I'll say this about Your Name.: as much as I love it (and I do, a lot), I really cannot begin to understand why this was the film struck such a huge chord, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film in the history of the Japanese box office (the second-highest Japanese production on that list) and the highest-grossing animated film in world history made outside of the United States. Not that it doesn't deserve to be a success! The film is the absolute very best kind of crowdpleaser, the kind that genuinely does seem to have a little something for everyone. It's good some of your YA romance; some gentle, slightly wacky fantasy; a complicated timeline and sense of cosmic grandeur, in case you're of the kind that thinks that all animation and anime in particular needs to have some kind of non-realist generic element; and if you're not that kind, you're probably enough of a fan of animation qua animation to be bowled over by how goddamned stupid pretty Your Name. looks. Seriously, it is so desperately, incomprehensibly beautiful. I would not have thought that I'd run into anything that would knock The Red Turtle down to being only the second-loveliest animated feature I saw from 2016, but Your Name. takes that prize without breaking a sweat.

What the film doesn't have is a particularly groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind story; it's the sort of inventive fantasy that seems far more radical and unprecedented than it really is, doing crazy things that are the expected crazy, if you know what I mean. So anyway, what I mean is that there's a teen girl, Miyamizu Mitsuha (Kamishiraishi Mone), living in the town of Itomori in the Hida Mountains, who is bored as hell with small-town life. One day, she starts acting enormously strange, almost like she doesn't even know who she is or who everybody is around her; she also develops a strange fascination with fondling her own breasts. And the next day it's back to normal, with Mitsuha completely unaware of her previous behavior. There's also a boy the same age, Tachibana Taki (Kamiki Ryunosuke), living in Tokyo and mostly enjoying his life, focusing on refining his drawing skills and hopelessly crushing on a slightly older woman. He also has a day where he seems to be confused by his own life and body, and we figure out only a little bit before the characters do that, at apparently arbitrary moments, Mitsuha and Taki swap bodies for one day at a time.

The body swap adventure is a noble old clichΓ©, and Your Name. (written by director Shinkai Makoto, in concert with his prose novel that just preceded the film to market; a manga version of the story is upcoming) doesn't so much revitalize or freshen the form as it plays the standard notes very, very well. The two teens are swiftly and faultlessly realised characters, not idealised all out of proportion to what actual teenagers are like, which is to say that they can both be a bit obnoxious in pieces while being likeable, smart, and friendly on the whole. As will happen, the two take advantage of their condition to help positively intervene in each other's lives, communicating through journal entries on each others phones and with notes written on their shared bodies, and it comes as the most meager of surprises that their oddly intimate connection starts to translate into love.

Your Name. isn't without its plot holes, the most gaping of which I can't name, because it has been forced into place specifically to facilitate the film's big ol' plot shift somewhere in the second half. And it's certainly not to the movie's credit that said shift takes place at all; while it ups the stakes in a perfectly organic way, and while we can hardly complain that a body-swap romcom takes a turn for the unrealistically fanciful, I do think that something delicate and fragile is lost from the movie. It becomes... I don't know, anime-ish, somehow, like Shinkai or somebody grew spooked that this might be just a pleasant character piece and needed to be a sci-fi thriller as well, because that's how cartoons do. It really doesn't need to, in order to be a completely satisfying emotional narrative, though far be it from me to tell the film that dethroned Spirited Away as The Most Popular Anime Feature Ever how to go about its business.

Regardless, the "tumble" that Your Name. takes in its last third is hardly fatal, or even really all that noticeable. The dirty fact of the matter is that the film's story and script simply aren't that big of a thing: they're nice, and very enjoyable, and a little trite, and if all the writing did was to serve as the delivery mechanism for the imagery and music (by the Japanese rock band Radwimps, veering neatly between teen angsty songs and rich instrumental pieces), I would still quite contentedly rank this in the top echelon of animated features from what proved to be an exorbitantly strong year for the medium, writ large. It is amazingly beautiful. I have seen none of Shinkai's previous films, but I have it on good authority that the thing he does best of everybody in contemporary animation is to arrange for films with extraordinary lighting effects, and that is something Your Name. very much has on offer. The film's collection of sunsets and lens flares starts to seem like showing off pretty early on, and it more than has the quality to carry that off.

But the whole thing is a triumph of animation from every angle I could name. A hybrid of traditional forms and computer trickery, Your Name. benefits by having some wonderful, complicated movements of the artificial camera that bring the physical space of the characters' respective worlds out in the most damnedly interesting ways. On the one hand, you have the depth and staging of a CGI feature; on the other hand, the elegant painterly quality of classic anime backgrounds. It's a hell of a thing. Plus, the fluid camera movements are well-paired with fluid character animation, the whole thing equaling out to a lovely, totally enthralling swirl of graceful motion. It's visually intoxicating throughout, both because of its pictorial loveliness and the technical bravado with which that loveliness is placed in front of us. While, by all means, I enjoy Your Name. just fine as a love story and character piece, it's as a showpiece for some of the finest animation of the 2010s that I've gone a little bit crazy for it: no fan of the medium can afford to miss this, and obviously plenty of relative non-fans have embraced it with much the same fervor. Huge popular blockbusters really don't come much better than this.