I love Japanese anime. From the silly (The Girl From Phantasia) to the OMG!! (Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend), the animation is pure, hand-drawn, and has intense emotion-grabbing action that is seldom seen in our cookie-cutter CG Americanized versions. I’ll put up an Akira against a Frozen any day of the week.
This is a tale that, unlike most anime, does not have aliens, half-naked space princesses, or villains with extraordinary powers bent on destroying the Earth. What we do have is a story told in several parts; some happy and fun, others sad and heart-breaking, and all told through the eyes of two high-school teenagers living miles apart from each other. Mitsuha, a pretty young girl, lives in the beautiful mountainous town of Itomori with her excitable little sister, Yotsuha, and her wise grandmother, Hitoha. Their estranged father, Toshiki, is the town mayor and mostly stays away. Like Belle, she longs for more than her provincial life and yearns to live in Tokyo.
Then we have teenager Taki, a bright, but shy boy living in Tokyo who works after school in an Italian cafe and has a serious crush on waitress Miki Okudera, but can never bring himself to say two words to her. He wants to be an architecture, but has a strange feeling that something isn’t quite right. While all this is happening, an historic comet is passing overhead and the unexplainable occurs: Mitsuha wakes up one morning and realizes it’s not her! It’s Taki trapped inside her body for some odd reason… and Taki wakes up in Tokyo with Mitsuha inside of him! What’s the first thing they do? Grope themselves, naturally! That, and PANIC!!
At first they think it’s all a bizarre dream, after all, they wake the next morning and they’re themselves again. BUT, the next day or two, they wake up again and BING! They’ve switched back! This awkward intermittent routine goes on for weeks, so much so, that both Mitsuha and Taki begin to communicate with each other via text and diary notes. (phone calls, oddly, won’t go though). Mitsuha, taking risks with Taki’s life, starts to push him into dating Miki, even though Taki doesn’t know what’s going on until the next day when the switch is over. But just as both start to have fun switching back and forth, it just stops.
Taki, unable to cope with the reason WHY it just stopped, becomes obsessed with Mitsuha and goes to look for her, but gets the shock of his life. She and her entire mountain town of Itomori were all wiped out three years before when that comet suddenly split and a piece fell on their town, destroying it! Whaaaaaaat? He can’t and won’t believe it. Desperate to find the answers, he goes on a quest into the destroyed village and mountains and locates the shrine he (she) visited. In an attempt to turn back time, Taki drinks a bottle of kuchikamizake (a type of sake) that Mitsuha left behind and falls asleep.
Mitsuha wakes up on the day of the comet’s destruction, but it’s Taki inside her. Can she (he) save the village knowing what she now knows? Will anyone even believe her? I won’t give the ending away, but it’s a tear-jerking, roller-coaster ride right up until the very last minute of the film. We sure don’t make ’em like this anymore. Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, it has all the earmarks of the legendary Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke).
Beautifully drawn with an attention to finite detail, Shinkai tells a routine Freaky Friday body-switch story, but adds a glorious double-twist that doesn’t sink into the cutsie or cliched areas like others have. I saw it with the Japanese voice-overs (preferred) which I feel delivers the purer voice and more dramatic feel. Dubbed voices don’t always do the characters justice. Sure, you have to READ, but it’s so worth it. Be aware that this film is in limited release, so you’ll have to look to find it.
All Of Me (1984)
There have been a truckload of body-switch movies throughout the decades (The Hit Girl, 18 Again), but only a few have done the female/male body switch. One of my favorites has got to be this one with Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin. For comedy genius, you just can’t get any better than this switcheroo movie.
Roger Cobb (Martin) is a lawyer that wants to be a partner at his law firm, but to do this, he has to take on a questionable case: an eccentric and flamboyant millionairess named Edwina Cutwater (Tomlin) is about to die and needs to revise her will. . .fast! But she’s got some really weird requests that Roger finds “bananas”. She wants all her millions to go to her young and totally hot housekeeper, Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant) because, and here’s where it gets strange, Edwina plans on having her soul taken from her body by a mystic swami named Prahka Lasa (Richard Libertini–very funny) and then placed in a special bowl. Edwina’s ‘bowl soul’ will then be placed into Terry, and Edwina will live again!
BUT things go very wrong when Edwina dies and Roger accidentally gets her soul dumped into HIS body instead! Now Roger has both himself AND Edwina inside himself (he sees HER in a mirror) and it looks like she can control part of his body as well! Needless to say, hijinks ensue as Roger goes crazy trying to find Prahka Lasa to get Edwina out of his body AND do his job as a lawyer at the same time. But that doesn’t quite work as Roger represents his boss (Dana Elcar) in divorce court proceeding and Edwina “steps-in” to argue the case. Really funny stuff.
Trouble doubles as Roger learns the ugly truth: Terry is actually a criminal and has hidden Prahka, having no intention of letting Edwina into her body. With this disparaging news, Edwina and Roger decide to retaliate. Along with Roger’s BFF, Tyrone Wattell (Jason Bernard), a blind sax player, all three concoct a scheme to find Prahka and transfer Edwina’s soul out of Roger and into Terry, whether she likes it or not! Naturally, things go crazy at the lavish party where the scheme goes down, but in the end, all the souls wind up in the right bodies.
A cinematic match made in heaven. Carl Reiner directed with screenwriters Henry Olek and Phil Henry Robinson (Field of Dreams) and a top-notch cast that gives you a hilarious movie with Martin and Tomlin at the top of their game. This is also the movie where Martin first meet Victoria Tennant, a relationship that he would start with her in other movies (as well as them getting married in real-life until 1994).