This is the follow up to anime hit Your Name. It improves from Your Name in a lot of ways, especially with regards to technical animation but also is kind of a let down in story and characters. Makoto Shinkai got his start by making his own anime, doing basically everything on his own. Since then, he has grown to be in charge of an entire animation studio. Each movie he’s produced has been more expensive, and more technically ambitious. But each movie has kept certain themes, and a certain art style that features very detailed, very pretty, background art.
Weathering With You starts with Hokato, who has run away from home, and tries to find work in Tokyo. He takes a boat to Tokyo and when he lands and struggles to find work, and is living on the streets. Eventually he contacts a man he met on the boat, and works as his assistant, at his publishing company. Their company investigates urban myths and folklore. One is about ‘The Sunshine Girl’, who ends up being a girl that Hokota met in a Mcdonalds (product placement). This is one of those movies, where every single twist you can see coming a mile away. I found myself slightly surprised at multiple points when the movie did exactly what I had expected, because it just seemed so obvious.
The animation is beautiful. The beautiful art is the main reason I wanted to watch this movie theatres. Everything is drawn with such an attention to detail, and such vivid colors. The characters are deeply expressive. There are moments of genuine surprise with how good things look. The colors are vibrant and lush. Characters are animated with sincerity during heartfelt moments, and with chaotic energy during comedic moments. The characters are very expressive, even with difficult very particular emotions.
Animation of water has historically been very difficult and expensive to animate. Weathering With You is unperturbed by this. There are various beautiful moments that utilize animated water. One moment a character is punched into the ground during a rainstorm. The raindrops around him bounce off with the impact. This adds a sense of impact that isn’t necessarily something you notice in the moment, but you feel as you watch. The actual animation of those single raindrops off the ground is technical difficult, and the attention to detail for something this minute is itself amazing.
The background art in particular stands out as a highlight of the movie. Shinkai is known for his lush background art, that is his own style. Each building looks very detailed, almost like it’s as close to photo realistic that anime can get. But the use of color and and various line thicknesses make it more than just a banal copy of what live action could show us. Instead we get a feel for what places are like. In one scene, Hokota is in a Macdonals’s having his first meal in weeks. Rather than being an oppressive gringy spot, it feel warm and nice, because of the color choices and focus on open space during these moments.
While the animation was great, the story suffered. The plot was often weak, and the themes were all over the place. Character motivation was mostly ignored. The main characters fall in love and have to fight wild odds to be together. That is the plot. They do it in Tokyo. It relies on the two main characters, who happen to be the weakest characters in the entire story. The main chick, Hina, had the personality of cardboard. The side characters are great though, and feel like breaths of air between the two flat main characters. The introduction of the side characters is done well, having them seen in the story before Hodako meets them. Hina has a little brother. We see him on a public bus seducing two girls, one after the other. This little brother character has some of the best jokes, and steals every scene he’s in.
There was an overreliance on music, that felt like it was inspired early 2000’s children television shows. Multiple times during intense emotional parts of the movie a j-pop song would start playing. Usually the singer would be out of key. This was extremely grating and just bought the movie down.
The main character fall pretty flat for, with the main boy being, at points, simply annoying. The beginning of the movie establishes that he ran away from home. It never tells us why. Viewers are left without a reason why he would want to run away from his family and hometown. It was never suggested that his parents were mean, or that they had any personality at all. Nor was the reason he would want to move to the city, as opposed to anywhere else, explored. Did he want to go to meet more people? Did he want to go to be around the kinds of businesses only found in the city? It’s not like he loved Tokyo– considering the ending. If he just wanted to be in a city, why? This is a huge flaw for me in the movie. He risks so much to go to Tokyo and (spoilers) sinks it into the ocean by the end of the movie.
The worst part of this movie, for me, is the ending. He saves Hina, but to do so, he knows that it keep raining. Okay, this is an interesting problem. The next paragraph is obviously a spoiler. He saves the girl, and there is a brief pause, and we get the information that it’s been three years and Tokyo is underwater because of all the rain. That’s crazy.The boy sinks all tokyo to be with the girl. And then they don’t seem that into each other. I mean the girl didn’t try to call or text him at all in the three year period between them meeting and him being under house arrest.
I don’t understand what water means in this movie. If it has some deeper meaning it’s missed on me, and doesn’t work in a narrative sense. If you compare this movie with another that came out very close to it, Parasite, the lack of thematic necessitate and meaning to the flooding is huge. Parasite uses flooding to illustrate the difference between class. There is a scene in Parasite where the family, who lives in a semi basement, comes home after a long day of working for a rich family, to find that their home has been flooded. This is an intense moment. A tragic moment. One that is treated with weight, and one that shows that the life changing issues of the poor are the vague annoyances of the rich. It has substance. In Wheathring With You, all of Tokyo is flooded, and it feels more like a joke than necessary narrative moment that shows us the theme of the movie.
The theming of this movie is all over the place. At the end of the movie there is an interview with the director, who says that he made the movie because thought young people had to deal with stifling society that smartphones created. This does not come through at all in the movie. There are shot of cell phones but they don’t connect with that theme. I never get across that the character feel annoyed, or reduced by their use of their cell phones. Rather their cells phones give them more freedom in the movie– as it allows Hina to make money off her ability to stop the rain.
Japanese animation can often feel insular. There are great anime movie, that are great in comparisons with all movies. And then, with this movie, there are great anime movies that are great in comparisons with other anime. This movie looks better than TV Anime. But the story– which is why I go to see movies, is nonsense.
I’m not as big a fan of Makota Shinkai as I am of other japanese animation directors. His movies often feel lacking in ideas or the ability to clearly execute his ideas. Sometimes, I question why he wants to work in animation, when most of his movies seem like they could be done in live action and not lose that much.
Overall the movie was animated beautifully. But for me, it focused too much on the flat main characters. I think this movie is very pretty but it doesn’t back it up with ideas. I think don’t think Weathering With You is bad, it’s fun to watch with how beautiful it is, it’s just frustrating and at points laughable with how clunky it is.