I don’t think I would ever call myself the biggest Makoto Shinkai film fan. I know that there are plenty of people out there who love his movies about relationships that slowly fall apart and then examining why it happens to that relationship as it gets farther and farther apart or just getting a good luck at it all. I’m honestly not. I do like Voice of a Distant Star because it’s like “what if I examined an aspect of Gunbuster” and is a kind of good think piece. I don’t think that he really caught my interest until Your Name when he told the same kind of story, but used a lot more Fantasy and Science Fiction spectacle with shinto-ism to bring it all together. With all that said, I think Weathering With You is my favorite film from him and his crew right now because it feels like something different to me.
Before I go on talking about Weathering With You, I don’t think people these famous anime directors doing similar but different things is a bad thing. Lots of anime creators repeat themselves. You can look at a lot of Hideaki Anno’s works and see how they can easily be aligned with each other because of his unique thumb print. Same with Togashi and his two famous works, Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter X Hunter. I can also call out Gen Urobuchi and Shinichiro Watanabe for all of this too. The difference is that each of these creators are using a similar sort of set up to tell a different story in a different genre or in a different way. For Makoto Shinkai, you know what the story is about and what’s going to happen in it. That lack of surprise kind of ruins the appeal of most of his films for me. That doesn’t count for Your Name three years ago and Weathering With You now. I think I’m finally finding Makoto Shinkai’s appeal.
Spoiler Alerts: The following content after this paragraph will spoil some aspects of the film. I don’t think I can hold myself back from talking about the film in some kind of detail, so you should be warned. Those who want fresh eyes when watching it should turn around now. You’ve been warned.
Weathering With You starts with runaway a runaway boy, Hodaka on a ferry headed for Tokyo. After getting caught in the rain on the top of the boat, getting saved by an adult (Suga), and getting Suga’s business card, Hodaka roughs it out on the streets of Tokyo for a while before finally asking Suga for help. During that time on the streets, he meets a girl named Hina at the local McDonalds who gave him a burger when he didn’t have money left and finds a gun in a trash can in a sketchy place that plays into the story later. For a while, Hodaka works for Suga and the ever attractive Natsumi for one of those super natural magazines you find at check out counters for cheap. He also lives there and gets three meals a day sustaining his life in Tokyo. A city that won’t stop raining on top of it’s people for some reason. I didn’t realize it was becoming Seattle. (Kidding, Seattle doesn’t rain all the time.)
The film really starts when Hodaka saves Hina from some younger men looking for a good time so to speak. That’s when the gun Hodaka finds first comes into play. Not knowing if it was real or not (which is fine considering that Japan has very strict gun laws), he fires it and scares the two men. After running away, the two start to really get to know each other. You know, after Hina yelled at Hodaka for being completely irresponsible which is fair. Hina is a sunshine girl who has the ability to stop the run in very selected area of space around Tokyo by praying. With that knowledge and both kids needing money, the two start a business around stopping the rain for selected events which became incredibly popular. You can probably guess what happens from here, so I will stop talking about things in more detail.
To me, I really like how the story is put together like a fairy tale stay in Tokyo with the reality of the situation slowly pulling into the situation as time goes. Why? Because realistically there is a lot of illegal things going on in this movie. It also provides an ok conclusion to the movie. Hodaka being a runaway is one of them because he doesn’t have an I.D., but has a gun at some point. Hodaka working for a rag magazine company and barely getting paid for it is slavery. What about also working with Hina and her brother Nagi who don’t have any parents because of their mom passing away a year ago. Plus other things. The highest moments are cute and full of life, while the crushing reality of it is pretty scary. Even if the authorities don’t want to hurt anyone, it still gets pretty crazy.
Connecting to all of that is the Hina, the sunshine girl herself. Her weather abilities are fun and create a lot of good times, until they start taking affect on her too. We know what’s going to happen earlier on in the film, though our cast doesn’t believe it, when Suga, Natsumi, and Hodaka interview some strange people about the mythology of the situation on Shinto terms of what Hina is doing. I don’t think it’s as well integrated into the film as Your Name, but it works considering that these people still make a rag magazine for money and this is the kind of people that get interviewed for those types of things. Also plays into the believable unbelievable-ness of the film. Normal people don’t believe these kinds of things which is why everything works out as it does. Especially the ending of the film in it’s epilogue section. The fantasy is over, but it isn’t.
The best part about Weathering With You is that it’s a smaller film with a much more focused film on a selected situation in one location. That means the cast is smaller and you know them a lot more. All of which makes the film feel more impactful. Like Suga for instance. Other then being directly compared to Hodaka, he’s a cheap skate, but he’s a single father with a daughter that has asthma, so he can’t see her that often due to the rain. Natsumi, his niece, is an attractive young adult that can’t find a job anywhere because she’s a little too full of energy in her interviews. Rain the cat is a cute street cat who learns to keep Suga on track plus the visual pun at the end. Finally, special mention to Nagi. Hina’s younger brother who has the natural ability to attract girls for some reason. He is Hodaka’s sensei in some ways concerning Hina which is terrifying. I love all of them.
The weakest aspect for me was Weathering With You’s ending. Or should I say, endings. It’s doing very Return of the King style endings here and some really push the characterization of these characters a little bit. Almost in some too strong ways because I don’t believe these characters would do such extreme actions in stuck moments like that. Kind of also the same with the real ending three years after where no one is shaken at all by what happens. I guess Tokyo is the city that gets attacked by giant monsters all the time, so a little weather doesn’t bother anyone so I’ll give it all a pass I suppose. With that said though, statements about climate change were kind of muddled to where I don’t think it said anything besides “standing together against it” if that. Once again, it’s all muddled. I think Shinkai pushed a little too far here.
For visuals, you know what to expect from a Makoto Shinkai film. Right? Visually gorgeous on every level including food, people, transportation, weather, and everything with some more then solid animation to go along with it. How does McDonalds food look that good? Also, cars move and feel realistically while some flight scenes feel completely out of this world and zero gravity. Even the background characters were well detailed. Yeah, we know right? Usual stuff. I do have to say that the sound design was pretty great here. It’s not just the same sounds everywhere, the gun shots fact impactful because there is only two of the in the entire movie. Same with the characters are in a natural places where sound would bounce. The reverberations are pretty cool. As usual, all of his films are filled with all sorts of good detail work everywhere.
I can’t help but give this a movie a good, honestly. I do think that most of Weathering For You is good until the end. The character work, the plot building up behind the scenes, the spectacle scenes with rain and what’s above it, and the romantic and family moments were great. All of which the film had a lot of. It’s just that the ending didn’t feel right or feel like it even belongs in the movie. It didn’t completely hurt the film for me because there is a lot of great things going on it that I liked. I also want to see what Makoto Shinkai or his studio creates next. Even if this film isn’t the best film in the universe like a lot of people think it is, I think I am more on the Shinkai train then I used to be now.