Straight after creating Japan’s biggest anime hit Your Name, Makoto Shinkai returns with Weathering With You which combines his love of the youth, shrine maidens, and Japanese tradition. But if you really want to enjoy his latest film, you’ll have to put aside expectations of a Your Name 2.0.
As the title suggests, Shinkai’s latest foray focuses on the weather – a topic that hints at the effects of climate change – and particularly about rain, which serves as the backdrop to a teenage love story involving two runaways in Tokyo.
Sixteen-year-old Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) runs away from home to find a new life in Tokyo, where he meets Hina (Nana Mori), a girl who lives with her little brother and has the power to make the sun shine whenever she prays to the skies.
Set against a backdrop of perpetual rain, the three of them soon find fame and success in their business of bringing sunny spells using Hina’s reputation as the ‘sunshine girl’.
Little do they know that Hina’s role as ‘sunshine girl’ was once the job of shrine maidens of centuries ago. Stationed at every temple in every town, these maidens would grant wishes of sunshine to those who prayed at the temple – but with a tragic ending. Once a girl has fulfilled the wishes for the season, she will disappear into the clouds.
The more Hina prays for sunshine, the more ‘translucent’ she becomes, signalling the end of her time on Earth. But it is only through the love and willpower of Hodaka that the film doesn’t end in her death (and their separation). While the film does have a happy ending for the pair, it ends in a climate disaster, alluding to the fact that the global climate change is caused by mankind’s greed.
Unlike Your Name, this story isn’t shrouded in mystery, doesn’t foretell any disaster, or have many LOL moments. It’s about a couple of teens who discover things together, including their affection for one another. However, the movie paints Hodaka as not only a teenager hopelessly in love, he is also someone absurdly selfish. Throw in a couple of cop chases and a loaded gun into the picture, and you’ve got some decent action sequences.
What does stand out about the film is, unsurprisingly, the visual. It stays true to Shinkai’s love of Tokyo, with scenes that take your breath away as they are either shrouded in mist, deluged by rain, or bathed in sunshine. You’ll recognise many of the landmarks portrayed: Tokyo Tower, Kabukicho, Shinjuku Station, and Shibuya Crossing.
If you’re a fan of Shinkai and anime in general, then it’s a must-watch – but don’t expect to find the complex storyline or likeable protagonists of Your Name, otherwise you’ll be disappointed.