A journey through time, space, and Japan, with wondrous animation and the sort of emotional impact that will leave a crater where your heart used to be.
As part of their special events week, Southampton’s Showcase Cinema de Lux screened Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, the story of Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl in rural Japan, and Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), a boy in Tokyo, who find themselves intermittently switching bodies with each other.
It opens similarly to your typical rom-com, with a light-hearted feel, and lots of genuinely laugh-out-loud quips and jokes, as Mitsuha and Taki experience how their other half lives. For example, Mitsuha, overwhelmed by the expense of Tokyo, wastes Taki’s money on elaborate café desserts, and gets him a date with his crush by giving him a “feminine side”. Taki, as Mitsuha, stands up for her as she is teased by classmates, and learns about the myths and legends of the quaint, fictional town of Itomori.
The film first premiered at Anime Expo in July 2016, and was released in the UK this past November to critical acclaim. Already, it has become the highest grossing Japanese animated film worldwide, beating out the likes of Studio Ghibli and their numerous classics.
In fact, the director of animation, Masashi Ando, is best known for his work within Ghibli, at the helm of films such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. It is no surprise then that the film is full of fantastical scenery. Itomori is surrounded by the Hida mountain range of Japan’s reality, with shrines and festivals that draw beautifully on the country’s rich traditions. Its wide lakes and sprawling forests make for stunning lighting, as it sparkles off the water’s surface and dapples through the trees, and even the booming industry of Tokyo is reimagined as a fresh and glistening paradise. Behind the scenery, the lead vocalist of Japanese rock band Radwimps provides an energetic soundtrack, exhibited through several music-video-like segments, where the music is able to take the place of dialogue with ease.
Speaking of dialogue, Showcase screened the film in both its subtitled and dubbed forms. At least in the subtitled version, there were a few complications of translation, such as with the concept of “kataware doki”. Although this roughly translates to “twilight”, it is a dialectic term and so required a place in the subtitles in its original Japanese term. There was also a humorous section in which Mitsuha, in Taki’s body, refers to her male body in a female pronoun form that does not exist in English, although, again, it was effectively dealt with. The only true problem was presented as a major plot point, revealed through newspaper clippings, animated with Japanese text. This meant that as the dialogue was translated along the bottom of the screen, the text was being translated along the top, requiring the ability to read two sentences almost at once. Consequently, some of the emotional impact was lost on a few of the audience members.
Even without these small issues, the plot can be hard to follow. After a significant plot point unfolds, the narrative becomes muddled and it can be hard to keep track. However, although hard to grasp, the plot never unravels, following as though it were a piece of twisted string.
The film’s conclusion is truly heart-warming, and the whole film is a masterpiece of animation, suspense and romance. If Hayao Miyazaki does return from retirement, he’ll have high expectations to meet.
The ultimate week-long cinematic experience at Showcase Cinema de Lux Southampton takes place from 9th-15th June 2017 at Showcase Cinema, Southampton Watermark Centre. Tickets, as well as a full-line up of events can be viewed here.