FOLLOWING a hugely-successful and praise-filled first-run, Japanese film Your Name returns to UK cinemas in IMAX this week (starting August 23).
Mitsuha is a schoolgirl living in rural Japan. During a vivid dream, she finds herself in the body of a teenage boy named Taki who lives in the centre of Tokyo. After some confusion and enjoyment, Mitsuha is relieved to wake up in her own body the next morning – that is until the people around her start questioning her bizarre behaviour the day before.
Realising something mysterious is at play, it soon becomes apparent to Mitsuha that her body-swap with Taki is a reality. As the two continue to body swap in their dreams, they find ways to communicate and bond with each-other.
Director Makoto Shinkai (The Place Promised In Our Early Days, 5 Centimetres per Second) hits upon an endearing blend of humour, style and substance in Your Name. His tale pits tranquil rural life against the bustling city, as Taki and Mitsuha get an opportunity to experience and appreciate their different lifestyles.
Shinkai does a great job of contrasting the two – while still finding tremendous beauty and value in both. One moment, the sparkling lake and sleepy greens of Mitsuha’s village. The next, the non-stop mechanic energy and shimmering skyscrapers of Tokyo.
This also branches off into themes of modernity and tradition. We see Mitsuha, guided by her spiritually-driven Grandmother, taking part in a kuchikami ritual. For Taki, his city rituals are more transient and involve taking food selfies at expensive-looking restaurants.
Like popular American iterations of the body-swap genre – Freaky Friday (1976 & 2003), Big (1988) and 13 Going on 30 (2004) – Your Name touches upon coming-of-age themes, in particular the awkwardness of adolescence.
Mitsuha has to deal with sniggers from classmates who witness her kuchikami ritual (in which she has to spit out rice to make sake) and tellings-off from her mayoral father. Meanwhile Taki struggles to communicate with his colleague – and crush – Ms Okudera.
Luckily when Mitsuha is in Taki’s body, she has the feminine know-how to secure a first date with the much sought-after Ms Okudera. Whether or not Taki can make the most of this date is another question.
There is no shortage of laughs until the film takes a different – but still gratifying – direction in the final thirty minutes. Shinkai’s surprising emotional twist is one which intelligently plays with issues of time and memory.
For Western audiences familiar with breath-taking Miyazakian animation, Your Name delivers equally stunning visuals with a zippy, modern flair.
Time lapses, inventive cuts and lens flairs – mixed together with the up-tempo J-Rock sounds of Radwimps – combine for a sweeping and smile-inducing fantasy. All of which are showcased in film’s opening title sequence which acts as a flamboyant and cosmic jumping on point.
Your Name is an IMAX treat – whether you saw it first time round or not – you will not want to miss. It rivals Baby Driver as the most irresistibly fun film experience of the year so far.
The perfect way to spend an evening. Even better if enjoyed with a glass of sake.
Your Name shows in IMAX from August 23. Regular screenings with both Japanese and English-language audio options
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