There are few things as delicately balanced and intricately involved as star-crossed puppy love. Movies that dip their toe into the song-and-dance of young love like this can get easily burned; falling over into either predictability, hyper-sentimentality, or both. But “Your Name” is no such movie. “Your Name” is a thing of beauty.
Mitsuha and Taki aren’t looking for any such complications. The two students are just trying to live their lives — him, in Tokyo and her, in small town Itomori — something that’s considerably more difficult when they randomly start switch bodies.
Like the best of body-switching comedies, “Your Name” efficiently checks off the to do list of living someone else’s life (keeping a diary and setting rules) and before too long Taki and Mitsuha find there’s something more than just oddness to their relationship. And when a comet sighting gives them a chance to meet, the movie finds something deeper as well.
It’s there that “Your Name” proves itself as the cinematic equivalent of candy: the eye-catching packaging unwraps to reveal something even sweeter beneath it. The movie shifts gears multiple times and manages to never feel awkward (depending on your mileage for classic anime montages set to catchy J-Pop hits). It switches back and forth between “dominant” viewpoints, and the film moves so fluidly from start to finish it makes it look easy.
It’s not of course; almost everything about “Your Name” has the potential to be off putting in one aspect or another. Maybe anime isn’t your thing, or saccharine love stories between young adults — and that’s all before you get into the sci-fi elements that propels the movie forward.
But everything from the lush animation style to stunningly constructed storytelling is exquisite. Director Makoto Shinkai (who, possibly unbeknownst to American audiences for now, has been dubbed the next Miyazaki — a label he has tried (and failed) to eschew, and which rings truer after “Your Name”) brings his story to life with gorgeous animation, as aptly used in shadows over lazy school lunches as they are in nebulous time-jumping sequences.
There are parts where the film can feel a bit caught up in itself, veering almost into melodramatic. Teens will be teens, after all, and their love can be overly-fraught whether for emotional or supernatural reasons. But these serve mostly to illuminate how many avenues Shinkai has thought through that viewers might be equally as interested in watching; how the swap changes Mitsuha and Taki’s gender presentation and standing in their schools, for instance.
And in the end every part of the film feels gracefully seamless. Shinkai has no problem blending drama and comedy, love story and adventure, melancholy and sweetness. He masterfully brings the movie to a boil, until the audience can do nothing aside from be gripped by the beautiful web unfolding before them.
What could be overly-convoluted (and certainly sounds like it on paper) ends up being simple and splendid. Whether you’re historically a fan of anime or not, “Your Name” has the chops to dazzle and delight.
‘Your Name’ opens April 7 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.