Can Anime still be as gripping without Ghibli?

With Studio Ghibli being on an indefinite hiatus, it’s re-assuring to know the studio’s animators are still in work and producing some of the most beautiful animation films around; a category which ‘Your Name’ certainly falls into. Currently being the fourth highest-grossing film in Japan of all time and one of the most critically acclaimed, some people are calling it the new ‘Spirited Away.’ So, does it live up to the hype?

‘Your Name’ is a fantastical body-swapping romance between a girl, called Mitsuha, who lives in rural Japan and a boy from Tokyo, called Taki, as they wake up in each others bodies after a mystical comet flies over the country.

At the heart of it, this is a film that delves deep into the psyche of growing up as both our leads attempt to navigate through social circles in each other’s bodies. The body-swapping element is where a lot of the comedy in the film derives from, most notably when Taki wakes up in a female body.

Even though the film is at times hilarious, the story takes some darker and brave directions which is rarely seen in animation films anymore. Amidst the laughs, the film is relatively melancholic and tragic in parts but never loses a sense of optimism and hope. It’s a film about searching for someone through time and space and not losing sight of that goal. For this reason, ‘Your Name’ is nothing short of a breathtakingly emotional film which will keep viewers hooked through its near two-hour runtime.

One of the main selling-points of the film is the stunning animation. This is some of the most beautiful hand-drawn animation I’ve ever seen and provides more of a spectacle than most of the biggest, summer blockbuster films released in the past year or so. The colours are bright and the comet in the story provides some vibrant, sparkling animation which is fantastic to look at. Every single still, every single frame of this film has been meticulously hand drawn and crafted to include the most colourful and incredible detail.

In regards to flaws with the film, there are some very minor issues. Some of the music choices, specifically the J-Pop, can seem a bit jarring and inappropriate for the scene and makes the opening few minutes a bit busy as they try to introduce all the plots at once. The ending of the film also drags. There are multiple points within the last twenty minutes where it fades to black and carries on. This crime is especially noticeable in the last few scenes where they could have cut it off five minutes earlier and the ending would have been exactly the same. Nevertheless, these flaws are minor ones and don’t ruin the experience or detract from the film in a significant way.

Whilst it’s simpler to take the easy route and see a new Disney film, which, albeit still good, will follow a similar formula every time, take the path less travelled and see ‘Your Name’ as it’s well worth your time. It’s unpredictable, funny, mature and will keep you thinking for hours after leaving the cinema. Hand-drawn animation seems to be an art form which is disappearing and, with Studio Ghibli’s future being ambiguous, it’s more important than ever that these type of films are supported in cinemas. It may not quite hit the high bar that Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Spirited Away’ set, but it’s the closest we’re likely to get in a world without Studio Ghibli.

Verdict: One of the best and most beautifully hand-drawn animation films in recent memory, ‘Your Name’ has an emotional, mature and unpredictable story that will keep viewers guessing throughout.

Dan Lyons

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