A Deeply Human and Lovely Supernatural Tale
Soon after its 2016 release in Japan, writer and director Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name became the highest-grossing anime film ever released worldwide, making waves in both Japan and countries around the globe. With a simple-seeming story of a teenage boy and girl who swap bodies, the idea of Your Name seems like a been-there-done-that movie, but through gorgeous animation, some unexpected twists on the central concept, and two wonderful central characters, Your Name is among some of the best animated films released in the last several years. It’s a rousing, earnest, lovely success on every front.
Your Name is focused on two characters, Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a high school girl who lives in the rural and quiet mountain town of Itomori, and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a high school boy in Tokyo. These two suddenly begin to swap bodies at random, waking up in each other’s forms at the start of various mornings and left to figure out their new surroundings and relationships without ruining each other’s lives. Their time spent in vastly different day-to-day lives begins to expand their worldview and opinions of one another, leading to burgeoning feelings and a very unexpected chance at falling in love.
It’s best to go into Your Name knowing as little of the plot as possible, as Shinkai has purposefully made his film into a mini-mystery that creates joy through its many gradual reveals. It’s evident from the start that there are many things to be learned throughout the course of Your Name, as the film quickly hits the viewer with a multitude of concepts and hints that won’t be revealed until later. Thankfully, there’s a deft hand behind them all, which turns what could be infuriating questions into exciting seeds that will eventually blossom for satisfying reveals.
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A Brutal, Emotional Instant Classic of the Comic Book Genre
The X-Men films have received a mixed reputation in recent years due to their frequent inability to be stable in their quality and a general sense that the franchise is always playing catch-up with other studios and their superhero film output. Through it all, actor Hugh Jackman has remained one of the bright spots as the ferocious and charismatic Wolverine, whose own films include one strong entry into the franchise (The Wolverine) and one of the all-time worst comic book movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). So suffice it to say that even given the carefully crafted approach that Jackman and director/co-writer James Mangold showed in their efforts to make Jackman’s final film as Wolverine, Logan, it’s stunning how good their film actually is.
Logan is not just good for an X-Men movie. It’s not just good for a comic book movie. Logan is an absolutely stellar film that proves powerful themes, fantastic acting, and the commitment to telling the best story possible are more important than any sort of cinematic universe creation.
With a setting in the distant future in which the X-Men are no more, it’s clear from the outset that Mangold and Jackman aren’t interested in preserving any sort of franchise continuity. Rather, they’re more than happy to burn it all down and leave 20th Century Fox to rebuild from the ashes if it means telling the best story possible. With the idea that mutants are almost extinct and that a vague but terrible future is in store for the many characters currently being touted by the rest of the franchise’s ongoing team films, it seems as though every X-Men film from here on out will be saddled with living up to Logan‘s inevitable dystopia and the film’s likely-impossible-to-reach high bar.
But with the supremely tepid X-Men: Apocalypse being the last entry into the main franchise continuity, it’s more than okay to break this series to give life to something this special.