The opening scene of Your Name shows a girl named Mitsuha staring down her blouse, mystified at the peek of her own breasts. She then grabs them with both hands over her shirt out of pleasure as her little walks in, confused and slightly alarmed. A bit later we realize that Mitsuha’s body was actually being controlled by a boy named Taki, and at the same time, across the country, Taki’s body was being controlled by Mitsuha. It is an authentically hilarious moment because, come on, exploring your new anatomy is pretty much what every boy or girl would do if they woke up in the body of a someone of the opposite sex. From this moment on, director Makoto Shinkai has earned our trust, and we’re willing to resign our emotions as he takes us on a hilarious, profound and moving journey of two young strangers across Japan, trying to figure how this gender-swapping scenario is happening, and if it’s for a reason.
Spoiler alert: it is. And it has something to do a with a comet. But that’s all I’ll give away on plot specifics, because Your Name really is best enjoyed when you know nothing about what’s going to happen, where you just enter the theater blindly and let yourself become transfixed by the film’s moving colors and beautiful chords of its sweeping soundtrack. The animated characters hit your heartstrings with the ferocity of a classic Pixar movie, as their hilarious shenanigans immediately remind you of the profound awkwardness and sexual tension of being a teenager.
But this movie is more than just cheap jokes inspired by gender-swapping. After the initial plot kicks off, Your Name shows off its true storytelling magic, evolving from sitcom-esque humor to a profound mystical adventure in the span of just 15 or 20 minutes. You yearn for the characters’ happiness and are crushed when it appears that they have failed. But as they progress on a seemingly aimless journey, voyaging on bullet trains across the beautiful Tokyo and Japan landscape, you’re more than happy to be a passenger on their trip, no matter wherever it may lead.
You might be skeptical to take a cartoon movie seriously, let alone an anime film. In some sense, that skepticism is justified, as Americans’ main perception of anime is either big-eyed characters finding themselves in goofy, non-sensical situations, or Goku and Vegeta battling other-worldy villains in Dragon Ball Z. Seeing Your Name requires a bit of trust on your part that you’ll take the movie seriously and not some weird, buzzed-about movie import from Japan. That’s all up to you. What I can tell you is that when I saw the movie, most of the audience members were excited but still seemed a bit skeptical about watching a two-hour-long anime film. When it was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.