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ďYou be me for a while.  Iíll be you,Ē so spake a late-20th century Middle American sage.  The notion of seeing things through someone elseís eyes, walking in their shoes - body swapping - has been an evergreen fictional premise, particularly when itís a switch between the sexes.  In Makoto Shinkaiís Your Name, we not only explore what occurs when a teenage boy and girl magically trade places, but possibly even shift dimensions.

Why canít Mitsuha remember what happened the day before?  What is this mass hallucination her sibling and schoolmates seem to share where she behaved like a wild brute and made a spectacle of herself at school?  Bad enough Mitsuhaís already under the spotlight as the daughter of her small townís stiff-necked mayor and under pressure to perform her duties as a shrine maiden to perfection; this apparent blackout of hers simply canít happen again.

What are those things on the front of his chest?  When did he grow all this long hair?  Where is he?  These are some of the pertinent questions posed when Taki awakens one day and has no idea where or what he is.  While his consciousness is absolutely his, his physique is a little different than the one he went to bed with.  Not only has Takiís body changed; everything is different.  Besides suddenly being a girl, he is also a big sister, a grandchild, a daughter, a priestess, a target of petty jealousy, and a beloved friend living a quiet existence in a rural valley.  Takiís independent life as a hard-working Tokyo part-timer couldnít be further removed.

With the adaptability of youth, both Taki and Mitsuha grasp the general gist of what has happened, if not the why.  They very sensibly begin to accommodate for this mysterious nightly body swap.  The pair leave notes on their mobile phones for each other about the dayís events, so that when or if they wake up in each otherís skin, they are not at too much of a loss as to what each had gotten up to.  This helps a lot to avoid freaking out their friends and families with any more inconsistencies than might naturally occur when a stranger takes over your body and identity. 

Over the many days of trading, the two grow so close - as would be expected living in another personís flesh - that they unconsciously look after each other; complimenting oneís flaws with the otherís strengths: Takiís outgoing nature brings Mitsuha a popularity she never knew, while his aggressive, hot temper causes the mean girls tormenting Mitsuha to think twice.  MitsuhaĎs gentleness and innate sweetness gives Taki Ė now much more in touch with his feminine side -  a leg way up on the other boys, who share a crush on their sophisticated co-worker, Miki; an eventuality that makes him the object of envy as the Mitsuha-controlled Taki wins a date with her.

It is only natural that they should want to meet face to face.  When Taki is unable to reach Mitsuha through their cell phone lifelines, an occurrence that coincides with their suddenly no longer being able to switch bodies, he senses something is very wrong.  His journey to Mitsuhaís hometown reveals an even larger puzzle that encompasses the very fabric of time and space and life and death.  As it seems like Mitsuha will be lost to Taki just as mysteriously as she entered his life, Taki vows not to let her go, even as their memories of each other begin to fade.

Your Name is Japanís second biggest anime release, behind Hayao Miyazakiís Spirited Away.  There have been more than financial comparisons between Shinkai and the man called the Walt Disney of Japan: Cinephiles around the world are anxious to fill the massive gap that will be left with Miyazakiís announced - renounced - though sadly inevitable - retirement.  Due to the striking box office and critical success of Your Name, along with its surreal premise, many are pointing the finger at director Makoto Shinkai.

With Shinkaiís painstaking attention to stunning aesthetics; lush colour palettes, crisp character designs and glorious lighting, as well as his totally hands-on role as director, writer, editor, designer and photographer, one can see the equivalence, but I think thatís where it ends.  Where Miyazaki is fanciful and sweet, Shinkai is clever and incisive.  Where Miyazakiís adventures are visceral and transcendent, Shinkaiís are more cerebral and grounded, even when weíre walking through dimensions in the twilight home of a Shinto god.  

With his smart, romantic, character-driven fare that feels more like a live-action piece captured as art,  Shinkai is creating his own place and marking his own path in the animation pantheon, and after the sparkling, brilliant Your Name, itís one I canít wait for him to take even further.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

March 10th, 2017



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