Like the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and the films of Studio Ghibli, director Makoto Shinkai now generates a huge amount of interest for his projects based on just his name alone. His previous film, Your Name became the highest-grossing anime film of all time taking a massive $359 million worldwide and overtaking Spirited Away ($347 million) comfortably.
Shinkai’s latest film, Weathering With You has already taken the Japanese box office by storm and was the highest-grossing film in 2019. Now finally released in the UK, it’s time to see whether it will echo the success of Your Name.
Whilst absolutely a film in its own merit, it is hard not to make comparisons between Weathering With You and Your Name. Not only do they share similar thematic threads on relationships and apocalyptic natural phenomena, but Weathering With You also features a couple of delightful cameos that near enough confirms a Shinkai Cinematic Universe!
Weathering With You focuses on the relationship between Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) and Hina (Nana Mori). Hodaka, a teenage boy of 16 arrives in Tokyo penniless and struggling to make ends meet. His life takes an unexpected turn when he meets Hina, a seemingly normal girl who appears to be able to manipulate weather.
Shinkai has an undeniable ability to pair the supernatural and the realistic in his films, and like the body-swapping magic of Your Name, Weathering With You is as much about the relationship between the pair as it is the magical abilities Hina exhibits. It is a combination that on paper shouldn’t work, but it provides a grounding to the otherwise fantastical story elements that makes the narrative and the characters in particular, infinitely relatable.
The world-altering effects of nature are always at the heart of Shinkai’s films as well, but the environmental message is handled delicately and without it taking too much focus away from the characters. Rain is the thing which dominates the landscapes of Weathering, and the stunning animation makes this look like the most beautiful thing in the world. From the torrential downpours, to the subtlety of water droplets, this film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. With Hina’s ability to bring sunshine with a prayer, the breaks in the clouds for the light to permeate through are simply breathtaking.
The photorealism of the animation is something which sets Shinkai’s films apart from many others, and Weathering is yet another film that is so beautiful that every frame could be a painting. Whilst it does take moments to pause, the story moves at quite a pace, particularly in the later stages, and the one criticism of this is that it leaves the ending feeling a little rushed, lacking the emotional gut-punch that it perhaps needed.
That being said, Weathering With You is another stunning film from Shinkai, easily cementing him as perhaps the most exciting anime director at the moment. It is a film which constantly surprises, and whilst the animation astonishes, the central relationship will be the thing that powerfully resonates after the films close. And like the sudden bursts of sunlight seen in the film, there are moments of heart and honesty that will warm even the coldest of hearts. Simply stunning.
Directed by: Makoto Shinkai
Written by: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri