• Kyodo


The animated film “Your Name.” is taking Japan by storm, with its box office revenues surpassing the ¥10 billion ($99 million) mark in just 28 days since its release, marking a milestone for a Japanese animation other than the works of renowned director Hayao Miyazaki.

Since Makoto Shinkai’s blockbuster hit about two teenagers in a body-swapping fantasy opened at cinemas on Aug. 26, it has drawn 7.74 million people and throngs of fans have scurried to visit destinations featured in the film.

It is now the ninth-highest grossing Japanese film, and the only Japanese animation to rack up more than ¥10 billion in revenue apart from Miyazaki’s works.

Miyazaki, whose works have been big hits in Japan and abroad and who produced award-winning films such as “Spirited Away,” said in 2013 he will retire due to age. He is now 75.

Propelled by the popularity of his latest film, Shinkai, who has already made a name for himself in the Japanese animation industry scene, is being touted as a successor to Miyazaki.

The story depicts the strange 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.

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.

Yurika Aoki, another visitor, said she usually does not watch animations except for Disney films, but was encouraged to watch “Your Name.” on the large screen due to the rave reviews.

“There were a lot of comments on social media, praising the film as ‘awesome,’ ” Aoki said.

The film’s soaring popularity has also prodded movie production staff to urge fans to observe their conduct when visiting the places featured in the film amid complaints about their behavior.

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 Centimeters 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.

Produced by major film company Toho Co., “Your Name.” has been shown at more than 10 times the number of cinemas where his previous work, “The Garden of Words” in 2013, was shown.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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