The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. In Japan however, it mostly rains in the big city. Or so you might believe, after watching this quirky film.
In Weathering With You, Tokyo is undergoing a particularly long stretch of rainfall. Not a day goes by without some sort of drizzle or downpour, which in a way is good for young Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo). He’s a rain-loving teenager who ran away from his island home, in search of a better life in the big city.
He soon learns, however, that life in Tokyo is difficult.
Work is hard to come by, and Hodaka ends up working for the shady Mr Suga (Shun Ogori) who has published a sketchy magazine with Natsumi (Tsubasa Honda), a young woman who may or may not be his mistress.
One day, Hodaka meets the chirpy Hina (Nana Mori), a girl about his age. He discovers she is a “sunshine girl”: the subject of an old legend about a girl who can speak to the gods and change the weather. She’s like Storm from X-Men, but without the white hair.
As any enterprising young teenagers would do, the not so fair-weather friends start to monetise Hina’s strange ability. But Hodaka and Hina soon learn that there is a heartbreaking cost for using the gift.
In a way, the film is an extremely kawaii metaphor for climate change, and how the choices we make ultimately shape or destroy the planet.
Expectations were high for this film; it is, after all, director Makoto Shinkai’s film after his 2016’s Your Name, which was a massive commercial and critical success in both Japan and overseas.
At this moment, Weathering With You is the eighth highest-grossing film in the Japanese box office, and is the country’s entry for Best Foreign Film for this year’s Academy Awards (only the second anime film to be nominated as such, after 1998’s Princess Mononoke.)
So how is it? Will it take the world by storm, or is it more of a light drizzle? Short answer: it’s a good film. Perhaps not as good as Your Name, but then again, it’s really hard to live up to THAT film.
First things first: Weathering With You is gorgeous. Makoto’s works are known for their stunning photorealistic landscapes, and this film’s accurate depictions of Tokyo will fill audiences with wonder. Scenes with Hina’s sunshine power are amazingly done, and the rainy scenes are animated so beautifully they can put actual rainstorms to shame.
Despite its magical elements, the film is also surprisingly grounded. Tokyo is depicted very honestly here, both as a city of wonder and delight, but also possessing a shady underbelly where people do tough things to survive. The film’s characters also learn that as minors, they can’t just wander all around the place, which is a nice change from most other anime or films.
Storywise, Hina and Hodaka are two good-hearted teenagers in love, whose relationship is affected by powerful magical forces beyond their control. Now where have we seen that before? At times, this film feels a bit overly similar to Your Name. Indeed, the characters from that movie even show up for cameo appearances!
The main characters, Hodaka and Hina are fun and nicely fleshed out. The supporting characters, however, not so much. The film has a few too many plotlines, a few of which drag and are not fully wrapped out properly. Any scene not connected to the sunshine girl plotline feels rather unnecessary.
On the sunny side, the film’s music from RADWIMPS (who also did the soundtrack for Your Name) is nice, and their more touching songs really add to things. Some scenes are a little cheesy, but that’s to be expected from a film like this.
So yes, the film has a few flaws. But don’t let them cloud your judgment: you don’t want to take a rain check on this. Overall, Weathering With You is a sweet love story, which nicely blends the realistic and the fantastical.
Weathering With You
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Voice cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Ogori