Makoto Shinkai’s followup to Your Name is another charming coming-of-age tale with a supernatural twist.
Getting caught in the rain stinks. One of the best sequences in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite involves the protagonists returning home on a rainy night to find their semi-basement apartment washed away in an apocalyptic flood. Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You extends this drizzly predicament across its two-hour runtime: we arrive at a Tokyo suffering from endless rain, and a total lack of sunshine.
That’s just one of the problems facing Hodaka Moishima (Kotaro Daigo), a teenage runaway who’s relocated to the city in hopes of finding a fix for his isolated home life. On the boat to Tokyo, Hodaka encounters Keisuke (Shun Oguri), a semi-sketchy figure who eventually offers the teenager a position as a writer at his urban legend-investigation publication (in return for room and board at his own semi-basement apartment, which is honestly a deal this struggling writer would take in a heartbeat). Hodaka also meets Hina, a young woman who seems to have the ability to momentarily make the weather clear up and the sun come out. She’s literally a bright spot in Hodaka’s turbulent adolescence.
Shinkai’s follow-up to his 2016 breakout hit Your Name is another coming-of-age story with a supernatural twist, another tale of two young people fighting to connect with each other in an indifferent, cloudy world. The adults of Weathering With You are largely absent from the frame – and when they do appear, they seem just as lost as the teens.
And what gorgeous frames they are. From the rain-soaked streets to the breathtaking clouds that sit above, Shinkai’s team of animators provide an array of stunning visuals. Rare rays of sunshine cut across the screen, a neat contrast to the pervasive, moody atmosphere. Against this backdrop, the characters’ expressions and movements really pop – it’s tough to imagine this story told in any other medium.
But where Weathering With You struggles is in its pacing and structure. The first act moves at breakneck speed, as Hodaka is thrown into a whole new world and forced to adjust, rapidly. It mostly works: the way Hodaka’s amateur-writing gig connects to Hina’s mythological importance is particularly satisfying. The film’s back half is a bit more scattered – a subplot involving Keisuke’s kid gets lost. But the bigger problem is that the relationship between Hodaka and Hina isn’t ever developed to the point where it’s completely believable. Hina’s perspective is never quite accessible, so it’s hard to tell whether she feels the same way about Hodaka – in contrast to the film’s assertion that the bond between these characters is airtight.
The characters’ expressions and movements really pop – it’s tough to imagine this story told in any other medium.
Finally, the climate change-adjacent subtext gets a little muddled – it’s clear Shinkai is trying to comment on our uncertain ecological future, but exactly what he’s attempting to say gets lost. There’s something genuinely moving – tragic, even – about watching young people fall in love in the face of such terrifying conditions, but Shinkai never clarifies his point-of-view on this melancholy reality, nor does he really comment on what we should do in the face of total environmental collapse. Then again, that might be a little too First Reformed for this kids’ movie.
At the end of the day, Weathering With You is content with the conclusion that getting caught in the rain may stink, but it’s not so bad if you’ve got someone to share an umbrella with.
Weathering With You brings out the sunshine in theaters now.