dialogue. But if you're the type of viewer that'd rather have a dubbed experience, you'll want to double check your local listings for which version is playing in your market.
That said, I cannot recommend seeing Your Name highly enough, whether you choose the subbed or dubbed version. It is a film that transcends traditional narrative trappings to become one of my early favorites from 2017, balancing emotion with humor and mystery in equal measure. If you think the theatrical market's in a lull this weekend, go see Your Name and celebrate the fact that this film is even showing in the U.S.