The Pitch: Writer and director Makoto Shinkai captivated American audiences with his 2016 film Your Name. Combining lovely animation and a heartwarming tale of distant love, Your Name raised the bar for future anime feature films. Although its followup was released in Japan last year, anime fans in the West can now finally check out Shinkai’s latest, Weathering With You.
The film’s protagonist, Hodaka, is a young boy who has run away from home and is looking to make it on his own in Tokyo. As he’s working to establish his new life, he meets Hina, a young girl who reveals herself to be a “sunshine girl” — a being capable of controlling the weather. As they come to use Hina’s powers for good, their friendship blossoms into something beautiful.
Hodaka and Hina make for a super likeable and charming couple among an already excellent supporting cast. As a romance brimming with plenty of drama and laughs, Weathering With You proves to be as unique of a story as Your Name, presenting a heartfelt message that inspires hope.
As Stunning As a Bright Blue Sky: The film opens on Tokyo shrouded in shadow and rain, but after a couple of brief scenes, the portraits evolve into an array of color: A brilliant combination of greens and blues unite, beaming from the screen in radiant fashion.
The Tokyo in Weathering With You is experiencing a unique phenomenon where it won’t stop raining. Thanks to her powers, however, Hina has the ability to bring out the sun when need be. Once Hodaka and Hina hit it off as friends, the former presents the idea of using her abilities as a means to make money: Say someone wants a sunny day for their wedding, why not hire Hina to clear up the rain? This partnership ends up allowing for the film to explore various animations, all catering to beautiful weather presentations. There are several visuals that make for stunning eye candy, with multiple still moments leaving eyeballs in awe of all the lovely details. The city of Tokyo is stunning to look at in general; here, it is alive in all its vibrant lights and activity.
Utilizing a combination of hand-drawn and CGI animation, the visuals elevate the emotional weight of the narrative. The forces of rain, lighting, and sunshine exude emotion that impacts the setting as a whole: People become more cheerful when the sun is out, heartache can be felt as rain droplets continue to pelt the city. The visual imagery of weather is so effectively woven throughout the narrative that it creates a bridge of sympathy for the audience to grasp what the characters are feeling.
The Strength To Brave Any Storm: Hodaka is striving to do whatever he can to not return home. As a young highschooler who has never lived in the city, Tokyo is a little overwhelming to him. Even so, he aims to move forward and give life his best effort. Eventually, Hodaka befriends Keisuke Suga and Natsumi Suga with the former offering him a job writing urban legends for a tabloid of sorts.
Through their friendship, Hodaka acclimates to city life, discovering a new sense of joy and fulfillment. As Hodaka begins to hang out with Hina, we see Keisuke and Natsumi attempting to address their own challenges; Keisuke looks to clean up his life for purposes that get revealed later on, while Natsumi struggles to find work. Meanwhile, Hina is striving to understand her powers and what it may cost her.
Weathering With You wields a message about facing life’s challenges and finding inner strength through its myriad characters. Many of their struggles, be it looking for work or trying to adapt to a new place, are achingly relatable. Because of this, these themes find Weathering With You leaning harder on a sense of realism compared to the more supernatural elements of Your Name. Of course, when you have a sunshine girl like Hina around, things aren’t so grounded, but even with her extraordinary abilities, the film’s messages feel more organic than usual.
The pacing also aides in this area, particularly by setting up the romance between Hodaka and Hina. As the two work together against numerous conflicts, their wholesome companionship strengthens, pulling on all the same heartstrings that Your Name did. In fact, those familiar with both films might recognize the spiritual parallels in the third act. It’s admittedly odd to see the writing here take on such a similarly dramatic effect — as opposed to conveying the emotions in a different manner — but Shinkai still drives home that powerful connection between its two leads.
Smiling In The Rain: Weathering With You’s remarkable animation and delightful characters come together for the perfect storm of creativity, inspiration, and romance. Yet, for all its exploration of the supernatural, the film carries such a profound universal feeling. Sure, it’s another solid love story, but it’s the film’s messages of hope and of keeping one’s head up in the rain that will endure. And that magnificent depth and wonder is what makes Weathering With You another benchmark for the medium, one that, like Your Name, reveals the brilliant storytelling potential of anime.
Where’s It Playing? Hodaka and Hina invite you to step out of the rain and into theaters now.