Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name was a worldwide phenomenon in 2016. It is currently the 4th highest grossing film in Japan, as well as the highest grossing anime film of all time, dethroning Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It is also the 7th highest grossing traditionally animated film of all time, with most of the films above it coming from Walt Disney Animation.
Your Name has received countless accolades since its release, and I wholeheartedly believe that it deserves every single ounce of praise that comes its way. The film is an absolute masterclass in animation, cinematography, storytelling, character development and all of the little nuances that create great and memorable films.
My gut reaction upon my first viewing of Your Name was that it is as perfect as a creative endeavor can conceivably be. But rather than gush about all of the qualities that make the film so special, I’d like to take a deeper look into what made it the global sensation that it has become, as well as what this means for the future of traditional animation, and the popularity of anime outside of Japan.
Resonance With International Audiences
Anime films have seen varying degrees of success outside of their home country, though very few have been as revered as Your Name. But what is the reason for this? The film is a masterpiece to be sure, but other amazing anime films like Wolf Children haven’t managed to achieve Your Name’s level of success.
I believe that the major factor in Your Name’s resonance with international audiences has quite a bit to do with its simplicity and relatability. While the film does have plenty of fantasy elements to be sure, at its core, the narrative is one of two people who share a unique and special connection.
The bonds between people has always been at the heart of many of Shinkai’s stories, and Your Name, with its body switching and communication via notes and digital diaries, is this thematic element taken about as far as it can go.
It also helps that Taki and Mitsuha, the film’s two leads, are incredibly likeable and endearing. They come from two infinitely different worlds, and seeing how they adapt and grow in their new environments surely captured the hearts of many viewers.
Animation doesn’t only exist to be enjoyed by children, and films like Your Name do a fantastic job of proving this. The film’s storytelling is very mature, and many people that wouldn’t otherwise spare a glance at the film have been willing to give it a try.
I’ve had conversations with people in my personal life about Your Name, and the results often surprised me. One such conversation was between myself and a good friend from work, and he informed me that his mother, who has no idea what anime really is, asked him to pick up a copy of the film from work after hearing great things about it from her friends.
This story both shocked me and made me extremely happy, and I’m sure this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Aside from the film’s box office success, it’s also done really well for itself on home media. Copies of both the DVD and Blu-Ray release have been flying off the shelves at retailers like Walmart, and the collector’s edition has seen similar levels of demand.
Your Name is a sweet and charming film that respects the time and sensibilities of the older members of the audience. This notion, among many others, is why the film was such a hit with viewers the world over, not to mention just how lovely the film’s aesthetics are.
Anime, No Longer Niche
I’ve previously written about the history and decline of the traditionally animated feature, and I cited Your Name as an example of the medium’s future. Japan sees the release of many traditionally animated films every year, but offerings are pretty sparse outside of the country.
Before Your Name, there hadn’t been a traditionally animated film of major consequence since Disney’s 2009 film, The Princess and the Frog, nor had there been any hugely successful ones since Lilo & Stitch and Spirited Away during the early 2000’s.
It is unrealistic to think that traditionally animated films will ever achieve the levels of market share that they enjoyed in the preceding decades, but the success of Your Name has demonstrated that their is room for both styles of film to coexist.
I don’t feel that it is too farfetched to think that we could receive a handful of traditionally animated films per year, amongst the numerous computer animated ones. The caveat to this statement however is that these select films will have to be award winning material.
All of the marketing in the world wouldn’t have been able to make Your Name a success if it wasn’t a quality experience to begin with. For a film of the traditional ilk to succeed in modern day box offices, it will have to be firing on all cylinders.
One element that can’t be overlooked is the state of anime in pop culture in 2017. Anime has been steadily growing in popularity outside of Japan for decades now, but the 2010’s have seen an explosion of anime being talked about in the mainstream. Anime Youtuber Gigukk has actually done a great video on the topic, and I highly suggest giving it a watch.
With every year that passes, anime becomes less and less niche. People are always looking for new shows to binge watch, and the widespread availability of anime on services like Funimation Now and Crunchyroll, as well as more popular and mainstream ones such as Netflix and Hulu have been an immense help to anime’s recent growth, a growth that the success of Your Name is both a product of, and contributes directly to.
Looking To The Future
Animated or otherwise, Your Name is one of the best story experiences I’ve had in years. It has beautiful animation direction, top quality vocal performances and plenty of heartwarming moments that will stick with viewers for years to come.
With new projects in development from Shinkai, Mamoru Hosoda and even the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, the future of anime films is looking as bright as ever. But what excites me the most is the prospect of anime becoming more and more widely accepted, as well as the resurgence of traditionally animated films in the mainstream.
Anime and traditional animation are such wonderful mediums that not enough people respect, appreciate or even know about. The artistry of animation is the perfect vehicle for exploring worlds that were previously thought only to exist in our dreams, and there are so many great and talented people in the world with exciting stories to tell.
To speak of anime specifically, I can’t overstate how influential it has been in my personal life. There’s so much that I’ve learned about Japanese culture, society and mannerisms just from watching anime, and I can genuinely say that it has given me a deeper appreciation of the world beyond my own.
Crisp and vivid animation, wonderfully developed characters and a rich story are praises that only scratch the surface when it comes to Your Name. It sets a new standard for what can be accomplished with traditional animation, and it is my hope that animation companies around the world are keeping an inquisitive eye on what made the film such an important work of art.