'Your Name': A romantic, teeny-bopper version of 'Freaky Friday'

By Michael O'Sullivan The Washington Post - Published: April 7, 2017 0
photo - A scene from "Your Name." MUST CREDIT: FUNimation Entertainment
A scene from "Your Name." MUST CREDIT: FUNimation Entertainment

Directed by Makoto Shinkai; 106 minutes; PG for brief coarse language, some images of destruction and mild anatomical humor

Big news in the anime world: the Japanese feature "Your Name" has overtaken "Spirited Away" as the highest-grossing anime film ever.

Whether the new film can replace the Studio Ghibli classic in the hearts of that 2001 film's fans remains to be seen.

"Your Name" starts with a premise that is familiar from other supernatural comedies: two Japanese teens - country girl Mitsuha and Tokyo boy Taki - find themselves repeatedly switching bodies in their dreams, leading to some predictably silly comedy regarding body parts, as well as the expected love story.

But what sounds like a romantic riff on "Freaky Friday" turns into something stranger and more mysterious, as writer-director Makoto Shinkai introduces an element of time travel and the transmigration of souls that thickens, if not deepens, the plot.

The film's crisp and clean visuals are genuinely lovely, and they sharply render the distinctions between Taki's hectic urban life and Mitsuha's sleepy rural home.

But a sound track featuring cheesy, power-rock ballads often overwhelms the pretty visuals.

And the narrative - which involves not only straightforward body-switching but the theme of destinies intertwined - can get a bit confusing.

At one point, Taki, while he is "possessed" by the spirit of Mitsuha, tries to find her - or is that him? - on the astral plane by drinking kuchikamizake, which is essentially the alcoholic fermented spit of Mitsuha. You might need a shot of that for any of this to make sense.

"Your Name" is still highly watchable, even when this mystical, young adult love story cloys - or confounds.

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