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The emotional response that I should have had to Your Name (aka Kimi no Na wa) lies in the gap between the knowledge of a Zeitgeist and the lived experience of it.

Your Name is probably Makoto Shinkai’s best film yet. That it’s visually spectacular goes without saying: if you’re going to see Your Name, see it on the big screen. Don’t settle for anything else.

It’s also one of the best scripted pieces Shinkai has put to film. Overall, cinematically in terms of story, sound, characterisation, and the other technical elements that go towards an excellent anime film, Your Name is simply superb.

But…

Ultimately Your Name is, once you strip away the SF-nal elements, a romance bound into a story about disasters, and about how Japanese communities manage (or don’t) those disasters. I can’t help but feel that there’s a reaction here to the notorious mismanagement of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, much as Shin Godzilla is a reaction in other ways[1].

But whilst I know of the Japanese cultural responses to disasters – the emergency drills, the community loudspeaker systems[2] – I don’t have the lived experience to fully appreciate the role of these responses in the story Shinkai is telling in Your Name.

As noted above, it is a strongly told story, just one that I didn’t have the experiential frame of reference to really connect with. Although that may be partially due to a problem with the romance itself.

As the trailer itself makes clear, one of the sf-nal elements is body swapping between the male lead Taki and the female lead Mitsuha.

Which is fine, that’s come up before in anime, most notably recently in Kokoro Connect. What’s less fine is Taki-in-Mitsuha’s body feeling up Mitsuha’s breasts. I could have forgiven this if it had happened once, or had been balanced for equal time embarrassments by Mitsuha-in-Taki’s body.

Instead, the latter is hinted at once, and the former is a running gag. A running gag that includes Taki-in-Mitsuha’s body being regularly caught at it by Mitsuha’s younger sister Yotsuha. By comparison, that’s a gag that Kokoro Connect used once before moving on to more serious topics.

That… basically killed the credibility of the romance arc for me. Without that, and without the reaction to the disaster elements, I was left with a film that I really wanted to engage with but couldn’t. Your Name certainly doesn’t have the faults of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and it will command your attention as much as (or more than) Garden of Words.

To wrap up: Your Name is very much a Your Mileage May Vary film. All the ingredients are there to make it an essential film for many, but whether you find it so will entirely depend on how you emotionally connect to the romance and disaster elements. I don’t regret seeing Your Name on the big screen, that’s where it’s meant to be seen, but I didn’t really engage with it. However, I think that says more about me than it does about Your Name, so I’m still recommending Your Name to fans of big screen anime.

[1] I haven’t seen Shin Godzilla but based on Grant Watson’s review here, I think that I should.

[2] Which don’t crop up in anime anywhere near as often as they should. See this post on Otaku Lounge for some background (Nagi no Asukara also has them, and I think an early episode of Ranma ½ has the low tech version of a tower and a bell in a village somewhere).