Makoto Shinkai (director)
17 January 2020 (released)
When you get to the top it’s a long and sometimes unforgiving way down. Makoto Shinkai was very much, if almost at a pinnacle, with Your Name in 2016 a stunning anime with a dazzling story. The challenge was to match, possibly surpass that film. Weathering With You’s beautiful opening sequence assures that the animation is very much on a par.
Hodaka Morishma has left his home on a small island to try his luck on the mega metropolis that is Tokyo. It’s an unforgiving place away from the ferment we are familiar with and almost immediately he’s plunged into its neon-netherworld as he loses his small room and forced onto the streets.
He’s lucky that by chance he met Suga on the ferry over from the island, and saved him during a freak storm, and gave him his card. Suga offers Hodaka a job as little more than a run-around for him and Suga’s niece Natsumi. They publish a small press fortean magazine that investigates the unusual and at the moment it’s the rain that has been coming down on the city non-stop for a long time, and the ‘Sunshine Girls’.
Hodaka encounters Hina, a girl with a strong personality and character, who explains that with her prayers she can clear the skies of rain. Hodaka realises she is one of the fabled ‘Sunshine Girls’ and also that they could both do with a financial lift, they decide to go into business and are very successful clearing the rain for events.
However these powers doesn’t go unnoticed and of course carry great responsibility. They are warned about the latter by a sage and they certainly aren’t flying under the radar. Hina and Hodaka’s lives while trying to help others (and themselves) have made their lives very much more complicated.
Weathering with You is a magical cascading and uplifting experience that aims for the skies but also drops in to the streets to a side of Tokyo that is sordid and grimy. The detail is exquisite with the grey rain streaked streets pierced by the precise colours of the neon. But when it reaches for the skies it is glorious in its splendour.
Shinkai’s writing latches on to youth and the current global concerns about weather patterns and global warming. There’s nothing preachy about more an acknowledgement that there is a problem and a sharp dig towards who are going to lead and (hopefully) solve it in the future. There is a certain bleakness throughout although more than countered by the overall positive outlook emanating from the film and the characters.
It doesn’t quite reach the emotional power of Your Name with the characters maybe less easy to relate to rather than the big themes of the story which are far more blatant. Which is where the music and the songs play such an important role here just giving the film that extra heartbeat that will push that teary button in most viewers.