“Weathering with You”: Sorrow and Sogginess
Reading Time: 4 minutes
“Weathering with You” is, surprisingly, a movie for everyone. The newest film by director Makoto Shinkai, it follows his global hit “Your Name” (2016), which received universal praise for its outstanding animation and script. Shinkai has found broad success in what is, at least internationally, a very niche genre: anime movies. His films have a wide appeal rarely seen in this field, reminiscent of the popularity found by many Studio Ghibli movies. And much like a Studio Ghibli production or its predecessor, “Your Name,” “Weathering with You” is fantastically done, with a great soundtrack, stunning visuals, and a charmingly off-beat yet emotional plot.
“Weathering with You” focuses on Hodaka Morishima (Kotaro Daigo), a high school student who runs away from home to live in Tokyo. When Hodaka reaches Tokyo, he finds it to be bleak and unforgiving due to his failure in finding a job. His job search is worsened by the constant torrents of rain that shower the city, though its inhabitants accept the flooding as a part of life. He is forced to reach out to Keisuke Suga (Shun Oguri), a man he meets during his trip, to work at his newspaper in exchange for room and board. He then befriends Hina Amano (Nana Mori), an orphan with the power to control the weather. With Hodaka still needing money and Hina needing to support herself and her younger brother, the two start a business using Hina’s power to pray away rain for the many citizens of Tokyo fed up with the neverending downpour. Together, they struggle with the difficulties of adulthood, their budding romance, teenage awkwardness, the magical consequences of Hina’s powers, and the pursuit of social services seeking to bring Hodaka home.
While the central storyline of “Weathering with You” is straightforward, the film clearly struggles to balance its many subplots. Shinkai’s films are, first and foremost, romances, but any focus on relationships or internal development in “Weathering With You” takes a back seat since the action-movie stakes of the rest of the film are more pivotal to the plot. Tokyo floods, Hodaka is wanted by the police, and Hina struggles with the mystical ramifications of her magical powers, making it difficult for the duo to spend time together. The plot is a little chaotic, and though it focuses on the relationship of the main characters, it doesn’t develop the central romance or the other minor characters in a meaningful way. While the narrative doesn’t lose its emotional poignancy, it certainly would have benefited from a slower pace.
Despite this, several of the characters are well-developed. Though he tries to be independent, Hodaka is shown to be incredibly awkward and nervous between his moments of bravery, even hilariously turning to Yahoo Answers for everything from his job hunt to his work as a writer. He runs away for the simple reason that he hates living in a small town but still lacks the competence to survive alone, so even in Tokyo, he relies heavily on those around him. Though he falls quite heavily under the trope of the amusingly bumbling teenage boy, Hodaka is still relatable enough for his eventual growth and acceptance of responsibility to resonate with the audience. His boss Keisuke, who at first seems like the classic nihilistic, alcoholic, scummy mentor, is shown to really care for Hodaka and becomes a kind of quasi-father figure. Over the course of the film, he becomes a real family man, perhaps best illustrated by the reveal that Natsumi (Tsubasa Honda), the young woman staying with him, is not his mistress, as Hodaka assumes, but his niece.
Confusingly, this is more development than Hina ever gets, with her position as “the sunshine girl” comprising her entire characterization. Her character definitely suffers the most from the film’s cramped storyline; though she is one of the protagonists, she is incredibly one-dimensional, never becoming more than an amalgamation of positive traits. Hina only really works as a character in the context of her relationship with Hodaka, as her extreme autonomy and innate usefulness (she is the sole provider for both herself and her brother and has god-like super powers) offers him the support he is unable to achieve himself. While this makes sense in that her role is to quite literally bring sunshine to others, she ends up being the most boring character in a movie despite being the center of everything.
However, the highlight of “Weathering with You,” as with any Shinkai film, is the animation and music. Every frame is beautifully drawn in an intricate, photorealistic style of animation, with every rundown building, rainy street, and Sausage McMuffin advertisement (the movie features a disturbingly large amount of product placement) having an elegance that just can’t be found in any other medium. As one would expect with the setting of rain-soaked Tokyo, the most frequent background color is melancholy grey, making every sparse burst of color genuinely magical. Hina’s power to create sunlight visually impacts the audience as she changes the tone of the scene from dreary and dull to vibrant and dream-like. The film also emphasizes its soundtrack, made by the Japanese Rock band Radwimps, with some scenes resembling music videos than cinema. In any other movie, such an abrupt change would be incredibly jarring, but since every moment of “Weathering with You” displays such artistry, the shifting of focus toward the score instead of the dialogue is smooth and functions more as a means to show off the amazing animation and catchy music.
“Weathering with You” is not a movie without flaws. With a number of structural problems, it ends up being equal parts fantasy-action and romance, and with neither being fully brought to fruition, the result is a disorganized plot with some disappointingly one-note characters. Despite these issues, the story and narrative maintain a pensive sadness that works perfectly with all of the beautiful shots of Tokyo in the rain. “Weathering with You,” despite its messy storyline, manages to deliver as both a romance, and perhaps more effectively, as a coming-of-age movie, with Hodaka’s maturity being the most compelling part of the film. It’s not often that an animated movie, much less an anime movie, is able to garner wide respect as a serious piece of cinema. So even if you’re the kind of person who wouldn’t touch this genre with a 10-foot pole, check it out. At the very least, the movie looks good.