'Weathering With You' tells the story of two teenagers, and a love abetted and thwarted by supernatural forces.
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Review: ‘Weathering With You’ presents Tokyo in detail but with glowing, soft humanity

Review: If you’re a fan of Makoto Shinkai, you’ll find a lot to love in ‘Weathering With You’.
Andrew Paredes | Aug 31 2019

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Starring Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Shun Oguri

It’s hard to avoid thinking Japan is boarding a late train by fielding Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You to the newly renamed best international film category at the Oscars. And that’s because it failed to bet on Your Name, Shinkai’s 2016 breakthrough about a romance between two teenagers who find themselves swapping bodies, even though the animated feature was an instant commercial hit and critics worldwide were shouting critical huzzahs, with Empire hailing it as “this decade’s Spirited Away.

Hina (Nana Mori), a soon-to-be orphan, sees a ray of sunlight punching through the storm clouds on top of an abandoned building.

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How do you follow up a beloved feat like Your Name? When you’re Makoto Shinkai, the answer is: Do more of the same. Weathering With You has many of the elements that made its predecessor a hit, from the mixture of adolescent love with mysticism to the gorgeous animation to the Radwimps soundtrack. Once again we follow two teenagers, and a love both abetted and thwarted by supernatural forces. 

First, we meet Hina (Nana Mori), a soon-to-be orphan watching over her mother in the ICU in the middle of a rainy day in Tokyo. Hina sees a ray of sunlight punching through the storm clouds, shining on a derelict shrine on top of an abandoned building. She runs through the city streets and prays at the shrine, where she discovers that a different prevailing weather pattern is the least strange thing about it. A few months later, we meet Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), running away from his island prefecture to the capital for reasons not quite explicated, who soon becomes a vagabond in the seedy Kabuchiko district.

Running away from his island prefecture to the capital for reasons not quite explicated, Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) becomes a vagabond in the seedy Kabuchiko district.

In the middle of a prolonged rainy spell, Hodaka encounters Hina, first at a McDonald’s where she gives him a free burger on the sly, and again when he rescues her from falling into the clutches of a possible white slavery ring. Hina confesses to Hodaka that after visiting the shrine, she can summon sunshine for short periods of time, and after Hodaka finds work interning at a pulpy occult magazine under the rakish Mr. Suga (Shun Oguri), he hits upon the lucrative idea of hiring out Hina’s abilities to interested parties online. But after bringing sunshine into other people’s lives, Hina comes to realize that she may have to sacrifice her own.

Hodaka finds work interning at a pulpy occult magazine under the rakish Mr. Suga (Shun Oguri).

Your Name’s winning formula is here and accounted for: the effusive emotion and Shinto mysticism rubbing up nicely against real-world concerns. And then there’s the animation: Shinkai has outdone himself with this follow-up, presenting Tokyo not just with detailed fidelity, but also with a glow that suggests a lush, lambert inner life. Pixar and its ilk may be the dominant force in animation today, but artisans like Shinkai show us what we’ve been missing: a soft humanity devoid of the plastic gloss of CGI.

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There is a reinforcing message for the young (about not belittling their ability to make a difference in the world) and a coda informed by climate crisis paranoia. It is this coda that is the problematic element of Weathering With You: By presenting an alternative vision of Tokyo set in a not-so-distant future, the film’s ending strains supersede everything that has gone before in terms of intrigue and fascination. Weathering With You feels like it ends too soon, making you wish that the wunderkind animator had started his story where he finishes it.

 

Photographs from IMDB