Opening 11 Jan 2018
Mitsuha lives with her small sister and their grandmother and attends high school in a small Japanese town called Itomori. Their father, who is running for re-election as town mayor, has little time for them. Mitsuha dreams of leaving this boring provincial village for the big city of Tokyo, perhaps discarding her growing girlish identity to become a boy instead. Parallel we meet Taki, who does live in Tokyo, but his life is not necessarily the dream that Mitsuha imagines. He also goes to high school, and works part time in an Italian restaurant; he wants to study architecture. A star falls from the sky and Mitsuha’s dream comes true, although she doesn’t comprehend the full experience. She is left in a state of confusion and thinks this must have been a weird dream: running around Tokyo as a boy. Her friends ask her why she was so strange that day. We slowly learn that Taki was also in a dream, living the life of Mitsuha in Itomori. They begin to communicate through notes in Mitsuha’s notebook and on Taki’s phone. Slowly they become acquainted with the person with whom they are exchanging, first, their bodies, and, eventually, their lives.
This is an animated film, but not your typical film for small children. It concerns teenagers with their fears and desires as they experience puberty. Each drawing is excellent and carries the story, possibly even better than if there had been live actors. The credits list 326 names as having worked on animation. Shinkai wrote the original novel and then the screenplay for the film which he directed. As of January 2017 it was the highest grossing animated film in Japan, even more successful than Miyazaki’s well-known Spirited Away. It has taken a while to reach Germany, but is definitely well-worth the wait, especially if you are interested in life as viewed from a Japanese standpoint, although it could happen in any culture. (Becky Tan)