Your Name. ★★★

You ever watch a movie that catches you off guard? That surprises you with where its story goes in its second act? One that, because of this story turn, you kinda fall in love with? Don't you hate it when the same movie does everything it can to water down everything good about itself to make sure the ending is as happy as possible even if it doesn't make any damn sense?

Your Name is Makoto Shinkai's latest and most financially successful film, and is once again a quiet and subtle slice-of-life tale with a small fantasy element. We follow two Japanese teens, city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha, who have never met but become inexplicably linked when they swap bodies while dreaming.

The first act doesn't do much you don't expect when hearing a premise like that. They explore their new anatomy, awkwardly sit through each other's classes, and confront their parents about their odd behavior. Eventually they set up a system to communicate with each other so they don't ruin their social lives, and they seem to both find ways to improve the other's life. Fairly standard stuff, if the backgrounds and character animation weren't top notch this would seem like just another episode of just another anime.

So it's a welcome surprise when the true nature of the story reveals itself about 30 minutes in. I won't spoil it, but the reveal is handled brilliantly and elevates the film into something special. It subverted my expectations so effectively that I genuinely had no idea where the story would go from there.

This was because the cheesy happy ending we get is one that the film breaks its own rules in order to realize. After all the serious implications of the reveal in the second act make the story stand out, it is extremely disappointing to see the filmmakers pull their punch in such a cheap way.

Your Name was so close to being one of my favorite films of the year. It tells a clever and personal story that manages to keep you guessing until its disappointing conclusion. Worth seeking out for the art alone, it's just too bad the story isn't as good as the visuals.

Shinkai Ranked