Makoto Shinkai’s overly complicated anime feature buries an original story about body-swapping teens in a pile of science-fiction tropes. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name” — his fourth feature as an anime director following “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” (2004), “5 Centimeters Per Second” (2007) and “The Garden of Words” (2013) — is nothing if not ambitious.
A box-office champion in its native Japan, “Your Name” is a love story trapped in a body-switching dramedy with a time-warp twist, all set against an unimaginable natural disaster that recalls the nation’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. That’s a lot for a viewer to take in, and as pleasing as some aspects of “Your Name” can be, there’s no question Shinkai’s overstuffed movie often trips over itself.
The film serves as a reminder that an audience’s energy is not unlimited. Anime masters such as Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,” “Ponyo”) and Mamoru Hosoda (“The Boy and the Beast”) dazzle us with endless, fantastic elements in their features, yet their stories resonate with emotionally accessible, core experiences we all recognize.
Movie Review ★½
‘Your Name,’ with the voices of Ryunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi (Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh in English-dubbed version). Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai (English screenplay by Clark Cheng). 106 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. Presented in two versions: Japanese with English subtitles and English-dubbed. Several theaters.
There’s little case made for why we should care about the misadventures of “Your Name’s” inexplicably intertwined young hero and heroine, though Shinkai (who also wrote the film) gets points for giving the characters a little charm.
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Taki (voiced by Ryunosuke Kamiki), an adolescent boy living in Tokyo, and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a teenage girl in a small mountain village presided over by her monstrous father, end up in each other’s bodies one day after the appearance of a comet. Their immediate reactions to discovering each other’s anatomies are among the film’s more comic moments, but all of their soul-swapping sessions are only temporary, and they can’t remember details afterward.
In time, Taki and Mitsuha figure out what is happening and develop a way to communicate and even help one another on their way to falling in love. “Your Name” could have stopped right there and fulfilled its potential, but complications arise when Taki realizes he and Mitsuha are living years apart, divided by devastation wrought by the comet.
A viewer ends up shrugging and going along with these pointless leaps rather than truly caring. Shinkai makes it all worse by dragging out a confusing climax and a predictable epilogue.
More rewarding is the animation itself. The density and complexity of Shinkai’s urban and natural environments are wonderfully unique, a blend of the near-photographic and dreamlike.
“Your Name” will be screened in Seattle both in subtitled and English-dubbed versions.