Top grossing Japanese anime director and screenwriter Makoto Shinkai of Your Name fame is back with another romantic teen fantasy film set in a mostly dreary and soaked Tokyo.
Weathering With You begins with the introduction of Hina Amano (Nana Mori) watching over her mother in the ICU in the middle of a seemingly typical rainy day in Tokyo. Hina notices a ray of sunlight piercing through rain clouds shining on a neglected shrine atop an abandoned building. She makes her way through the streets to reach the shrine and discovers something strange that sets the whole plot of the film.
Months pass and we see Hodaka Morishima (Kotaro Daigo) onboard a Tokyo-bound ferry after running away from his island prefecture. As to why he chose to pursue the life of a wanderer, we don’t really know, but he soon chooses to roam the streets of the Kabuchiko district.
During a rainy spell, Hodaka meets Hina for the first time at a McDonald’s where she low-key gives him what seems to be a free Big Mac out of pity due to his obvious famished state. They meet again when he rescues her from falling victim to what seems to be a slavery ring. After escaping from Hina’s would-be captors, she confesses to Hodaka that after visiting the shrine, she acquired the ability to summon sunshine for short periods.
Hodaka eventually finds work as an intern at a magazine centred on the paranormal under Keisuke Suga (Shun Oguri). As most teenagers who discover supernatural talents (in the realm of fiction at least), he strikes upon the lucrative idea of having Hina use her abilities to cater to several netizens’ weather related requests. It is revealed in the film that rain never stops, to the point where residents of Tokyo are left paralysed as they cannot go about with their daily routines due to the weather. The ever pervasive rain is probably a metaphor for Hodaka’s life, until Hina came along.
The artwork was beautifully conceived and animated. It brings to the fore themes of coming of age, young love and idealistic sacrifice against the harshness of the real world. It was also expertly executed, particularly how raindrops emulated little fish swimming around Hina during a scene and how the sun provided a sense of much-needed empowering warmth. The film can make you feel the weather effects and the emotion emanates through the silver screen.
Makoto Shinkai’s trademarks that comprise his winning formula are definitely accounted for in his latest hit – the unreserved emotions displayed among characters, the spectacular usage of the Tokyo cityscape as transitions between scenes with music from Radwimps playing in the background, amazing rain effects, that sudden rush of longing between two protagonists and mysticism mixing seam lessly into real-world issues.
The film is an amazing amalgamation of Makoto Shinkai’s filmmaking style from his previous films – 5 Centimeters per Second (2007), The Garden of Words (2013) and Your Name (2016), to name a few.
Without spoiling too much of the film, this is surprisingly one of the rare instances where the story served the characters. It was usually the other way around in Shinkai movies. Long-time fans of the well-known director will be glad to know that some brief references to his previous film are present; most notably two big ones.
Shinkai has outdone himself with this follow-up in the animation department. He presents Tokyo not only with amazing detail, but also with an aura that suggests a lived in world. The Japanese anime film industry and consumers of it can be confident that visionaries like Shinkai can continue to produce works of art and inspire other animators and directors long after the lustre of Studio Ghibli fades (something which I highly doubt will happen anytime soon).