‘Your Name.’ – living another life on Criterion Channel

Japanese animator and filmmaker Makoto Shinkai turns his own young adult novel into Your Name. (Japan, 2016), an animated feature that brings a fresh approach to the classic comic situation of body swapping.

In this story two high school students who have never met, a boy named Taki and a girl named Mitsuha, suddenly wake up in one another’s body and try to fake their way through a day in the life. They have no memory of the experience when they return to their own lives the next day but discover that they’ve lost a day and her friends have stories about their behavior they don’t remember.

When it happens again and again, without warning or discernible rhyme or reason, they start leaving messages for one another through their smartphones. Then it stops just as suddenly as it began, but it’s just the beginning of a story that mixes metaphysics and mystery in a poetic story of two people who never meet yet change one another’s lives, even if they can’t remember the connection and only learn of it from notes left behind, an entire conversation that reaches across time and space. Taki uses the paintings that Mitsuha left behind to look for her. There’s a touch of science fiction to what otherwise seems like magic as it shifts into a kind of disaster movie.

It’s a contemplative and introspective film that uses the body-swapping gimmick to explore growing up and experiencing life from another perspective, and it celebrates how connections to culture and family shape who we are. Shinkai uses his animation to capture delicate scenes of wonder and grace as well as comic moments and dramatic images, but it is always grounded in the lives of its young characters.

It was a major hit in Japan, the most successful animated feature out of Studio Ghibli’s productions, and picked up a number of international awards and a limited release in American theaters. It should be better known outside the animation community.

It won three awards from the Japanese Academy, including best director and most popular film, and best film at the Tokyo Anime Awards.

Rated PG and is fine for all audiences.

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Your Name. [Blu-ray]
Your Name. [DVD]
Your Name. [Blu-ray + DVD Box Set]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases offer both original Japanese language and English dub soundtracks and optional subtitles and include a 25-minute interview with filmmaker Matoko Shinkai, an animated filmography, and a 22-minute featurette originally made for Japanese TV (all in Japanese with English subtitles).


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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