A massive box-office hit in its native country, this charming, inventive and frequently very funny Japanese anime is set to significantly raise the profile of writer-director Makoto Shinkai among western audiences.
The plot centres on two contemporary Japanese teenagers – small-town high-school girl Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi) and Tokyo boy Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki) – who find themselves inexplicably waking up in each other’s bodies several times a week. Their confusing experience is compounded by the fact that neither can remember the other’s name once they revert to normal, but they soon find inventive ways to communicate and begin falling for each other. However, their unconventional romance is threatened by an imminent disaster involving a comet heading for Mitsuha’s town.
To say any more would be heading too far into spoiler territory – suffice it to say that the pleasures of the film lie in Shinkai’s skilful blend of genres, as teen body-swap comedy mixes with sci-fi themed romance to become something that’s as surprising as it is deeply moving. In addition, the comet serves as an allegory for the nuclear disaster that followed the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, lending the film a timely and powerful emotional resonance.
The characters are extremely likeable and the film takes full comic advantage of its adolescent body-swap premise – one particularly great running gag involves a dumbstruck Taki fondling “his” breasts every morning. However, there’s also a touching level of sensitivity in the script, with the body-swapping serving as an apt metaphor for the turmoil of adolescence and each character gaining an increased confidence and emotional maturity as a result of their experience.
The animation is utterly gorgeous throughout, from its lushly realised countryside scenes to its photo-realistic city-scapes and kaleidoscopic fantasy sequences, all of which are imbued with a breath-taking level of detail. The film is topped off with a catchy J-pop soundtrack, making this an unmissable treat for animation fans.