Makoto Shinkai, whose 2016’s phenomenally popular Your Name both gained worldwide recognition and even became one of Japan’s highest-grossing anime films of all-time, has once again employed the same teen-romance angle set within the real world-fantasy hybrid setting.
But instead of Your Name‘s body-swapping subgenre, Weathering With You sees Shinkai tackling climate change where Tokyo is constantly struck with nonstop rain day and night. The only person who seemingly has an unusual gift of changing the weather is a mysterious teenage girl named Hina (voiced by Nana Mori). She gradually earned the nickname “sunshine girl” due to her prayer-like ability to cast away the rain for sunlight to appear in the sky.
Hina soon crosses paths with Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), a 16-year-old kid trying to earn a living in Tokyo after running away from home. Both of them eventually become friends and even start running their own lucrative online business, where they make money by bringing sunshine to the people upon request. But doing so comes with a hefty cost — an eventual action that soon takes a huge toll on Hina’s power.
Unlike the fascinating non-linear structure previously seen in Your Name, Weathering With You is more straightforward by comparison. Shinkai’s familiar hallmarks are basically all here, namely the love-conquers-all theme, the obligatory Radwimps’ rousing soundtrack and the meet-cute teenage romance between two photogenic strangers. Only this time, the overall execution of Shinkai’s own screenplay is less effective while some of the plot threads are either ignored or left unanswered. This is particularly evident with questionable scenes involving Hodaka accidentally discovers a gun in a trash can and the fact that Hodaka running away from home is never explained.
Still, Weathering With You is far from an outright disaster. It’s just that after Shinkai sets such a high bar in Your Name three years earlier, it comes to no surprise that most anime fans are expecting the same level of heights in terms of storytelling quality. Viewing this as a standalone film without all the comparisons, it’s hard to deny the wonderfully charming chemistry between Hina and Hodaka as well as other colourful supporting characters such as Shun Oguri’s Suga and Tsubasa Honda’s Natsumi, who plays both Hodaka’s publishing-company boss and fellow colleague respectively.
Technically speaking, Weathering With You is undoubtedly a visual triumph that looks great on the big screen. Kudos go to Shinkai for meticulously imagined the bustling, rain-soaked Tokyo setting and even the brand authenticity of numerous product placements showcased throughout the movie.
By the way, keep your eyes peeled for certain cameo appearances from Your Name.