I liked Miyazaki's cartoon THE WIND RISES (2013) and have been enjoying Japanese cinema in general, so I was game to give YOUR NAME. a try. Happily our local theater is showing it in Japanese with English subtitles, which I find highly preferable to seeing the dubbed version which is also in release.
YOUR NAME., called KIMI NO NA WA in Japan, proved to be an exquisitely lovely and quite unusual movie which was a memorable viewing experience.
The movie begins as a sort of spin on FREAKY FRIDAY, with country girl Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Tokyo boy Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) occasionally randomly switching bodies, then returning to their normal lives.
Mitsuha and Taki don't know why it's happening or when to expect it, but once they realize they're not having crazy dreams, they help one another out by leaving written messages on their cell phones detailing their days. The incorporation of modern "cell phone culture" into the story line is particularly inspired and realistic.
Although there is awkwardness inhabiting the body of someone of the opposite sex, Mitsuha in particular begins to enjoy her chances to experience life in the big city, especially when she's spending Taki's money on sweets in cafes -- which she then photographs on his phone.
And then suddenly the movie flips from a body switch comedy into a time travel story of sorts, questioning whether destiny can be changed and whether Mitsuha and Taki will ever be able to find one another.
Explaining the plot from this point seems well-nigh impossible; better to simply experience it and go along for the ride. It's unusual, but it works, filled with comets lighting the night sky and "deja vu" half-remembered moments, encompassing humor, disaster, and tears.
The animation is gorgeous, with a snowy scene late in the film particularly taking my breath away. The drama of the final sequence calls to mind Disney's terrific animated short PAPERMAN (2012).
I knew pretty much nothing about the movie when I went to see it, other than it was Japanese, and it was a terrific film to experience "cold." I recommend it.
Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times calls the movie "Thrillingly beautiful...An expansive achievement," while Manohla Dargis of the New York Times says it's "thoroughly charming...deeply moving." Variety termed it "wildly inventive...vividly realized and emotionally satisfying."
Parental Advisory: YOUR NAME. is rated PG for brief "suggestive content," as the characters adapt to their new bodies, and thematic elements. Potential mass destruction of a town is a plot point, but ultimately the film is an uplifting, magical story.
YOUR NAME. was directed by Makota Shinkai.
The trailer is at IMDb.