Weathering with You is the latest outing from Japanese anime writer and director Makoto Shinkai and the follow up to 2016’s immensely successful Your Name. Given the breakthrough popularity of Your Name with audiences worldwide, expectations were high for Shinkai’s latest film – and I am pleased to say that it does not disappoint.
Set in a Tokyo that is subsumed with endless rain, Weathering with You renders the city in beautifully gloomy yet breathtaking visuals. On his journey to Tokyo, teenage runaway Hodaka nearly drowns. Keisuke saves Hodaka and takes him in as a live-in employee at his publishing company, which specialises in stories about urban legends for less than reputable magazines.
It is through this job that Hodaka learns of the legend of the ‘100% Sunshine Girl’, a girl who can bring sunshine simply through the power of prayer. The legends turn out to be true, and Hodaka meets Hina, the girl who can control the sunshine. The two start a business offering her services to a city needing desperate respite from the rain.
Weathering with You continues to examine many of the themes and aesthetics that pervade much of Shinkai’s work. It is an exploration of the power of young love and the impact that this can have over the choices and decisions we make in life. While, like many of his films, it is endearingly sentimental – and had me tearing up more than once – it also offers plenty of laughs, with Hina’s younger brother Nagi a source of constant amusement.
It also is a culmination of Shinkai’s use of weather as a visual metaphor for human emotion and the acceptance of change, previously explored in films like The Garden of Words and 5 Centimetres Per Second. Rain, snow, sunshine and wind are all catalysts for life-changing events, as well as evocative symbols of the emotion that those events raise. The score by Japanese rock group RADWIMPS (also responsible for the Your Name soundtrack) shifts between quiet and introspective piano melodies to swelling J-Rock ballads, offering a perfect counterpoint to the lush visuals and emotional storytelling.
Japan is submitting Weathering with You for the Best International Picture category for the 2020 Oscars and this is the first time in over twenty years an anime film has been selected. In my opinion, it should win.
Weathering with You is now showing in selected theatres.
By Arieh Offman, producer & curator