Body-swapping sci-fi in charming animation

YOUR NAME (12A, 106 mins) Animation/Sci-Fi/Drama/Romance. Featuring the voices of Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yuki, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasoma. Director: Makoto Shinkai.

Friday, 18th November 2016, 10:58 am
Updated Friday, 18th November 2016, 12:22 pm
Scene from anime movie Your Name PA/Anime Ltd

Released: November 18 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Boys will be girls and vice versa in writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s charming animated drama about two awkward teenagers - a boy from the city and a girl from the provinces - who wake one morning to discover they are inhabiting each other’s bodies. Initially, this fantastical life swap is played for laughs: the boy gropes his host’s pert breasts with hormone-addled fervour while the girl is horrified by a limp appendage between her hairy legs.

Once the characters overcome their physiological curiosity, Your Name elegantly cuts back and forth between these journeys of self-discovery, building a richly detailed portrait of growing pains, adolescent longing and aching regret.

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A seemingly incongruous plot device - a comet, which passes Earth every 1,200 years - nudges the film into the realms of science fiction without sacrificing emotional investment in the teenagers, and catalyses unexpected dramatic momentum.

As the ghosts in Shinkai’s precisely engineered machine are revealed, Japanese rock band Radwimps crank up the volume on the propulsive soundtrack.

A moving second act, which hinges on the magical properties of twilight as a fleeting divide between light and shade, possesses a heartbreaking sting in the comet’s tail.

Mitsuha (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi) is a schoolgirl, who lives in the mountain town of Itomori with her grandmother Hitoha (Etsuko Ichihara) and younger sister, Yotsuha (Kanon Tani).

The girls’ father is mayor Toshiki (Masaki Terasoma) and they honour the gods by performing religious ceremonies in flowing robes at the family’s Shinto temple, which cruel classmates watch with pitying sneers.

Yotsuha ignores the taunts, but Mitsuha’s teenage pride is bruised with each insult.

“I envy your pre-pubescent lack of concern,” she tells her sister.

Mitsuha yearns to escape her backwater life for the thrum of the city.

She gets her wish when she is magically transported into the gangly frame of Tokyo schoolboy Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), who works part-time as a waiter and has a crush on fellow server Ms Okudera (Masami Nagasawa).

Taki is simultaneously transported into Mitsuha’s body and relies on her friends Tessie (Ryo Narita) and Sayaka (Aoi Yuki) to blend in.

In their gender-swapped guises, the teenagers experience each other’s worlds through inquisitive eyes.

As Mitsuha and Taki criss-cross back and forth, seemingly never destined to meet, they leave notes on each other’s mobile phones to keep track of their out-of-body exploits.

Adapted from Shinkai’s novel, Your Name is an engrossing, heartfelt and dreamlike yarn that leaves a small lump in the throat.

The conflation of genres works well and a deceptively tangled plot doesn’t tie itself in knots until the head-scratching conclusion. Hand-drawn animation is beautiful, emboldened with digital lens flare. Snappy subtitling encapsulates the internal strife and ensures we’re not distracted from the gently escalating action.

None of the radiant 
tenderness or turmoil is lost in translation.