Weathering With You
Hodaka Morishima is a young runaway who's come to Tokyo to try to make a new life on his own, but can find no place to live, or livelihood, until he's made an "assistant" by Keisuke Suga, who publishes a "paranormal investigations"-type tabloid. His first assignment is to interview people about "weather maidens", who can allegedly change atmospheric conditions. It (somewhat conveniently) happens that a girl Hodaka has previously encountered, named Hina Amano, IS such a supernaturally-gifted girl, who has the power to "pray away" rain ever since an encounter with a mysteriously glowing shrine on the top of an abandoned, decaying building. Hodaka and Hina seek to make some money with her "Sunshine Girl" power, but things are never as easy as that when the supernatural is involved.
Where romantic relationships between a show's protagonists are concerned, Makoto Shinkai has been the King of, to use a phrase from SF writer David Gerrold, the "Might-Have-Beens That Have Become Never-Wases." Voices of A Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second are prime examples (the former would be my nominee for both the Most Depressing Anime and the Most Vexing Anime Of All Time), but Shinkai has fielded a few variants, including "Not Likely To Ever Amount To Anything" (The Garden of Words), and "Irretrievably Gone, Nothing But Ashes Now" (Children Who Chase Lost Voices, which I'm abridging to Children in this review.)
Now, 100% Unrequited Love (apologies to Takagi-San here) is certainly something that almost everybody has experienced, and thus can identify with, at some time in their life (and movies about the miserable souls suffering from it tend to at least get critical acclaim), but it's not exactly inspirational; many people want to believe that they can find love and a lasting relationship with someone. I'm ONE of those folks myself, and tend to find Shinkai's fascination with relationships-not-to-be a little off-putting.
And then Shinkai made a movie called Your Name, which I'm told at least left a door open for romance between its protagonists (I haven't seen it; Carlos did the THEM review), though with SOME obstacles still left between them. And it made a fortune (for an anime film.) In a revealing clip shown before the Weathering screening I saw, Shinkai acknowledges the success of Your Name, and says he'd like to make more "films that people enjoy." That's as in "Spend $$$ to see" of course, but he's obviously looking toward something more popular as mass entertainment, though he's retaining some of his personal inclinations and not surrendering completely to the masses.
So, to Weathering:
In Weathering, Tokyo is certainly suffering from some peculiar wet weather. A couple of times characters have what seems like thousands of tons of water dropped on them in an instant, as if someone suddenly upended a water park. Is it the anger of the gods? (And how did they get so ticked off?) Is it global warming? Is it (as someone late in the film suggests, in an apparent plot justification for a decision Hodaka makes) a "natural" occurrence that just hasn't been seen in a long while? In any case, Hina can "pray it away" locally, but here, as in Shinkai's Children, there's a steep price to be paid. And Shinkai's timing is thoroughly conventional here: he presents the bill at exactly the same place in the story that it turns up in many other films. Everyone complains about the weather, but maybe no one does anything about it because of those unintended consequences...
Shinkai once again creates a supernatural alternate world, in this case one above the clouds, rather than one under the ground like Children's was, so you've still got to do some climbing to get there. Tokyo's buildings in THIS film are often dingy, decrepit, or simply decaying- quite a stark contrast to his bright cityscapes in Garden of Words. I was unclear whether the shrine that serves as a portal to Weathering's "higher" reality granted Hina her weather-changing ability, or whether it just awakened her latent capabilities. Lets say the film is short on details about its supernatural world.
The story does also have some awfully convenient coincidences; one was noted in the synopsis. Another was the business with Hodaka's casually picking up a gun. I suppose that Shinkai would justify this by saying (as Hodaka DOES say) that he thought it was just a toy, and wanted to use it to bluff his way out of trouble. (Living on the streets, as Hodaka is during this part of the story, trouble often finds YOU.) But it seems such a strange thing for a NON-Yakuza, innocent kid to do, especially given the general aversion in Japan toward firearms; and even using it as a bluff would call unwanted attention to Hodaka, which he certainly does NOT need, since he's a runaway. But we suspect this will all be important later in the plot.
Shinkai is also fairly conventional in the personalities of his leads. Hodaka and Hina are pleasant and amiable, if a bit reserved, and of course naïve. However, since this is the "new" Shinkai, perhaps Hodaka will be a bit more resolute in his devotion to Hina than previous Shinkai protagonists have been, maybe even willing to let the world burn... well, NO, not THAT. Not in THIS film. More likely the opposite.
About Hina, I'll only say that she's living independently with her younger brother. And that she's a liar about one important thing.
So our two leads are fairly bland, though most of Shinkai's leads have struck me that way, to be honest. But Shinkai does allow some of his supporting cast to be wonderfully eccentric; it turns out this director really DOES have a sense of humor after all. A young woman named Natsumi, who's working for Keisuke Suga (the guy who took Hodaka in), exudes brash cheerfulness, compassion, and even a willingness to break the rules where necessary; she's delightful. (Keisuke, her boss, is a much more mixed bag: he frankly exploits Hodaka, and he always carefully weighs his support of the boy against his personal concerns.) Hina's kid brother Nagi has a certain talent that Hodaka really, REALLY, wants to emulate. And there's a cat whose later appearance in the film had the audience roaring with laughter.
The film's "flying" visuals are certainly- I HAVE to end with a bad pun- ATMOSPHERIC enough.
Hodaka's final decision surprised me, even if much of the rest of the film didn't. NOBODY lost their memories this time, which I was ALSO grateful for. I actually enjoyed this more than Shinkai's other films I've SEEN, in spite of its plot contrivances and the unexplained/undeveloped areas of its supernatural backstory. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some violence and (non-graphic) nudity. Assigned a rating of PG-13, but in my opinion a plain PG would be more appropriate.
Version(s) Viewed: Theatrical Release
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Weathering With You © 2019 CoMix Wave Films.
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