Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s critical and commercial powerhouse anime film of 2016, has received another local release boasting fancy packaging and more pixels than ever before! Let’s dive in…
Your Name centres around Mitsuha Miyamizu, dreaming of life in the big city while stuck in the rural town of Itomori, and Taki Tachibana, happily lost in the urban sprawl in Tokyo. One day they find themselves switched into each others’ respective body with no clue as to what’s going on. Together they slowly explore their respective worlds and sub-cultures as Mitsuha gets a feel for life in Tokyo as a young man, while Taki learns to appreciate the slower pace of the country and disrupting the conservative gender norms that Mitsuha has grown up around. Their changeling adventure engenders a sense of mutual curiosity, with the two of them working to turn their supernatural experiences into a physical connection with potentially far-reaching consequences.
Makoto Shinkai has been one of those names we marked as part of the next generation of visionary directors back in the early 2000s. Your Name absolutely holds up to that pedigree and deserves the attention it’s received since it hit Japanese cinemas in 2016. It was famously the first theatrical anime release in nearly 15 years to topple Miyazaki’s superb Spirited Away at the Japanese box office, but his success was very much a growing beast following his debut work, Voices of a Distant Star.
Despite his notoriety, Shinkai’s been something of a missed opportunity for myself as this is the first time I’ve sat down to watch one of his films. The result has left me feeling a little daft if we’re being honest, because Your Name is an absolutely stonking film that gracefully dances around the fusion of adolescence, gender and a clever hint of the paranormal in way that is earnest and engaging without falling victim to being cloying. Even as it ramps up its final act and takes you through the expected beats of your typical Japanese seishun drama (something Mark Schilling writes a bit more eloquently about), the combination of Radwimps’ infectious Japanese pop-punk soundtrack was an absolute thrill upon the close of the movie.
There’s a deeply relateable, tangible and surreal feeling to the film. The contrast between the urban and regional landscapes are minutely detailed and each echo romanticised visions of the bits we love and hate about living in a dense metropolis versus the more sedate, communal intimacy of life outside the concrete jungle. I’ve only been to Japan a few times, but when I was over there in 2018 I had the chance to head up north to for a short stay in Naruko (in Miyagi prefecture), and that feeling I had walking along the less built-up streets echoed Mitsuha’s perspective of her life in the country. In the same way, Taki’s experiences in Tokyo, especially viewed through Mitsuha’s lens of Tokyo as as the aspirational “other”, was entirely relateable to my time over there too.
It’s more than just the atmosphere though – the characters themselves lack the refined polish typical in a TV series, with both the animation and performances coming across at times as measured without a crazy sense of hyperbole, not unlike something from Studio Ghibli. The gender swap, which in other productions could be fraught with a problematic male gaze, come across as believably comical – while there’s a bit more screen time give to Taki’s initial swap into Mitsuha, that cheeky smile on Taki’s face when Mitsuha’s taking residence in his Tokyo body suggests they’re both as awkwardly curious as the other.
Extending this, it was also interesting with how Your Name played with masculine and feminine energy and identity. As Mitsuha, Taki leverages his strength and directness to cut through some of the social structures that would ordinarily hold Mitsuha back, leading to a sense of panic around her normally ordered approach to life in her town (and earning some surprising admiration from her classmates).
In Tokyo, Mitsuha’s approach to forming relationship with a co-worker Taki has a crush on leads to the two of them striking a closer relationship that proves critical to some of the actions Taki takes up when back in his own body towards the end of the film.
What’s great is that each of them learn and grow as a result of what happens – Taki opens up more and appreciates life in the slow lane, while Mitsuha learns how to assert herself and take charge of her destiny rather than pining for life in Tokyo while learning to appreciate the rich heritage of her home town.
Despite how outlandish parts of this adventure becomes, the presentation helps it feel somehow grounded with a kind of earthy, understated yet hyper articulated direction that Shinkai has applied here. The animation and production values in Your Name echo this aim beautifully – the mundane and the profane both speak to the viewer in a way that helps you sink into this relatable world of otherness. I’m a little boggled that there are elements of the visual that Shinkai and his chief animation director aren’t happy with, citing production crunch as curtailing some elements, because there’s not a lot I’d change.
It certainly helps that this release of Your Name on 4K UHD, featuring a native 4K master with HDR and lossless high-def audio, is absolutely stunning.
This marks the second local 4K release of an anime from Madman (the other being Akira), but this is the first time a fully digital production has made its way to the ultra shiny standard locally. The result is utterly sublime – much like my jaw dropped during those insanely detailed dystopian noir backdrops in Akira, simply the opening shot of Tokyo was a case for pausing and admiring what was on screen. The richness of the colour was gorgeous – the stark whiteness and urban contrasts in Tokyo remind me of time over there, while the beautiful, lush greenery in Mitsuha’s neck of the woods pop like the rolling hills and quiet streets I remember during my brief stint in Miyagi prefecture.
Audio sounds stunning too – packed with clarity and seismic direction when needed, though this is by no means a powerhouse for your home theatre system. The soundtrack sounds great though, as does the underlying score.
The broader package is worth mentioning as well. Your Name is housed in a solid cardboard compact box featuring a foil-stamped cover with some great stuff therein. As there are no features on the UHD disc, it also comes with the previous Madman-released Blu-Ray which features a lovely 1080p render of the film and a huge selection of bonus featurettes. These were great fun to watch through and while a little hyperbolic, being the original Japanese promos means there’s a sense of earnestness to the proceedings.
In addition to the fancy packaging, this Collector’s Edition of Your Name features a booklet with some production notes from the director, concept artwork and a series of official illustrations. These are printed on high quality, glossy paper stock and look stunning. It also features four artcards which contain iconic shots from the movie that look gorgeous. These additional physical inserts add an understated level of class to this edition.
To be honest, there’s not much to criticise about Your Name. It plays the familiar notes of an engaging teen drama, adds some interesting supernatural twists and is lavishly produced. Shinkai deserves the kudos on this one, and the extra sparkles from the UHD really shine on a native 4K display.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.