Hayao Miyazaki

Move over, Hayao Miyazaki - with Your Name, Makoto Shinkai may have taken his mantle

Fantasy about two teenagers who swap bodies and genders is first animated film not produced by Miyazaki to gross 10 billion yen, and has been seen by nearly 8 million cinema-goers in its first month

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 12:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 1:45pm

Animated film Kimi no Na wa (Your Name), about two teenagers in a body-swapping fantasy, is taking Japan by storm, with its box office revenues surpassing 10 billion yen (HK$770 million) in the four weeks after its release.

That’s a first for a Japanese animated film made by anyone other than the renowned Hayao Miyazaki, and makes it the ninth-highest grossing Japanese film ever.

Since Makoto Shinkai’s blockbuster hit opened at cinemas on August 26, it has drawn 7.74 million people and fans have thronged locations featured in the film.

It has become the first Japanese animated film to be selected for official competition at the BFI London Film Festival, and last week received a special screening at Spain’s San Sebastian Film Festival. It is scheduled for international release in 85 countries.

Shinkai has long been hailed as the new Miyazaki, and with the popularity of his latest film he may at last have taken the mantle of the renowned anime director. Miyazaki, 75, whose works have been big hits in Japan and abroad and who produced award-winning films such as Spirited Away, announced his retirement in 2013.

Seismic shifts ahead in Japan's anime industry

Your Name depicts gender swapping between a senior high school girl who lives in the countryside and a senior high school boy in Tokyo in their dreams, as their fates become intertwined by the once-in-a-thousand-year fall of a comet. One of the film’s attractions is its beautiful cinematography with its focus on the use of light.

The story, based on a novel by Shinkai that has sold more than 1 million copies, features many real-life locations, such as Shinkai’s hometown in Nagano prefecture in central Japan, neighboring Gifu prefecture, and Tokyo.

In the steps of a hero: Makoto Shinkai

Illustrating the film’s appeal, many people were seen late this month visiting one such spot – stairs beside a Shinto shrine in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward – to take photos of it during daytime on a weekday.

Among them was Yasuko Nakamura, a third-year university student in Tokyo, who chatted with her friend at the spot where the paths of the hero and heroine crossed. “It really exists,” she mused.

Four songs by popular Japanese rock band Radwimps featured in the film have also boosted its popularity.

Since his debut in 2002 with a short, self-produced animation, Shinkai has expanded his fan base with subsequent films such as The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimetres per Second.

Shinkai, whose films’ main characters are mostly teenagers, said he wants to reach out to this particular audience.

“There are quite a lot of them who feel distressed if their lives only revolve around school or home, which is why they turn to reading manga or novels and playing (video) games. I want to create for the young generation who earnestly need such stories,” he said.