Dub Premiere/Review (3/23/17)
In honor of the upcoming stateside release of your name, Funimation Films had a screening tonight at the lovely Yamashiro Theater in Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to be invited, and was one of the first to see the dubbed version of Makoto Shinkai’s latest work.
The dub for your name was bound to be problematic because of the freaky friday-esque gender swapping that happens between central characters Taki and Mitsuha. Both Stephanie Sheh (who voiced Mitsuha) and Michael Sinterniklaas (who voiced Taki), were present at the premiere. Not only were they the title roles for the film, they were also the directors of the dub…specifically calling out that they directed one another as they worked on the movie.
While many people wondered if Funimation outsourcing the dub was the right decision, seeing the finished project definitely had me feeling good about the quality of the dub. One of the biggest laughs during the original screening was when Mitsuha (in Taki’s body) refers to herself with feminine pronouns multiple times before landing on the proper, masculine descriptor. This seemed like it would be a difficult joke to translate to English, but it still works wonderfully. Sinterniklaas’s work as Taki was the standout performance for me; his characterization of Taki when Mitsuha takes over his body never ceases to be affective.
your name is a terrific film – you can see my original review below that goes into it in a bit more detail. Most importantly -the dub does not hamper any of its brilliance. The film will be arriving April 7th – I definitely suggest you grab a ticket if you haven’t already!
Original Review (7/4/16)
Back in 2002, I was watching a recent batch of standout AMVs (anime music videos) when I came across one titled “Out There”. I was intrigued by the music, but more so I was fascinated with the anime. The style was different than anything else I had seen, and the detail led me to want to know more.
I discovered this title was the nascent work of director Makoto Shinkai. Produced and animated exclusively on his Power Mac G4, Voices of a Distant star told the story of two youths who struggle to maintain their friendship and budding romance in the midst of an interstellar war. Their only method of communication is via text messages that, due to the staggering distance between them, literally take years to arrive. The short film captivated viewers and critics alike, and Shinkai’s career as a director began to gain traction.
Since Voices of a Distant Star, Shinkai has directed 4 additional films: The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 centimeters per second, Voices from Children Deep Below and The Garden of Words. As his film library grew, I began to appreciate his spectacular animation and poignant storytelling, particularly when it came to bringing romantic relationships to life. There are few directors out there that are able to capture the vast spectrum of emotion people go through when they’re in a relationship, but Shinkai is able to do so with ease. Your Name is no exception, and in fact, may be the best film he’s released so far.
Taki is a hard-working boy who lives deep in the heart of Tokyo. Surrounded by the constant bustle of the city, he works as a waiter while studying to be an architect. Mitsuha comes from a long line of priestesses in her small town of Itomori. After the tragic death of her mother, Mitsuha’s father abandoned the shrine to pursue politics, and eventually became mayor. Following their father’s departure, the girls were raised by their grandmother.
Both Taki and Mitsuha have their share of problems, but Mitsuha seems to be the driving force in the supernatural circumstances that follow. She is tired of the rural life and wants to move away to Tokyo, and declares her intent to the heavens following a particularly embarrassing incident with some of her classmates. What follows is a freaky friday-esque body swap, with Taki waking up in Mitsuha’s body and vice versa.
Their initial reactions are comedy gold, and the movie does well to keep the first half of the film light as Mitsuha uses her feminine charm to help Taki out with a crush, and Taki helps Mitsuha become more popular. We’ve seen this trope before, but rather than falling into the same old premise of seeking a way to “undo” the swaps, it’s why they stop swapping bodies that carries the story through the momentous second half.
The story as a whole is wonderfully crafted. Integrating elements of the spiritual/supernatural without getting distracted by it, Shinkai’s restraint is appreciated. Fans of anime are familiar with the scope and depth of Japanese spiritualism, and how entire series can be dedicated to it. The spiritual element serves as a key component of the story, but doesn’t overshadow the human emotion that’s been caught up in it.
It’s one thing to craft a story well on a large scale. What really emphasizes Shinkai’s skill as a storyteller are the little moments. Subtle body movements, a glance towards a character or scenery placed at just the right time. Each of these smaller moments, when set up properly, can be just as impactful as the overarching story. These little moments are found throughout the film, and by looking for them you can see the painstaking detail Shinkai put into the creation of his latest work.
Following the screening, Shinkai mentioned that the music took a year and a half to “get right” for the movie. The time was certainly not wasted, as the soundtrack succeeds in conveying the same spectrum of emotion.
Finally, the animation for Your Name is stunning. Detailed landscapes, rich color palettes and scrupulous detail blend together to form a gorgeous iteration of two Japans – Rural and Urban. Shinkai succeeds in communicating the appeal of both landscapes: the quiet retreat of the mountains vs the active and dynamic cityscape with plenty of things to do.
In short – Makoto Shinkai’s latest work, Your Name, is a triumph. A beautifully crafted coming-of-age romance that will be sure to entrance and delight. If you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed. If you’re not a fan of his work; after this movie, you will be.