Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri, Tsubasa Honda, Chieko Baisho, Sakura Kiryū, Sei Hiraizumi, Yūki Kaji
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
Released By: Encore Films
Opening Day: 12 September 2019
Synopsis: When small town high schooler Hodaka Morishima makes a go at living on his own in Tokyo for the first time, it isn’t long before he finds steady work writing for a local magazine focused on all things strange and supernatural -- but the most interesting thing happening in the boy’s life is the unusual weather. Rain’s common enough in the city that at first, no one makes much of the recent torrential showers that never seem to end, but unbeknownst to nearly everyone, a young girl named Hina Amano who has the ability to control the weather walks among them.
With the immense commercial success of Your Name (2016), many wait in anticipation for the next Makoto Shinkai work. Unfazed by the high expectations, Makoto Shinkai returns with Weathering With You, a film which centres on a high school student Hodaka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo) who escapes to Tokyo to run away from his small island hometown and his past. He struggles to make a living as a young chap, and bumps into Hina (voiced by Nana Mori) who showed him warmth in the otherwise cold and inhospitable concrete jungle. The past success with Your Name definitely helped to propel the first 3-day sales of Weathering With You in Japan, making it top the box office sales and exceeding the first 3-day performance of Your Name. However, there was noticeably a lot less buzz about Weathering With You in comparison to Your Name.
Weathering With You opened in Japan on 19 July when Tokyo was experiencing a prolonged period of rain and saw very little sunlight (it was as little as 5.6 hours of sunlight for a period of 16 days!). That became an unintentional marketing campaign, as it fitted perfectly with the context of the film. The story progressed to Hodaka learning about Hina’s special ability to clear the skies in the midst of torrential rains. Hina was orphaned and needed money to support herself and her brother, so they devised a business out of it. But all things come at a cost, and they will have to make a choice.
Technical wise, Makoto Shinkai has achieved yet another breakthrough - the visuals were absolutely stunning in this film. Every single frame was intentional, drawn with a lot of keen details. If you’ve been to Tokyo before, it’d feel as though you are transported back to that space. The familiar Tokyo streets, sights of Shinjuku, and the famous red light district Kabukicho - are all drawn to reality. Even though the usual practice is to use made-up brand names in animated films, they also successfully tied up with notably real-life big brands like Nissin, SoftBank and McDonald’s. It may be seen as a product placement of sorts, but they were all worked in tactfully without being too blunt and ‘in-the-face’, which in fact value adds to the experience. Trust me, McDonald’s never looked so good.
Like how Makoto Shinkai introduced hints of Shinto beliefs in Your Name, there were also similar motifs in this film. On top of that, cultural icons like the “teru teru bozu” charms (‘ghost-like’ figures made of cloth of tissue, believed to clear the skies in Japanese culture) were used in the movie as well. While some people are concerned about how non-Japanese viewers actually feel distant with these, but it serves an opportunity for people around the world to learn about Japan. There is so much more to Japan; much more than just sushi and Akihabara. Weaving these cultural elements into the movie puts together a unique experience. However, what’s lacklustre was the attempt to pack too many themes. While the key theme is about adolescents going through the process of ‘adulting’, it also attempted to cover topics like environmental issues etc. There was even a haphazard side story arc on weaponry which certainly seemed omittable.
With high expectations, it naturally leads to disappointments for some people. Nonetheless, Makoto Shinkai’s latest work is one which should certainly be appreciated as a standalone, and achieved more than an average animated film. Visuals aside, the voice acting was great, it was sprinkled with pleasant surprises, and the OST also worked to fit the climax of the film to a T. At its core, it is a creative expression of the artist’s thoughts on issues, and his fascination about Tokyo since he first set foot two decades ago. It is also the artist’s intent to immerse the audience in the hyperreal environment, to deliberate over an individual’s impact of choice on the environment and society. After watching it, maybe you will think differently when you look up to the skies.
(Fair weather and rainy days reimagined, with breathtaking details and 101% aesthetics. If you don’t watch it, you’re going to lose out on something)
Review by Tho Shu Ling