After holding the top spot in Japan’s box office for a record-breaking twelve weekends, Makoto Shinkai’s animated masterpiece Your Name. (Kimi no Na wa) will begin airing in US theaters beginning April 7th. A delicately spun tale of two students who mysteriously switch bodies, this youth fantasy film is Japan’s first anime feature not by Hayao Miyazaki to score over ¥10 billion yen (roughly $100 million USD) at the box office. In fact, Your Name. has already surpassed Miyazaki’s two previous films, Ponyo (2008) and The Wind Rises (2013), in terms of profit. The film was also quite successful in China, scoring a box office total of $41 million in its opening weekend, blazing past Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The film’s rapid success is hardly a surprise considering the impressive track record of its team members: Masashi Ando, the film’s animation director, is known for his previous animation work on Tokyo Godfathers (2003) and The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013). Masashi also designed characters for several other films, including Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Paprika (2006). Masayoshi Tanaka, character designer, held the same position on the production team of Toradora!, in addition to key animation for select episodes of Naruto: Shippuden, Bleach, and Gurren Lagann, among many others. The film’s director, Makoto Shinkai, saw success with his previous films 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011), both of which he directed and wrote. Last summer, Variety named him in their list of “10 Animators To Watch in 2016,” citing the high level of detail and naturalism in his work.
Not unlike Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Your Name. is a delicate balance of drama, fantasy, and romance. Since most other “body swap” stories are goofy, lighthearted tales meant to teach the age-old “grass is greener” lesson (see also: Freaky Friday), the emotionally grounded plot of Your Name. is certainly a nice change of pace. Tidbits of adolescent humor are peppered in, providing a nice counterbalance to the drama that picks up towards the second half of the film. Combined with stellar animation and impressive voice work, Your Name. is perhaps the most impressive addition to Shinkai’s filmography yet – but whether US film-goers will agree is yet to be seen.