Weathering with You (MOVIE REVIEW)
Runtime: 112 Minutes
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Kotaro Diago, Nana Mori, Shunn Ogori, Tsubasa Honda
Makoto Shinkai has become a Japanese filmmaker and animator that really came onto the radar of animation fans across the globe when in 2016, he released what would be seen as his magnum opus, Your Name. The Romantic Fantasy movie about two star crossed lovers in a body swap story not only became one of the most critically acclaimed animations of the 2010 decade, but also became a huge box office juggernaut seemingly out of nowhere, making it surpass the legendary Spirited Away as the highest grossing Japanese film, and finally giving Shinkai true recognition as a great filmmaker to audiences outside of Japan since the film also shared a strong theatrical run internationally. With his follow-up film, Weathering with You, Shinkai returns once again to a Star Crossed Lovers story with the intimidating task of following up his absolute best film amongst his massive filmography, and while the film as a whole doesn’t quite match the heights of Your Name’s truly audacious storytelling, it is still a remarkably beautiful film with one of the most endearing romances in an animated film.
In modern day Tokyo, the city is experiencing one of the most rainy summers of recorded history. Hodaka is a young boy who has run away from his home in search of a better life in the city where he struggles to find work being a minor at 16 years old, and being alone in a busy city. He meets Hina, a young orphan girl also struggling to find work that has the ability to manipulate the weather. The two of them decide to team up and start a business by using Hina’s powers to bring sunny days to Tokyo for profits, but their efforts might be short lived with the Police coming to look for Hodaka along with how Hina’s powers could also bring some harsh consequences.
It comes as no surprise that given how he mostly writes love stories for animation, Shinkai is once again returning to more familiar ground, but similarly to how Your Name took this idea and revolved it around a particular subject to give it a unique voice, in Weathering with You, he uses this to tell a slow burning tale using its modern Tokyo setting and the combination of Fantasy and Japanese Lore to bring his unique voice for this film to life. This is no better displayed than in the utterly GORGEOUS animation. This film is an absolute feast to behold. As per usual, Shinkai’s attention with the vibrant and meticulously detailed backgrounds all based on real japanese locations is a wonderful as ever, and the character animation is the perfect blend of human realism and comical exaggeration and expression, giving a unique purpose to why the film has to be animated and how it elevates the entertainment value of the film as it starts to introduce much of its fantasy elements involving Hina and her power to control the weather.
All of this helps to elevate what is the heart of Weathering with You’s story: the characters, particularly Hina and Hodaka. Unlike Your Name, which mostly told its romance by having the main character apart from most of it and learning to love each other by experiencing their own lives, the film keeps its couple together for the vast majority as the kids get to know each other, their motives and how their connections ultimately form into a very cute young love. Hina has a legitimately tragic backstory linked to how she was given her unique powers and through how Hodaka manages to help her embrace her powers and how they can be used to bring joy to the residents helps her break out of her shell. It makes sense in a lot of ways how the two of them learn to love each other by allowing them to embrace the best parts of themselves, which is especially important when the film decides to raise the stakes by getting the police involved and also showing how whole it’s great to see Hina embracing her powers, it also all comes at a horrible price that won’t be discussed in this review due to major spoilers. It’s a thoroughly engaging film, and compared to Your Name, it is a much simpler tale that doesn't take too many risks until around the 3rd act, and while that might lead to some fans of Your Name feeling disappointed considering that film had a much more ambitious narrative, it shouldn’t be considered a terribly bad thing to call Weathering with You a good story, since simple doesn't always indicate that it’s bad. It’s just a lot more laid back and straightforward, and even though it does lead to the film becoming quite predictable very early on, along with how it also introduces story elements regarding some of the rain forming into animals that doesn’t really go anywhere, the film is still able to find its footing very well, and it came as a genuine surprise how much Shinkai still finds a way to suck you into these characters to make you care for them on such an intense level.
As for the rest of the remaining cast and other aspects, the film has an incredibly quirky cast that help to give Weathering with You some much needed personality and comedy. The biggest highlight is Kei, a writer who take Hodaka in when he needs to find work, and his history as a single father trying to get custody of his daughter makes him a sympathetic individual, but his cynical sense of humour and his sarcastic wit also helps to make him an amusing character too. His niece, Natsumi, who also hangs with Kai and Hodaka at his work place is also very charming, and the film also features a couple cameos from characters in Shinkai’s Your Name that won’t be spoiled for anyone who wants to be surprised. The score and songs are also create once again by RADWIMPS, acting as their 2nd collaboration with Shinkai and their songs add some great flavour to many of the film’s emotional peaks and general montages, and their music score is also very delicate and whimsical, mirroring much of Hina’s character and her own personality, perfectly fitting this excellent story.
Weathering with You is a remarkable animated film that works so much because it plays well to Makoto Shinkai’s strengths as a filmmaker and how he able to incorporate a unique flavour to his love stories. While this film will INEVITABLY be given major comparisons to Your Name and it can be understandable how some might not enjoy it as much given the simpler and somewhat predictable story, it doesn’t stop it from being as visually stunning as it is emotionally resonant. It’s already a strong contender for the best animated film of the year, and if Shinkai can continue this track record of visually stimulating and utterly loveable films, he is practically guaranteed to be seen as an anime director in the same legendary leagues as Hayao Miyazaki. But only time will tell to see if that ship will continue to sail. Let’s hope there will be more great stuff on the horizon because it will be exciting to see how his career will escalate.
FINAL RATING: 8/10 (GREAT)
An endearing romance
A beautiful sense of fantasy and whimsy
Great interjections of comedy mixed with heartfelt drama
GORGEOUS VISUALS BEYOND COMPREHENSION
Emotionally resonant sequences
A wonderful sense of world building and atmosphere.
A somewhat predictable plot
Some story elements get sidelined
Ending potentially derivative of Your Name