(PG, 1:46 minutes)
What starts out as a “Freaky Friday”-type body exchange becomes a rumination on time travel, cataclysmic fate, rural-urban dynamics and, of course, a love story in novelist-turned-anime director Makoto Shinkai’s “Your Name.”
Mitsuha is a high school girl in a remote village in the mountains. Taki is a high school boy in fast-moving Tokyo, and he works as a waiter on the weekends. One day, without knowing each other and without knowing why, they wake up in each other’s bodies.
It happens while they sleep — and they switch back again, each finding out how the other has embarrassed them the day before. Soon they begin texting each other, and because this keeps happening — with no rhyme or reasons as to why it’s happening or how to stop it — they begin leaving diaries, notes and other helpful tips on how to negotiate their time in their new bodies.
Mitsuha’s feminine touch, for example, helps Taki draw interest from a co-worker he has a crush on. Taki’s assertiveness helps Mitsuha dominate on her basketball team.
If “Your Name” kept to this simple but delightful plot, it may have been too slight to fill out a feature-length film. But Shinkai moves into bizarre, supernatural directions. It’s difficult to discuss much without spoiling the plot twists, but one general clue that things are not as they seem occurs when one discovers they are not only carrying on the most unusual bicoastal relationship, one is three years ahead of the other — a la “The Lake House.”
It’s always a pleasure to see an anime, and Shinkai’s hand-drawn visuals are simply gorgeous. Skies, trains, cityscapes, etc., stand out in bold, vivid colors. One can see the influence of Hayao Miyazaki here — this is way more “Spirited Away” than “Ghost in the Shell” — but Shinkai also goes off into his own, weird direction.