I went in to see Kimi no Na ha without knowing anything about the movie. I had simply been intrigued by the movie poster with the comet as a background to two high school students living in wildly different environments - and the excellent reviews on its Friday release convinced me to see it just the day after.
Not knowing anything about the movie made me relish every single moment of it. The two main characters would, it seems, never have the occasion to meet each other, but through a mysterious circumstance are led to share some of their waking hours with each other. At first, the movie struck a compelling, funny and nostalgic view at high school life in Japan, love, friendship, puberty, teenage angst and some elements of mysticism. It felt like a very fresh and charming sentimental love comedy with a dash of depth and teenage angst. And it already utterly captured me at that point.
Yet midway, the movie veers resolutely into dramatic, and more mystical territory, while managing to keep the lighthearted tone it had reached during the first half at just the right moments. Together with one of the main characters, I was shocked and powerless upon learning of one aspect that had eluded both protagonists, as well as the audience. At the same time, a trope often used in science-fiction got thrown into the mix and the stakes suddenly get much higher, making me look back to the first half of the movie and thinking "wwwooooowww I get it now", while following the paths of the protagonists, which, just like the Kumi Himo (thread making?) that Miyamizu Shrine makes, represent time itself. Meeting, diverging, tangling, getting cut, doubling back. The second half of the film is a perfect adventure, full of suspense, humor, hope, and yes, tears. And at some points, it gets close to tragedy (one scene in a train left a huge lump in my throat). In some respect it reminded me of Spirited Away (my long time favorite animation movie), in which both main characters grow thanks to the other, and whose paths had crossed and would cross again, beyond memory or reality.
Saying more would spoil the movie, so I have been very, very vague. Suffice it to say the movie made me laugh, cry, get the goosebumps, and got me to the edge of my seat at some points. It really had great storytelling, pacing, characters, and emotions throughout. I loved it.
The visuals were also gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Tokyo is more real than the real Tokyo, and the director, animators, background artists, and computer artists seem to have devilish fun playing with lighting and getting some of the most beautiful scenes and moments I can recall in an animation movie.
I should mention the music as well, which was very, very good. I know RADWIMPS (I went to see them live a couple of years back), but was surprised at the tone they achieved, and how well it fit with the movie - the music, along with the visuals, really help in getting a full immersion into the story.
However, some of the most hilarious jokes in the movie seem to be untranslatable to English - in particular the "dialects" of the main characters, as well as a specific moment that makes use of several of the ways that Japanese people use to refer to themselves, depending on context and sex (watashi, watakushi, boku, ore). So I'm looking forward to seeing how those scenes will be handled in the translation!
I have since seen the movie one more time, bought the OST, and bought and read the novelization (which is almost like the movie, but does give more insight into each character's thoughts and thought processes.). Highly recommended!