Crossposting. Also, bumping the thread up.
Makoto Shinkai (2016)
Whenever a story is told through animation there are grounds to wonder why the movie was made so. What does animation offer that live action does not? One hopes that the director is inspired by loftier reasons than his lone familiarity with the style, that he will use it to do things that are impossible with silly real people. Too often animation is seen as a shorthand way to direct your movie at younger audiences. That allows many people to dismiss animated films as children fare and the prejudice may spread even among those who believe the form can be and often is just as much for adults as it is for crotchspawn. The intellectual rigours we visit upon movies are often lessened when those movies happen to be animated. We are more permissive of dubious leaps of logic and plot-holes. The fact that these stories are ostensibly not real also helps diminish the mind's demands for realism. Odd behaviour is not seen as poor writing but as part of the inherent quirkiness of these animated worlds, which, visibly, are not the real world. You can look at the double standard as just that, an unjustified prejudice, but it is often harmless - except in those cases where things go very awry indeed.
You may see where I am coming to. Your Name has massive, Orson Welles-sized plot-holes at its very heart. I could mostly ignore these in the beginning of the movie because they started out as minor. As the story progressed though, they grew in girth. Around the middle of the film they suddenly take enormous proportions: Citizen Kane because Chides at Midnight. My insouciance had grown into active irritation by then and I was ready to become largely negative about the movie – especially since those plot-holes could have been easily solved by placing the story a few years earlier, before there were smartphones everywhere. The movie proceeded to erase my annoyance with the brush of its singular charm.
Let me state it clearly right now: Your Name is not only one of the best animated movies of 2016, it is one of the best movies of that year too – or of 2017, if you chose to look at it that way, whatever may be released yet.
The best way I can think of to explain Your Name is to compare it to Freaky Friday meets a much better version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Both movies are predominantly focused on romantic relationships and play with time and missed connections. These are not just plot gimmicks, they help to create a link between the characters and are fundamental for the movie to convey its ultimate message. Message is probably the wrong word; Your Name is not an intellectual movie of deep meanings and carefully worked out philosophies. It is, if you will pardon the corniness of the word, a movie of Heart. Somewhere along the lines of teenage dialogue and slapstick comedy burgeons a beautiful love story.
Technology-related plot-holes aside, the writing is admirable in its economy and efficacy. It gives you just enough of an idea to make you understand much more which permits it to do much more with its material than another movie would. As it explores the Freaky Friday side of the situation, instead of the inevitable parade of cringy situations before the characters figure out what is going on, it sets the situation and their confusion but then moves on. We are left to fill the gaps. The movie recognizes the more sultry possibilities afforded by the body-switching but does not indulge. Bless.
At one point I was hoping it actually would not devolve into a love story and would instead focus on themes of gender identity and possible alternate lives one might have had instead. I do not regret that it did not. That movie could have proved brilliant, but this one is too.
Most of the animation of the film is on the level of a fine anime series. In fact, the movie has an opening that comes straight out anime series openings. The virtuoso moments are saved for some later scenes, most of which involve a comet. The visuals are gorgeous and striking. The entire movie is exquisitely crafted. The editing is quick paced and dynamic, with perfect transitions that culminate in two montages that perfectly set up the situations they are there to explain – with songs to shake things up a bit more. The animators knew what they were doing, and when it really mattered, they created the perfect tableaus.
Your Name is not always a happy movie. It is very melancholy and there are moments of deep sadness among all the fun. That just makes it better.