As complicated as it is, it probably makes the most sense to start out by trying to tell you the basic plot of Your Name, which has rocketed to become the highest grossing anime film of all time.
It centers on two teenagers, Taki and Mitsuha, a city boy and a country girl, who discover that they keep waking up in each other’s bodies. I mean this literally—each wakes up surprised to be in a strange place with unfamiliar body parts, and it takes them a while to figure out that they may not be dreaming, and this really is happening every couple of days. They eventually devise ways to communicate with each other despite never meeting and despite the awkwardness that comes with not remembering what in the world the other did in their body while they were switched.
And all of this is kind of sweet. Taki and Mitsuha react to their circumstances pretty much in the way you’d expect real people to react, sometimes with wonder, sometimes with excitement, sometimes with horror, always with curiosity. But this is also all so much more than the typical body-switching movie we’ve grown used to, and maybe grown tired of. I won’t spoil where it all goes, but there are certainly echoes of the devastation of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the movie takes a major turn and becomes a sort of meditation on fate and whether or not we have the power to change what’s coming.
I’ll admit that I’m generally not the biggest anime fan, and I do feel that Your Name becomes just a little bit maudlin toward the end, but it’s as rooted in reality as a body-switching, time-traveling animated movie can possibly be. The emotions feel real, the characters are real people, and the animation is really pretty gorgeous. And who among us hasn’t wondered what it would be like to live in another person’s shoes?