One has to wonder what goes through the mind of Makoto Shinkai these days. Following the success of Your Name in 2016, he decided to continue his line of success and work on his next project, Weathering With You (also known as Tenki No Ko). As was the case with his former film, it follows practically the same premise as before: boy meets girl through fantastical circumstances, they fall in love with each other (or so the viewer believes), and the film ends with an epic moment where they try to publicly affirm their love for each other. The story’s presentation leaves me to wonder if Makoto Shinkai is capable of re-energizing his stories with something different every now and then, lest they become too stale.
WEATHERING WITH YOU
Weathering With You was officially released three years and sixteen days apart from Makoto Shinkai’s last work, Your Name, and was animated by the same team at Comix Wave Films spanning through almost two year’s worth of production. As was the case with some of his films, he based them off a particular theme, namely the impact of climate change in Japan. While its box office impact was modest, currently totaling a little over $129 million in revenue as of this point in time, nonetheless it was still widely praised by critics, and even managed to take home a couple of awards, such as Best Picture at the 2020 Tokyo Anime Awards festival and Best Animated Feature Film at the 2019 Asia-Pacific Screen Awards. Internationally, however, it did not make as much waves as his last work, barely being nominated for a few categories at the 47th Annie Awards and the 74th Mainichi Film Awards, as well as missing out on yet another potential Oscar nomination.
As the title states, the main focus on the film is not going to be the science-fiction of old, but rather this film explores the idea of “What happens when man becomes God, and has the ability to appease the weather at whim?” Instead of exploring ways they can avert extreme disasters and save lives, Weathering With You decides to take up a more light-hearted note and handle, in a somewhat comical manner, meteorological issues. In other words, it’s a film that seems to be slightly more grounded in reality.
Hodaka, a runaway student aiming to escape his restricted lifestyle at home, whatever that may be, arrives in Tokyo amidst a months-long downpour of rain which depresses the populace’s spirits. (Clearly these people have never seen what Quebec City is like in winter, it’s ten times colder and depressing) Attempting to fit into his new home and make something out of himself, he gets a job as an errand boy with Suga, who along with his niece Natsumi runs a small magazine shop dedicated to exploring supernatural incidents happening in Japan. While going through one of his investigations, he rescues from the clutches of a gang a girl named Hina, who she met earlier at a McDonald’s, who lives with her younger brother Nagi in a small apartment, where he quickly discovers her secret ability to bring sunshine to certain pockets of the city. After demonstrating her intercessory powers of bringing out the sun to him, he gets a big “cha-ching” rolling in his eyes, and decides to make profit out of this by starting a business involving such a premise with her.
Thanks to his business skills and Hina’s 100% effectiveness at calming the storm, their little startup becomes massively successful and allows them to build a decent hedge fund to assist their living expenses. Simultaneously enough as well, Hodaka begins to develop feelings for Hina and bonds with her with regards to her similar living circumstances as two kids fending to live alone and make a name for themselves. On their final day of business, with their last customer being Suga and his daughter, Hodaka attempts to confess his love for her, but to his horror he watches as she is whisked away into the sky by a stream of rain droplets, and learns more about her destiny as not just a “sunshine girl”, but also as a human sacrifice designed to atone for Tokyo’s incorrigible weather.
At that moment, things begin to go on a downward spiral as police come searching to return Hodaka home; fearing either the prospect of living with his family again or being separated from Hina, the two of them make an escape to a hotel, where the effects of Hina’s continued meterological powers becomes all too apparent to Hodaka, who sees her liquidating even more than before, and pleads with her to not leave. The following morning, sunshine has returned to Tokyo for the first time in ages, but he and Nagi are aghast to discover Hina missing. The police arrive at their hotel and take both Nagi and Hodaka into custody, ready to return the latter home.
In an act of final desperation, however, he decides to screw the authorities and race towards the shrine where he first met Hina, hoping to be able to see her once again. With help from Suga, Natsumi and an emotional Nagi, he crosses the shrine border, which leads him to an island atop the clouds, and successfully wrestles Hina from her sky, proclaiming his love and desire to stay close with her for the rest of his life. Or so he thinks in his dream; he is arrested, deported back home, and it would be another three years before he can legitimately return to Tokyo (now a terminally rain-infested metropolis, with a cityscape along the likes of Venice), and reunites with Hina.
WHAT I LIKED
- I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it: the romance between Hina and Hodaka is the best romance ever written in Shinkai’s works; EVEN BETTER than that of Your Name. Unlike the latter, which seemed more ethereal, Weathering With You‘s main characters’ romance actually felt like a romance, with them starting a business together, sharing their feelings, and spending 100% of their time with each other. They felt like a genuine couple, if not just friends, as opposed to just another group of star-crossed lovers like Taki/Mitsuha or… ugh, Takaki/Akari’s. I could literally stand by this pairing any day and convince myself that this would be a believable couple IRL.
- I liked how the story was consistent in its progression, and didn’t have to rely on plot twists to get the point across. The romance, as well as the “weather maiden” backstory Hina explains in the midpoint were some of the things that were well-explained. Sure, there have been complaints about plot holes from other viewers, but with most of them I didn’t seem to mind them as much.
