With the retirement of world-acclaimed anime director and founder of the highly successful Studio Ghibli animation studio, Hayao Miyazaki, fans of anime films worldwide is at a lost as to what’s next.

Enter Makoto Shinkai (新海 誠).

Shinkai is the writer and director for the latest hit anime film in Japan, Your Name. He named Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky as his favourite anime and is called “The New Miyazaki” in several reviews, comparisons which the humble guy said was an “overestimation”.

An overestimation?

Not really. Shinkai is just really humble.

Your Name is currently the seventh-highest grossing film ever released in Japan, and is touted as a serious challenger to Studio’s Ghibli’s hold on the anime box office records, both in Japan and globally.

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What’s the fuss all about?

Well, Shinkai is really an excellent storyteller and visualiser, much like Miyazaki. While Miyazaki’s works are slanted towards nature and landscapes, Shinkai’s works reflect an escapism into the cosmic world and contemporary science fiction.

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I took notice of Shinkai ever since watching one of his first anime short films back in 2007 at a film festival – 5 Centimetres Per Second:

I was immediately mesmorised by Shinkai’s ability to weave music, sci-fi and fantasy with references to the real world, creating a story that is very relatable and engaging. This is storytelling with the anime genre at the level of a master like Hayao Miyazaki.

Your Name explores the relationship between a ordinary school boy in Tokyo, Taki and a girl from the countryside, Mitsuha, after they found out that have been mysteriously body-swapping.

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Synopsis

Taki wakes from what seemed like a very important dream. But in an unfamiliar room and not in his body… but that of a girl! On the other hand, Mitsuha, a teen girl, is tired of living in a mountain village. She pleads to God “Please, let me be a handsome Tokyo boy in my next life!”

The next morning, Mitsuha awakens as a high school male. Based on information around her, she learns whose body she inhabits. His name is Taki. The two have switched places! When they wake up again, they’ve returned to their former selves. But sleep brings the body swap again and again. Mysteriously, the pattern continues daily. The two fumble about, unaccustomed to each other’s bodies, but start communicating by memo. As they awkwardly overcome one challenge after another, a bond develops between the two- one that evolves into something more romantic.

However, there’s something they still don’t know… The unexpected is about to be revealed.

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There are much more depth to the story than what is reflected in the simplistic synopsis. I will not go into too much details so as not to give away spoilers.

I caught the preview screening a few weeks earlier and enjoyed it very much. Shinkai lives up to his name as the “The New Miyazaki” and Your Name is a beaming spark to lead into the future for Japanese anime films after Hayao Miyazaki.

The music in the film is beautiful weaved into the narrative and there are many picturesque scenes in the anime taken from real life places in Japan. Some of these places have now become tourist attractions, drawing fans of the movies to reenact their favourite scenes in real life at the locations.

The film slowly sucks you into the narrative and takes you on a fantasy adventure together with the two lead characters, living through their star-crossed love story. At the end of the film, even a tired and jaded soul will find something inside your heart that is rekindled.

Your Name is now showing in Singapore cinemas. Go catch it (especially if it’s for a movie date)! 🙂