Weathering With You

In a near-future Tokyo where climate change has caused the weather patterns to alter, turning the annual rainy season into a year-round downpour, 15 year old runaway Hodaka Morishima soon finds himself alone and friendless on the streets of the sprawling megalopolis. The only act of kindness he receives is from a waitress at a fast-food restaurant, who gives him a free meal; shortly thereafter, Hodaka falls in with Keisuke Suga, the owner of a small publishing company specialising in stories about the paranormal, and Suga’s niece, college student Natsumi Suga. They take him in and give him a job as Keisuke’s dogsbody; and it is in this context that Hodaka hears an urban legend about “The Sunshine Girl”, a Shintō priestess who can make the rain stop for short periods of time. One day, Hodaka sees a girl being coerced into becoming a hostess at a sleazy club; recognising her as the waitress who gave him the free meal, he helps her escape from the club owner. She reveals her name – Hina – and the fact that she and her younger brother Nagisa have spent the last year living alone following their mother’s death. But when Hodaka also discovers that Hina is the much-rumoured “Sunshine Girl” he has a bright idea: she can advertise her skills and earn money providing people with good weather for their special events. This Hina readily agrees to do. But neither Hina nor Hodaka are aware of the fact that the “Sunshine Girl’s” abilities come at a price: in order to permanently correct the weather, Hina must sacrifice herself and enter the realm of the sky dragon responsible for the rain. This sets in train a sequence of events in which Hodaka must ultimately confront a choice between saving Tokyo from being submerged under floodwaters, or save the life of the girl he has come to love…

Written and directed by legendary anime filmmaker Makoto Shinkai, and produced by Shinkai’s company Co-Mix Wave Films, “Weathering With You” (the Japanese title literally means “Child of the Weather”) received its cinematic release in July 2019. Critically well-received and commercially popular, “Weathering With You” became the highest grossing film in Japan in 2019, and the 12th highest grossing film in Japanese cinema history. Rendered in Shinkai’s masterful visuals that combine 2D, 3D, and CGI animation techniques with high-end rotoscoping, “Weathering With You” is less dramatically compelling or narratively complex than either his 2016 smash-hit “Your Name” or his 2013 short feature “The Garden of Words”, but nonetheless builds steadily to an emotionally affecting denouement counterbalanced by a nicely weighted and paced epilogue. The characterisation is solid and three-dimensional, and allows both for subtle psychological insight and a certain ironic humour. But the depiction of Tokyo in all its soaring vastness, combined with the sweeping skyscapes and cloud-vistas, are really what make “Weathering With You” compelling and rewarding viewing: Shinkai reveals himself yet again a master of modern anime visuals, showing us a world that is familiar, believable, and yet strangely magical, vested with its own breathtaking beauty. Essentially a teenage coming-of-age tale pitched against the backgrounds of climate change and Shintō spiritualism, “Weathering With You” is a thoughtful story about choice and consequence, captured within the lens of Shinkai’s unique, stunning aesthetic sense.    

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2021. All rights reserved.