- The climax, featuring Hodaka chasing after the rooftop shrine while being pursued by the police, and rescuing Hina, was one of the more exciting scenes of the film. Music from RADWIMPS and Toko Miura made a great complimentary effect to the already-stunning visuals of a summer-laden streets of Tokyo. Even if the ending with Hodaka sacrificing summer for a girl was depressing, the lead-up still kept me anticipated and at the edge of my seat.
- Like most Makoto Shinkai’s films, there’s some narration put in by the main character from time to time, but unlike with 5 Centimeters Per Second, it synchronized well with the background action, and wasn’t overused to reduce the film to an expositional audiobook. I found myself able to follow with the film without having anything shoved down my throat.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
- The random inclusion of Taki and Mitsuha was a disappointing feature of this film. Not only did it unleash an onslaught of massive continuity holes with regards to the coming of the greatest anime movie ending ever, but it just felt like a reminder of this film as a “spiritual successor” to Your Name, as well as how much superior it was. This was a completely unnecessary addition to the film, adding no substance to it, and Shinkai’s attempt to explain this away by saying “I just wanted to see them again” was a terrible reason, just as bad as the time they got Pat Morita to teach Hillary Swank to become a “karate master” in The Next Karate Kid.
- WHY DID HODAKA DECIDE TO CLOSE SHOP AT THE HEIGHT OF HIS BUSINESS BOOM? I do not understand this reason! His “sunshine girl” service proved to be so popular, and any smart business owner would capitalize on the flood (no pun intended) of requests as a means of making bank, and possibly self-sustaining himself for the next few years, but instead he decides “Screw you guys, I’m going home” and closes shop. Even if you used the excuse that “Eventually it would fail because of Hina’s destiny as a human sacrifice”… well he didn’t know at that time. SO WHY DIDN’T HE JUST KEEP GOING? Seriously, don’t expect this guy to become a CEO anytime soon.
- As with most other people, I didn’t understand, in retrospect, why it was necessary to put Hina in a precarious position with the gang member in the beginning, if said character would not be a significant character to later aspects of the film. Likewise for having Hodaka nearly turn into a gun-wielding Second Amendment activist. It’s a minor inconvenience, but still, it’s pretty useless.
Hodaka and Hina are to Weathering With You what Taki and Mistuha are to Your Name. While some work could have been done on their backgrounds – for example, a little insight to what their pre-Tokyo home life was like could have been better explained – there wasn’t anything too majorly objectionable to their character. Certainly though, their friendship and romance was well-established. There’s also a good group of supporting cast members in this film, one of them being Nagi, Hina’s younger brother, and there’s also Suga and Natsumi from the supernatural magazine shop. But to me, they mostly felt like plot devices rather than actual characters. While I could sympathize a bit with Suga, Natsumi seemed more to be the center of fan-service, and outside of this they didn’t offer much to enhance the story.
Once again, RADWIMPS was enlisted to produce the music for this film, and to their credit the music is pretty good. It seems to me that these guys are experts at taking a dramatic moment and upping its ante through their music; case in point, Is There Still Anything Love Can Do, which plays during Hodaka’s quest to rescue Hina from the clouds. The soothing piano background, and the synthesized music accompanying the vocals were well-crafted, and I’d say it’s probably on par with another of their works, Sparkle. Other tracks from the film’s soundtrack included Celebration (from their days as a sunshine-providing service), and Grand Escape (played during the finale).
Favorite moment: The scene where Hina, Nagi and Hodaka are in the hotel, and discover the truth behind what the purpose of a “weather maiden” is was pretty heart-wrenching. I will admit, I did not cry at this scene, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the guys when learning that they will lose the ones they love the most, and what it will take for him to defend her existence. This served as the height of their romance, and it showed through this scene.
Favorite character: Granted, Hina’s up there with her charm but I found myself mainly relating to Suga, Hodaka’s de facto guardian in Tokyo for his rough-nosed attitude, and his “doubting St. Thomas” attitude towards anything supernatural. Don’t let that fool you – I’m no atheist, and I definitely do not recommend that route, but of the few adult characters in the flick, he’s the one that I feel closest to in terms of personality.
Favorite quote: It’s not every day you come across an anime with a plea to God, but Weathering With You is one of them. Hearing this while our protagonist trio enjoy time at a hotel not only give me Anime North-style feelings, despite having never stayed at a hotel (but well aware of my friends who have), but look at this quote and tell me it sounds like something that St. Francis of Assisi would have written:
Dear God, what we have is enough, and we don’t need any more than what we have currently. Somehow, we’ll manage. Don’t give us more than what we need, and don’t take from us what we need. I only ask of you that the three of us can remain together forever.Hodaka’s prayer
Sometimes, the perfect formula can only be used so many times before it loses its charm. While Weathering With You certainly tries to pass itself off as a different story, the fact that it was released right after the booming success of Your Name only overshadowed its impact on the anime community. Sure, it’s got a couple of fun quirks to it, and I managed to enjoy what moments it provided, but I felt like I was watching the stereotypical big brother/little brother complex play out on the screen, with Your Name as the big brother that everyone looks up to, while this film is the little brother that sadly, gets left behind the dust. All in all, it’s nothing too different than what’s been done in Makoto Shinkai’s other works. By the way, if you are looking to ask someone for help with weather problems, I recommend you to St. Medard of Moyon or Our Lady of Fatima.
But if there’s one thing that would be cool to see, it’s a face-off battle between Hina and the “Song of Storms” guy from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I would pay to see that go down at an anime convention.