Tag: anime

Your Name.

Your Name. (2016)
★★★ / ★★★★

Here is a picture that takes the silly concept of “Freaky Friday”—two people waking up in one another’s bodies and hilarity ensues—and injects intelligence, creativity, and heart in what could have been stale, predictable material. Halfway through, I was convinced that writer-director Makoto Shinkai, the film based on his own novel, has created a work that will be remembered fondly decades from now because it presents thoughts and emotions that come across as genuine in a situation that requires a leap of imagination.

Notice how “Your Name.” takes its time to firmly establish the first act because the writer-director is aware that exposition and rising action must be as convincing and as enveloping as possible if the audience were to believe the eventual revelations and turn of events. For the most part, it involves day-to-day activities of Taki (voiced by Ryûnosuke Kamiki) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), high school students who live in the busy-buzzing Tokyo and the peaceful village of Itomori, respectively. A few random days a week, the boy wakes up in the girl’s body, vice-versa, and the catch is once they eventually wake up in their own bodies, neither of them remembers what he or she has done during the switch. They believe this phenomenon is triggered by a comet that passes Earth every 1,200 years.

The animation is stunningly beautiful, life-like in the way it showcases every detail. The background is as alive as the foreground and that is exciting, almost begging to be seen multiple times in order for the work to be fully appreciated as a visual experience. For instance, pay attention to how the animation captures femininity when the girl wakes up in the boy’s body. If this were made in America or any other western country, very likely it would have been played only for cheap laughs, simplified, one-dimensional. Perhaps the emphasis would have been on the overall situation rather than a specific experience.

Here, the details are subtle: the angling of the arms relative to the wrists, how a character expresses awkwardness and embarrassment, how clothes are carried, one’s comportment. It’s almost like watching an actual actor performing. Meanwhile, it takes a couple of seconds in between events to show the open sky glittered with stars, the pensive body of water in a bowl of land, birds in search of food, vendors on the streets, trains slithering their way through tracks. Compare this to animation released in the Americas where many of them do not bother to spend even a second to let the material breathe, for the images to sink into our minds. There is poetry here that great animated films possess.

But the film, for me, feels somewhat rushed, almost incomplete. Once a critical information halfway through is revealed, the material becomes more complex, labyrinthine in its ambition especially since it deals with memory, time, and Japanese legends. I felt I needed more time to absorb and understand the intricate details of assumed rules. Perhaps if the film had been thirty minutes or even an hour longer, a steadier rhythm could have paved the way for in-depth understanding of the story’s universe. Still, I enjoyed the fact that I felt the need to catch up to it rather than me waiting when or if the picture would catch up to me.

Expect “Kimi no na wa” to receive a live-action, westernized version some time in the near future, possibly lead by a writer and/or director who does not fully grasp what makes this picture special. No, the story is not what makes the film stand out. I imagine that the subtler details mentioned above would be lost entirely. Details are what makes this story perfectly told through the medium of animation. Turning it into a live-action, ironically, would likely make it less life-like.

Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart (1995)
★★★ / ★★★★

Written by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, this animated film showcases a charming tale of a girl named Shizuku (Youko Honna) and her passion for writing. I liked the fact that as the picture went on, we got to see how the lead character evolved from a girl who spent most of her time reading books (and not studying for her high school entrance exams) to a girl who wanted to do something with her talents so decided to pursue writing a book. Of course, side stories were expected such as her relationship with her best friend, the boy from the same grade who likes her, and the mysterious guy who checks out the same books as her named Seiji Amasawa (Kazuo Takahashi). I also enjoyed watching another layer to the story by showing us the dynamics in her home–an overbearing sister, a literary father, and a mother who is going to school–because it explains why Shizuku is such a self-starter, naturally curious regarding her surroundings, and has a natural taste for adventure. Since it was written by Miyazaki, I have to admit that I thought there was going to be more fantastic elements to the story. There were some of that, such as the strange coincidences and when the audiences had a chance to see what the lead character was imagining. But I was glad that this was grounded in reality and it really showed how it was like to make that transition from being a child to being an adolescent. Questions such as what she wanted to do in her life began popping up in her head when she met Seiji, who knows exactly wanted to do with his life. I admired her persistence in turning her insecurities into achievements. There were definitely times when I was inspired. My one problem with it, however, was it did, in fact, run a little too long. Perhaps if twenty minutes were cut off, it would have been much more focused and powerful. Regardless, I am giving this a recommendation because it made me think about where I am in life. It was sweet but not sugary; though it had its sad moments, it was never melodramatic.