Your Name.

Your Name. ★★★★★

Anime Marches On! 2018 Challenge
4/5 from the 2010's

The ton of superlatives, awards, and box office receipts that have resulted from Makoto Shinkai's 2016 masterwork all make sense to me now upon finally watching it.

If Hayao Miyazaki's next project ("How Do You Live?") is truly his last, the future of the genre he helped popularize seems to be in very sure hands, judging by this and the recent works of Mamoru Hosoda. These filmmakers create films that will help restore your faith in humanity (is there higher praise than that?)...and in this era of a seemingly heightened schism between people (reinforced on social media and information outlets), I'll take all the food for the soul I can get.

Storywise, this is a stunner. As an elder character in the film says "time is a knot." It's on that concept that we're introduced to the two main characters...Taki, a well-intentioned high school boy living in Tokyo, and Mitsuha, a restless high school girl residing in the small rural town of Itomori. The two begin to awake in one another's bodies, and the distressing and comedic aspects of that situation is what the film first hits us with. How and why is this happening? Without giving too much away, let's just say a village shrine, shifting timelines, a comet passing Earth, a missed encounter, and a catastrophic event all figure into the plot, which unfolds in a creative and immersive manner, pulling the viewer closer in as it progresses. It can seem a tad convoluted at certain points (one of the few common complaints about the movie) but it all comes together beautifully by its conclusion.

Among the numerous strengths of "Your Name" are how engaging the characters are. Not just Taki and Mitsuha, but their individual friends, family members and co-workers as well. Everyone seems genuine, and aren't presented as mere props or generic story machinations. In short, the world building here is as good as you're going to find in the medium. Outside of the leads, I especially liked how fully realized the character of Miki (who works in a restaurant with Taki) is. Shinkai sets up what may seem to be a familiar story arc with her and other side characters, only to turn that expectation on its head. I liked these people as a whole, and enjoyed their realistic interactions.

In terms of the animation work...I can't imagine anyone not being floored by it. While the character designs and realization of motion are top-drawer, I truly loved the backgrounds. Especially the details given to the quiet, scenic town of Itomori. The film is full of establishing shots, and almost every one of them seemed tailor made for framing on one's wall. The kaleidoscopic beauty of the comet and the trails across the sky it leaves behind are almost hallucinatory in their presentation. No wonder those shots figure prominently in the movie's trailer.

As the film was winding down, I sat there internalizing whether I would give this 4 1/2 or 5 stars...and then the movie's final beat happened. I'm close to tearing up thinking about it. It's more than just the best animated film of 2016, it's one of the best movies of that year, period. Highly Recommended.

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