It is a rare feat in mainstream cinema when a film opens your emotions wide and asks you to think deep while simultaneously being wonderfully entertained. A brilliantly done mash-up of body-swapping fantasy and classic teenage romance, the Japanese animation film Your Name achieves high scores in both the entertainment and deep-thinking categories all while breaking new ground in the Japanese anime genre. See yourname.com/.
There is a magic in this film that seems to resonate with people of all ages. What is it about Your Name that speaks to multiple generations?
The film starts with the monologue, “I feel like I am always searching for someone and missing something.” This strong feeling of longing for that someone you are destined to meet is what all of us share whether it is a teenager who ponders on this daily or an adult who remembers the familiar yearning inside them which may be long gone. And for that reason the film resonates with multiple generations.
Talk to me about the style of animation involved. The movie is a blend of ultra realistic renderings, dream-like water color-inspired landscapes, and more traditional Japanese animation techniques. What was the intention of this effect?
Makoto Shinkai is able to create hyper realistic backgrounds and light which is by far more breathtaking than how we see the real world. Our intention was to infuse his art with that of Ghibli animators’ who have long assisted Hayao Miyazaki to create a cinematic world that attracts a wider audience while evoking something strong inside.
Will this fantastical teenage love story have the same resonance here in the United States?
I believe that it is universal to feel longing for someone you have not met or to be overcome by that anywhere-but-here restlessness. They are the collective unconscious. This sense of feeling or emotion can be found ubiquitously, whether in Japan, China, Europe, or in the United States.
The main characters in the film seem torn between the call of tradition and the pulse of modern life. Is this a common teenage problem in Japan?
Mitsuha definitely is in the midst of this conflict but her situation may be unique to Japan. The majority of Japanese youth have the big-city life like Taki. The struggle to balance past and present (old and new) is merely one way into finding out that there is longing for someone or restlessness to be somewhere else. These lasting yearnings are what prevail, not only in Japan but among youth all over the world.
What is the hope in making a movie like this? Is it pure entertainment or is it something more?
Entertainment has long provided something that can be expressed in one word. I personally do not agree. I think movies should and can be multilayered. With that said, this film is both ‘a teenage boy-meets-girl romance’ and a ‘body swapping fantasy’ on the surface, establishing its foundations as an entertaining work. But, at the same time, it delves into Japanese Shintoism and values derived from the Classics, transforms the story told in rock music, and conveys the inherent grief and obligations of the post 2011 Earthquake Japan. As such, teenagers can appreciate the entertaining elements on the surface and avid moviegoers or animation fans can enjoy reading further into the meanings below the surface.