Japanese animator, filmmaker, author and manga artist, Makoto Shinkai, has often been called “The New Miyazaki,” and I can definitely see where these comparisons come from: both have proven themselves fully capable of bringing nuanced, thoughtful characters onscreen, each is unquestionably interested in societal ills and the way we relate to one another and with nature, and of course there’s a magical realism element that’s always present. That being said, there are plenty of differences between the two. Having entered animation through his experience in the video game industry, Shinkai is obviously much more comfortable using digital graphics in his work compared to Miyazaki, who’s notorious for preferring to hand draw almost every frame. Along with this aesthetic difference, I also think there’s a big variance in how each animator engages with politics. Miyazaki’s films are a resounding call to action, whereas Shinkai’s are often centered around feelings of loss and loneliness, more focused on how the personal is political. This proclivity is captured perfectly in his 2016 hit, my stream of the week: Your Name.
To start, the writing on this movie was fantastic. Just when you think it’s a typical Freaky Friday (2003) situation, where countryside teen Mitsuha and Tokyo-based high schooler Taki switch bodies while asleep (and seem to fall in love in the process) Shinkai totally flips the script and gives audiences a heartwarming and heart-wrenching exploration of love, time, mortality, governmental negligence and so much more. The dialogue is poetic without being overly-sentimental, and the characters overall were very believable and lived-in. I think the formal aspects of the film also deserve some love.
In terms of its cinematography, what Shinkai has accomplished here is astounding. The use of color and wildly innovative camera work (is it camera work for animation? Either way), along with the editing and music all work together to give this film a grand scale while still being focused on the personal aspects that are so central to all of Shinkai’s work. Even the sound design draws us that much deeper into the world this animation team has created. It’s emotional, epic, personal, and—like everything—political. Your Name is streaming on Prime Video, watch it while you can!