Anime ‘Your Name’ transcends tropes

Photo courtesy of Funimation Films

After nearly a year of anticipation, “Your Name,” or “Kimi no Na Wa,” premiered in select U.S. theaters this past Saturday, April 7. “Your Name” can be seen at Midtown Arts Cinema either in English dub or in Japanese with English subtitles.

Viewers may choose to watch it in Japanese to try to catch some of the nuance in the wording of the title, which in Japanese is actually a pun; when the characters ask for each other’s names, they are also asking “Who are you?” Additionally, there is a comedic scene where a character is confused on what form of gendered Japanese pronoun to use that does not properly translate to English. These distinctions do not translate well to the dub and are subtle for the English speaking viewer, but they can be fun points to pick up on if one knows a little about the Japanese language.

This movie has received much praise at home and abroad with a nomination for an Oscar and the title of the top grossing anime movie in Japan. However, the basic concept of the film is nothing new: two people switch bodies, and shenanigans ensue.

However, “Your Name” avoids cliché by only using this trope as a grounding point around which the remainder of the plot quickly evolves past. The honesty written into the characters, their relationships and their personal development throughout elevate the movie past its cliched premise.

Super fans may have already seen the film since it has been available on several dubious websites online. However, viewing this specific film in theaters is a worthwhile experience because “Your Name” surpasses expectations with its cinematography
and scenery.

On the big screen, the gorgeous colors of the movie’s signature meteor pops in the night sky, and viewers can better appreciate the dazzling country landscapes, the urban cityscapes and the marvelously detailed backgrounds for which director Makoto Shinkai is so well known. Shinkai excellently captures that wistful feel, characteristic of many of his previous works, partly due to the juxtaposition of these cityscapes and sprawling countrysides, which are always lit by the waning light of evening.

Unfortunately, one problem that this movie suffers from is its somewhat sudden tonal shifts and awkward pacing. The extensive plot has some fairly clear “chapters.” Each of these chapters has a distinct mood, beginning cheery and comedic and midway through the movie becoming much darker and more suspenseful, losing all of its humorous tone.

The one consistency may be the fact that the scenery always seems to be lit by the wistful waning light of evening. Though this harsh transition may be the director’s intent, it is considerably jarring for viewers.

Additionally, some sections of the movie seem rushed due to time constraints. The run time is an hour and 47 minutes, but at times, it feels much longer. Some sections of the movie feel rushed and underdeveloped, like Mitsuha’s relationship with her father which ends with an unresolved cliffhanger. On the other hand, other parts, like Taki’s countryside searching and the movie’s resolution, seem to drag on unnecessarily. In fact, it feels like the movie’s production was being rushed in the later stages because the second half of the movie seems much less tightly written.

While Shinkai is not necessarily breaking any new ground with the themes of “Your Name,” tackling such controversial subjects as love overcoming obstacles and the existence of destiny, for the most part he explores them with maturity and nuance. Some more subtle takeaways, though, were more interesting, such as the benefit of androgynous characteristics and the value of both rural and urban lifestyles.

Though he used many extremely fantastical elements as plot points, Shinkai successfully grounds the movie in its relatable characters and captivating scenery. Overall, despite its pacing and unimaginative premise, “Your Name” skillfully exhibits what a modern animated film can accomplish in terms of stunning visuals and engaging character development.