Shinkai's previous film Your Name was a huge hit across the world and showcased just how talented a filmmaker he is, a master of lyricism whose works undoubtedly have a fairy tale quality while feeling thoroughly relatable at the same time, the humanity of the emotions shining through. There are similarities here, but Weathering With You stands on its own two feet as a film that is packed with ideas and bolstered by some of the most breathtaking visuals in animation.
Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) is a high-school freshman who, bored of his life so far, runs away from his island home to go and live in Tokyo. Penniless and moving from street to street, Hodaka eventually meets Hina (Nana Mori), a restaurant worker at a McDonald's who takes pity on him and buys him a meal. All the while, rain persists consistently and inexplicably as the city becomes more and more sodden the longer it lasts. Eventually, fate brings the two teenagers together once more and Hodaka discovers the reason behind the constant downpour, sending the pair on a journey to try to figure out what to do and to avoid the authorities who are keen on finding him to take him home.
Shinkai's film is at its heart a love story with all the coming of age trappings he relishes exploring. There's an innocence to the main characters' interactions that matches the magical realism of the story, and he offsets this nicely through Mr. Suga (Shun Oguri), a grown-up who offers Hodaka his first job in Tokyo and whose cynicism and disillusionment works in direct contrast to Hodaka's enthusiasm and is also a great source of humour. Overall though, the film is entirely earnest in its portrayal of emotion, and it sparkles with a sense of wonder throughout, often literally on screen, such is the beauty of its portrayal of the rain as it consumes the vast city, adding a gorgeous texture to the fairy tale-esque parable.
There are a lot of ideas here, and one negative is that perhaps Shinkai wants to explore too much in the film's timeframe, which comes in at just under two hours. There are so many different plot threads and layered characters with their own motivations that the film does suffer a little tonally from the whiplash of being bounced around them. This feels like a minor quibble, however, and the film overcomes these missteps with a sure sense of what it wants to evoke, and the kinds of questions it wants to pose.
There are no simple answers in Weathering With You. The scale of the problem of the natural disaster that blights Tokyo butts up against the feeling of personal connection, of humanity and love and what the cost might be if you ‘save the world', and the film doesn't shy away from portraying the consequences of actions that sacrifice one over the other. There is an optimism in its tone that some may find cloying at first (you're either going to get along with the ample J-Pop usage in the film or you aren't) and difficult to understand by the end, but if the film manages to sweep the viewer up, it's a highly entertaining and thought-provoking ride that highlights Shinkai as one of the best storytellers in the YA genre. If not, well, the animation is amazing enough for it to be worth it anyway.
Dir: Makoto Shinkai
Scr: Makoto Shinkai
Cast (Japanese): Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri, Tsubasa Honda, Sakura Kiryu, Sei Hiraizumi, Yūki Kaji, Chieko Baisho, Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryunosuke Kamiki
Cast (English): Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, Alison Brie, Emeke Guindo, Mike Pollock, Riz Ahmed, Barbara Goodson, Stephanie Sheh, Michael Sinterniklaas
Prd: Wakana Okamura, Kinue Itō
Runtime: 112 minutes
Weathering With You is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from September 28th 2020.