Movie review: The gorgeous anime Your Name morphs from high-school comedy to existential mystery

Your Name's beautifully drawn visuals and compelling story give Japan's prominent anime outfit Studio Ghibli a run for its money

Taki and Mitsuha cross paths and fall in love in the anime, Your Name. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES



107 minutes/Opens tomorrow/4/5 stars

The story: Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a high-school boy living in Tokyo, has a crush on a senior colleague at an Italian restaurant where he works part-time. Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a restless high-school girl living in rural Itomori, performs rituals for the family shrine. Their lives start to intersect in a mysterious way that confounds them and the people around them. Based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Makoto Shinkai.

It is easy to see why Your Name has been such a big hit in Japan - it has a compelling story told in an unusual way and the visuals are lovely.

As of Oct 23, it has been No. 1 on the Japanese box-office charts for nine weeks.

It is the first anime movie to earn more than 10 billion yen (S$132.6 million) that is not from the vaunted Studio Ghibli, whose acclaimed hits include Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Spirited Away (2001) and The Wind Rises (2013).

A product of CoMix Wave Films, an animation outfit whose credits include the well-received mecha romance Voices Of A Distant Star (2002), Your Name is one of those movies that work best the less you know about them.

There is a sense of dislocation when the film opens, with Taki and Mitsuha dogged by the feeling that they are searching for something or someone. Yet, the answer is just out of reach, like a dream that is forgotten the moment one awakes.

It is only 30 minutes in that the characters realise what is happening - at the same time that audiences find out. The question of why it is happening remains a mystery for a while longer.

Along the way, the movie deepens from a light-hearted high- school comedy into a kind of existential mystery that seems to be linked to the impending appearance of a comet.

There is humour, romance, excitement, poignancy and a gentle rumination on time through the Japanese tradition of braiding cords.

The animation is lovely, beautifully drawn and vividly coloured.

One needs only to look at the gorgeous autumn scene in which Mitsuha, along with her grandmother and younger sister, make their way through the woods - the trees ablaze in red, orange and yellow - to know that the competition is heating up for Studio Ghibli.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline Movie review: The gorgeous anime Your Name morphs from high-school comedy to existential mystery. Subscribe