A Test of Love in Weathering With You
As the successor to the 2016 anime blockbuster Your Name (君の名は), Makoto Shinkai’s new film, Weathering With You (天気の子), tells a touching tale of two stray teens struggling to survive in an adult world.
The movie follows Hodaka, a 16-year-old boy who ran away from his countryside home to live in Tokyo. Alone in the city, Hodaka ends up working as a writer for Mr. Suga and his niece Natsumi. One day, Hodaka saves a young girl, Hina, from prostitution, and the two develop a close bond as they build a business around Hina’s “sunshine girl” ability to wish away rain. A flurry of scenes follow, ranging from uplifting friendship to pubescent awkwardness to unforgiving society, and much like in Your Name, they culminate in a spectacular action-packed climax.
In typical Shinkai fashion, the two teenagers, one from the city and one from the countryside, find each other in a romance that the world snatches away. Like many Japanese anime, parents are absent — contrast this with other Asian cinematic hits, such as The Farewell or Parasite. Instead, adults represent a rigid society, unbending and unyielding, that serves to stifle the unfettered spirit of youth: Hina’s supernatural skills fade away into a grey and dreary Tokyo, Hodaka’s red string of fate is broken by dogmatic law enforcement. Perhaps the symbolism of never-ending rain has less to do with climate change than the gradual acceptance of modern societal rules.
The visuals in Weathering With You are no less stunning than those from Your Name. From wide panoramic shots of a flooding Tokyo to the intimate details of less glamorous settings, the beautiful animations turn the rainy preternatural world Shinkai has crafted into a work of art.
RADWIMPS returns for the soundtrack, which is nice but not quite as memorable as Your Name’s. At times, the similarity of the music takes away from the world of Weathering With You: since the plot structure, visual style, and musical timbre are all nearly identical, it becomes difficult to distinguish Hodaka and Hina’s journey as their own story. One might feel that, in seeking to replicate Your Name’s success, Shinkai has simply replicated Your Name.
There is, however, at least one major difference: for the first time, the ending is a “happy” one. Shinkai’s earlier works largely ended with a longing for missed love and an inability to move on. For instance, in 5 Centimeters per Second, the train crossing ending scene conveys a poignant melancholy. The more recent Your Name ended on a surprising bittersweet note: Taki and Mitsuha, despite losing their memories, eventually have a fateful encounter on the stairs.
In Weathering With You, Hodaka and Hina reunite fully three years after the climax. Even though much of Tokyo is submerged and the rain continues falling, the “happy” ending, like Mr. Suga’s change of heart after assisting the police, signifies the decisive triumph of individual bonds over a repressive world. From being at the mercy of the world to saving a town from the world to overturning the world itself, Shinkai’s films have come a long way in this battle against the flow of fate.