Glance at the list of 2017’s highest earning films to date and you’ll see titles both expected (Beauty and the Beast; Logan) and not (the abysmal xXx: The Return of Xander Cage). Currently in seventh position, sitting between bad eggs The Great Wall and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is the Japanese anime Your Name – a film that’s earned that commendable ranking without factoring in a U.S. haul.
Its total will undoubtedly rise starting this weekend as the wildly imaginative film makes its way into just over 300 North American theaters, warranting the attention of all cinephiles (including those who aren’t crazy about anime).
Separating himself from the majority of his comic colleagues, writer/director Makoto Shinkai acts like he has a physical camera in depicting the saga of Japanese high schoolers Mitsuha and Taki, who discover that they inexplicably switch places while dreaming.
As the fast-paced storytelling bounces between Mitsuha in rural Itomori and Taki in Tokyo, Shinkai packs the screen with an array of pleasing visuals, occasionally to a fault.
In addition to keeping pace with these thorough creations and fairly rapid-fire subtitles, Your Name relies on text messages, signage and various scribblings to relay secondary information, often requiring viewers to yo-yo between the dialogue translation at the bottom of the screen and blink-and-miss-them supertitles.
While a thrilling exercise for the eyes, there’s concern that important details are being missed in the textual barrage, though nowhere near enough to distance viewers from the film’s magic.
The teens’ personal growth as they better the other’s existence, learning much about themselves with each Freaky Friday transition, is a joy to behold and is enhanced by the sense that one always seems to be a step ahead of the other, raising myriad possibilities of what might have occurred the day before and its ramifications on the true host’s day ahead.
Enthralled with their arrangement yet craving to meet up, Mitsuha and Taki are inspired to take that next step by a comet’s rare appearance in the night sky – an act of bravery that reveals a shocking wrinkle to their connection. Its specifics are best discovered on one’s own and won’t be spoiled here, but suffice it to say that Shinkai handles it and the film’s final hour with the same artistry and humanity that’s defined Your Name to that point.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG. Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre
(Photo: FUNimation Entertainment)