We interrupt your regularly scheduled review programme for an emotional ramble about anime.
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Voice Cast: Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Masami Nagasawa, Ryo Narita
Release Date: 24th November, 2016 (UK) | TBA (US)
“Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up.”
I have a love/hate relationship with anime movies. In my mind, there is no style of animation out there more beautiful than the artistry of Japanese hand-drawn animators. As a movie fan who takes great pleasure from the visual part of cinema – whether it be jaw-dropping cinematography or a gorgeous colour-scheme – I’ve found myself drawn to this genre of film lately. As a kid, I grew up on shows like Digimon, which, while not really ‘anime’, also added an element of nostalgia to my viewing experience.
And yet, despite our apparent compatibility, I have largely come away a little disappointed by what I’ve seen from my search so far. These films are indeed stunning to look at and no doubt easy to admire – but far more difficult to truly enjoy. I fear some of the meaning behind original dialogue gets lost in translation, and it can often undermine the emotional intensity of a scene. The cultural divide between myself and these characters (while fascinating) also doesn’t help, and often feels like a bit of a barrier.
With the exception of Akira (which almost feels like a totally different beast altogether), I’d yet to find an anime film I loved – and hadn’t even come close to finding one I could truly empathise with…
My decision to see Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name at the London Film Festival came out of spontaneity more than anything else. I had the day off work, and had thoroughly enjoyed my time at the festival thus far. So I bought a ticket, not expecting much outside from a bit of fun to end the festival with. Or so I thought.
Had I not been squished in the far-left corner of the auditorium (serves me right for buying last minute tickets), I would’ve happily whooped & fist-pumped my way through the film’s final half hour. It’s an emotional rollercoaster in the best kind of way, full of heartbreak, happiness, laughter and love. The wave of relentless feeling that washes over you is only matched by the resplendent visual array of colour and light onscreen. And when the tears start to well up, you’re not even sure if they’re out of sadness or joy. Or from the pain having to crane your neck to see the screen from the far corner. I suspect all three.
Your Name is one part-comedy, one-part romance and one-part coming-of-age-drama, with a delicate sprinkling of sci-fi/fantasy. Shinkai masterfully blends these genres together, weaving in elements of Japanese culture and religion too. That ‘cultural divide’ I alluded to earlier wasn’t an issue here. Loneliness is an emotion we’ve all universally felt. As is sorrow, and hope. Shinkai’s written two wonderful heroes in Mitsuha & Taki who you can’t help but care for as you experience their tale.
I’ve purposefully avoided touching on story details, as it is one of those films best experienced fresh. It’s tough to even know where I’d even begin if I tried. Where one of his previous features 5 Centimeters Per Second tried – and mostly succeeded – to capture the heartbreak of unrequited love, Your Name effortlessly conveys something far more intangible. It’s the living, animated embodiment of that feeling you get, when you wake from a dream, but you’re not ready to leave it yet. It’s those last few seconds of momentary elation you feel, before it all wistfully fades away from memory…