Updated: Jan 28
Weathering with You adds to Makoto Shinkai’s impressive resume. Key to its appeal is animation so visually striking that it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether it’s hand-drawn or computerized. The way the rain falls and interacts with the environment is creative and original. The art doesn’t try to be a film existing only for aesthetics like Mamoru Ishii’s Angel’s Egg or Studio Ghibli films such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro. Existing for aesthetics isn’t bad at all, and is a wonderful way to tell a story, but the reason Weathering With You works so well is because it uses more than visuals to tell its story.
The idea of a kid running away from home to start a new life seems a bit out of fashion. However, Weathering With You makes it work because of what 16-year-old Hodaka goes through to get to a somewhat stable place after running away from home at the beginning of the film. Seeing his hardships, choices and circumstances that lead to him to becoming a journalist and meet the other characters in the film, makes him a relatable character, even if his rationale for leaving home in the first place seems a bit hard to understand. Then there’s Hina. Given the nickname “The Child of Weather,” Hina is a multi-dimensional character worth loving. She tries hard to balance working any job she can get, having incredible powers and caring for her younger brother Nagi. Her kindness and maturity are admirable and it’s easy to root for her. Most of the runtime is dedicated to watching the three work together to make a living by using Hina’s power to control the weather. Watching them work together― and seeing the long-term consequences of their actions ― is captivating enough to stay invested for the 112-minute runtime. There are other characters ― namely Hodaka’s boss Keisuke, who is trying to live a better life so he can be around his daughter and Natsumi, Keisuke’s niece who is trying to find a job that will give her a sense of purpose ― who have arcs and ambitions that are easy to invest in. If a character is explored in this film, he or she isn’t one-note. Weathering With You isn’t a conventional story by any means and there are major risks taken narratively; unlike any film from 2019.
Even more appealing than the assets above about Weathering with You is the soundtrack. The original score by Japanese rock band Radwimps is among the best from 2019, potentially even topping Hiroyuki Sawano’s work on Promare. The compositions can make you feel like you have butterflies in your stomach at one moment, and feel despair at another. While rockers aren’t typically known for diverse anime scores (see artists like LiSA for the anime Demon Slayer or the pillows for Fooly Cooly), seeing Radwimps do it for a feature film makes for a true feeling of enlightenment and bliss.
Weathering with You has some similar narrative devices as Shinkai’s last film, Your Name (2016), but stands on its own thanks to a beautiful score, beautiful visuals and the characters worth caring about. It’s beautiful and inspiring, it answers an important question posed in the soundtrack: “Is there still anything love can do?”