By now, most sci-fi fans with even a cursory interest in animation will be aware of Your Name, director Makoto Shinkai’s body swap/time travel dramedy – think Freaky Friday meets Back To The Future – that became a global hit last year. At the time of writing, its worldwide gross is at over 355 million in US dollars, over $235 million of which came from its native Japan alone.
Its UK run was also impressive, considering anime that doesn’t involve Pokémon or the input of Studio Ghibli has rarely had the greatest success at the British box office. Distributor Anime Limited put the film out in partnership with National Amusements last November, initially in a one-day engagement across the UK that gave way to longer runs in cities where audiences were lapping up the film. London’s Prince Charles Cinema, to name one location, seemed to have at least one screening of Your Name a week for much of the start of 2017.
As such, it’s not surprising that Your Name has been granted an official one day re-release in cinemas around Britain, ahead of its long-awaited home format release this autumn. To sweeten the deal, the distributors have also thrown in an IMAX version of the film for select participating cinemas – the first anime feature to receive an IMAX release in the UK.
Is that IMAX version worth seeing, though? After all, the film wasn’t originally made for that format, and savvy viewers are increasingly wary of the worth of blown-up versions of movies not conceived with IMAX in mind during production. (LIEMAX, if you will.)
Well, we got a sneak peek at the IMAX version of Your Name and are pleased to report that our initial scepticism was unwarranted. The opening alone basically justifies the endeavour: an already beautiful shot following a meteor’s descent from the skies to the earth below now filling up the biggest kind of screen around, which only enhances the meticulous detail in every painterly frame.
Rather than what happens with most blockbusters released in IMAX form, whether shot with real IMAX equipment (like Dunkirk) or not, Your Name has no aspect ratio shifting; the film fills up the whole IMAX screen for its full runtime. With live-action features, the shift is to properly present the footage that wasn’t shot with actual IMAX film or digital cameras.
As such, animated films released in IMAX form have not an advantage per se, but a different playing field to live-action movies. Thanks to animation generally not incorporating actual cameras (unless you’re rotoscoping or want Spongebob to meet David Hasselhoff), their presentation can be a little more flexible; there’s, in theory, less of a risk of diminishing the film’s look by blowing it up to IMAX size.
While many new animated films get IMAX releases, they’re almost all of the CG and 3D variety. While Your Name has computer-aided embellishments, it still falls under the banner of 2D animation. No disrespect to the likes of Pixar, but it feels like 2D animation is still way ahead in terms of aesthetic beauty when compared to the rubbery look of studio CG animation.
Seeing Your Name in the biggest way possible stirs hopes regarding the IMAX format as a potential renaissance tool for 2D animation. In the early 2000s, the likes of The Lion King got this treatment, and one wonders the potential of IMAX-ising 2D genre titles, particularly anime classics. Something like fantasy epic Princess Mononoke immediately springs to mind, as does Akira – who wouldn’t want to hear the angrily shouted names Tetsuo and Kaneda blasted through IMAX speakers?
Your Name plays in 2D and IMAX format cinemas on Wednesday 23rd August, with additional English-language screenings on 30th August