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14 September, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Your Name

www.telegraph.co.uk
Your Name

There are a handful of Japanese animated films – Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and The Castle of Cagliostro are three – that seem custom-built to win over a new generation of admirers in the west. Each one is a perfect digest of the lightning-fork vitality, swirling metaphysics and laser-cut visual dazzle that defines anime at its very best. Your Name is the next.

The new film from Makoto Shinkai is so beautiful it’s almost laughable. Like a landscape shining after heavy rain, it feels like real life with the sharpness, brightness and sensation turned right up. It’s a raucous teenage body swap comedy-with-pop-songs that’s also a gleaming daydream on the fluidity of identity – and somehow also a galvanising embrace of our essential helplessness in the biggest of all big pictures.

In the film’s second half, Shinkai invokes the Tohoku earthquake of 2011 and the subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, and you could certainly class Your Name as a Fukushima film. But the broader themes with which it grapples – and the spirit of warmth and wonder in which it does so – make it feel bigger than a topical response.

In Japan, Your Name became the highest-grossing film this year after taking more than 10 billion yen at the box office: a feat only previously achieved by Hayao Miyazaki animations. But in the west, Shinkai is still Japanese animation’s best-kept secret. Anyone wishing to get in on it should try his exquisite, painterly Journey to Agartha (known internationally as Children who Chase Lost Voices) on DVD or Blu-ray, before the boutique label All The Anime brings Your Name to UK cinemas in November. It deserves to be a hit.

The story centres on two youngsters living different lives in different places. Mitsuha (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi) is a country girl from an alpine lakeside town who helps out her grandmother at their local, family-run shrine. Shinkai frames and animates these sequences like reportage photography, making every snatched moment, every captured gesture, feel like a thunderbolt of luck. (Of course they’re nothing of the sort.)

Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is an urbane Tokyo teen, whose life zig-zags from home to school to coffee shops to an Italian restaurant where he waits tables in the evenings. (The cityscapes are painted with a hyperreal vividness that’s more immersive than 3D.) Then one morning, Mitsuha wakes up feeling strange. She looks down, and realises she’s Taki.

Exactly how long this overnight switching has been going on is left thrillingly uncertain. Since both Mitsuha and Taki are going through puberty, and wake up every morning in different bodies as it is, being someone else entirely isn’t too much of a stretch. Shinkai sets out some ground rules for these transfers you just have to go with: the main one, which gives the film its title, is that neither can remember the other’s name when they wake up, so there’s no way the two can make contact on the days when order’s restored.

To complicate matters, we’re dimly aware that this story is taking place in the build-up to what Mitsuha calls “the day when the stars fell” in an opening voiceover – a celestial event whose full significance only dawns at the film’s halfway point, introducing a hectic quest to correct a coming, vividly foreseen catastrophe. Think the final act of Back to the Future, but with a compassion and altruism that quickly swells from sweetly sentimental to genuinely moving.

Technically, to say anything more would be a spoiler – but truly, Shinkai’s film is pretty much unspoilable. The only way to understand it is to swim in it for yourself, feel your own heart braid around these two interwoven lives, and gaze up in awe at the silvery arc those falling stars trace across the sky.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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