“The sky is a deeper unknown world than the sea.” Mikoto Shinkai has big shoes to fill after 2017’s Your Name. With luck, they are his own shoes. He can slide right into those expectations and wear them comfortably. Weathering with You takes the same basic structure and transposes it into a wonderful little tale about weather in Tokyo. Shikai has found an idealistic format for grand slice-of-life stories heightened by surreal aspects. Where the director specializes is in creating striking settings, and characters to inhabit them. Here, his team’s skills have increased, giving Tokyo a blustery, rain-swept feeling that is uniquely expressive unto itself. It is a good looking animation that hits the right, sweet high notes just when it needs to, performing right into expectations.
There is a seriousness with which reality is handled before the film gives way to its surreal elements. The city streets feel lived in. When characters are destitute in the setting, it is tangible and earnestly felt. Everything goes by brand names and not wacky anime substitutes. A car will hold the name of its actual manufacturer. A computer is an Apple, as God intended. There is only one moment that is very questionable, that takes place inside a McDonalds. When the main character, Hodaka, eats a Big Mac, it is shot pornographically. When he opens the box, the burger glistens and enlarges, throbbing with want and purpose. He scarfs it down, exclaiming, that’s the best food he’s eaten in his sixteen years of living. Either it’s a very sad character detail, that he has only had poor and packaged food, or a disgusting advertisement stuffed near the start of the movie, but feels like both.
Big Mac porn aside, Weathering with You accomplishes a lot of goodwill with its characters. Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) is worth rooting for and the film creates an audience-pleasing romance with fellow runaway Hina (Nana Mori). Their story of runaways and found family fits neatly into the present World Cinema zeitgeist, as wonderfully expressed by Shoplifters (2018) and Parasite (2019), Weathering with You also makes present and timely statements.
A movie for climate change activists, Weathering with You takes aim at our catastrophic weather changes and with hopeful optimism, weaponizes love and compassion against the turning tide of the weather. It just asks us to be aware, to stop and consider something as it is. Weathering with You shows a delightful resiliency for the people most immediately against such odds. Hina stands for something, and by proximity, eventually, so too does Hodaka. Some people are bright enough to wash the rain away and change the outlook of our future.
As a heightened romance, Weathering with You works neatly. An intriguing premise met with illustriously lovely animation, it is as close to a sure thing as fans of Your Name may ever find. Occasionally, its themes and overall structure pale in comparison to the director’s former work. It is not the most profound of statements within anime. It is just really finely crafted, just the kind of bittersweet romance you could hope to find in the cinematic doldrums of midwinter. Whatever the weather, Weathering with You will make the present situation brighter and steel its audiences from the cold with a coat of warmth.