Director: Makoto Shinkai
Screenplay: Makoto Shinkai
Featuring the voices of: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri, Sei Hiraizumi, Yûki Kaji, Sakura Kiryu, Tsubasa Honda
Country: Japan, China
Running Time: 112 min
BBFC Certificate: 12
Makoto Shinkai had been quietly making a name for himself in the anime world since the early 2000s, gaining critical acclaim for The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Garden of Words. However, in 2016 he exploded fully onto the scene with the phenomenally successful Your Name. Not only was it highly-regarded by critics, but it became the highest-grossing anime film and Japanese film of all time, as well as the fourth-highest-grossing film in general in Japan. Despite Shinkai’s earlier work being praised, nobody could have predicted this level of success. With popularity like this, all eyes were on the writer-director to see what he would do next. I don’t envy that kind of pressure, but he soon followed up Your Name with Weathering With You in 2019. It didn’t break as many records as its predecessor, but Weathering With You still took home a hefty chunk of box office returns in Japan and China. It’s now had its digital home release in the UK, courtesy of the new Screen Anime online film festival (see more details below) and I checked it out.
Weathering With You sees 16-year-old Hodaka Morishima (Kotaro Daigo) run away from his island home to live in Tokyo. On the ferry journey there, a freak storm almost sends him overboard but he’s saved by Keisuke Suga (Shun Oguri), who gives Hodaka his business card. While in the city, the teen struggles to get by, with only a young McDonalds employee, Hina (Nana Mori), showing him sympathy by giving him a free meal one night. Hodaka eventually gives Keisuke a call and the laid-back, irresponsible man offers him a job at his small publishing company for low pay but room and board.
Whilst on the job, Hodaka is tasked with looking into the fabled ‘sunshine girls’, who can control the weather. With never-ending rain battering the city, they figure it would make a good story. One day, Hodaka finds Hina being forced into work at a strip club and saves her, threatening her assailant with a gun. When the pair become friends, Hodaka discovers Hina is, in fact, one of the sunshine girls. He suggests she uses her powers to make money.
Hina is a little reluctant at first, but when she discovers how much joy the sunshine brings to people, she grows to love her new calling. As time goes on, however, and Tokyo’s weather becomes relentlessly grim, Hodaka finds Hina is more tied to the weather than he first realised. Some important decisions need to be made and these come at a time when the police are closing in on the runaway Hodaka, as well as Hina, who is looking after her younger brother Nagi (Sakura Kiryu) by herself.
Like Your Name, Weathering With You is beautifully painted and animated. Shinkai uses an intricately detailed style for his backgrounds, vividly recreating Tokyo on-screen, to create a believable setting for his fantastical story. He makes wonderful use of light and the elements too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen rain so beautifully represented on screen. The weather-change sequences are particularly stunning. So stunning, in fact, that I found myself being quite moved by them.
The central romance is very effective too, so overall it’s a sweet and charming film. It gets a little overly sentimental perhaps, with the potentially darker subjects covered in the film fobbed off a little too easily at times. I wasn’t a massive fan of the various pop-music interludes either, but that might be down to my tastes. The final cue is effective at least.
There are also some subplots I felt were unnecessary, namely Keisuke’s custody battle and his colleague Natsumi’s (Tsubasa Honda) job-hunting woes. They’re handled quite well, but I felt they didn’t add a great deal to the film and simply slowed it down a little.
The final act didn’t settle well with me either. There are several effectively dramatic sequences, but overall the plot feels a little fudged as it races towards the end and an ecological message appears that doesn’t feel very clear.
So, I did have a number of niggles with the film, particularly towards the latter third, but overall it’s another beautifully presented blend of teenage drama and fantasy from Shinkai that shows success hasn’t dulled his talent. It may not be a perfect film, but it’s still easy to fall in love with, like Your Name, and I’d certainly recommend it.
Weathering With You is currently available to watch on Screen Anime until late July. This is a brand new online film festival from Anime Limited offering a curated selection of four films, one TV series and many more unique benefits each month for only £3.98/mo or for a reduced £39.98/yr. Head over to their website to find out more – screenanime.com
For an online stream, I was very impressed with the picture and sound quality. The stream is handled by Vimeo so it can be cast to your TV, or I even watched it blown up through my projector with no reduction in quality. Both the subtitled and dubbed versions are available, so everyone is catered for.
You get access to a short Q&A with Shinkai too, which is a welcome addition. It’s only 2-3 mins long so hardly goes in-depth, but it provides a few interesting glimpses into his inspirations and processes.