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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

‘Your Name.’ is Japanese animation at its best

Every once in a while a movie sneaks into town mostly unnoticed. That occurred recently, to me at least, with the Japanese animated film "Your Name."

Written and directed by Makato Shinkai, the film owes a great debt to the Studio Ghibli films of the past, particularly to the works of the great Hayao Miyazaki. "Your Name." (and, yes, that period after the title is intentional) is playing at the Regal NorthTown Mall Cinemas.

Here is what I wrote about the film for the Spokane Public Radio show "Movies 101":

By now, we’ve become accustomed to the differences between American animated films and those produced by the Japanese. While most U.S. entries are about self-determination, about discovering some hidden talent or skill that makes the protagonist special and that will help said protagonist complete some mission or solve some problem, Japanese films are more about the mystery of existence.

Sure, the protagonists have missions to fulfill, such as saving their parents from a witch’s curse – as a little girl does in Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning 2001 effort “Spirited Away.” But the basic difference here is that many Japanese films are less about self-determination than they are about determination of self.

That’s the case with this tale of country girl Mitsuha and city boy Taki, two teenagers whose blending of selves involves both a mysterious potion tied to ancient spiritual practices and to the warding off of a danger potentially as bad as the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – another traditional Japanese theme.

Boasting the same kind of animation that earned Miyazaki his renown, and blending it with a storyline that tackles modern Japanese life while finding an inventive way to explore notions of romance and true love, “Your Name.” is a treasure that – even if the first half hour felt confusing to my own Western-educated mind – is well worth the investment of a near-two-hour view.

"Your Name." continues at Northtown through next week. (Oh, and the version I saw was dubbed in English, so those of you who hate subtitles will be happy.)

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