Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Weathering with You adds to writer/director Makoto Shinkai’s impressive resume. The animation is so visually striking that it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether the images are hand-drawn or computerized. In particular, the way the rain falls and interacts with the environment is creative and original — important details in a film about extreme, persistent precipitation and one young woman’s supernatural ability to carve out hours of sunlight.
But even with these visual delights, Weathering with You isn’t primarily an aesthetic piece such as Mamoru Oshii’s gorgeous Angel’s Egg (1985) or Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). Instead, the film’s well-written characters, along with a story that’s easy to understand and invest in, make it a more powerful experience overall, and a more universal one.
The film’s central conceit of a kid running away from home to start a new life seems a bit tired, but Weathering with You makes it work, thanks to the sympathetic travails 16-year-old Hodaka goes through to attain something resembling stability. His story is further strengthened once he crosses paths with Hina. Given the nickname “The Child of Weather,” she attempts to use her power to stop Tokyo’s continuous rain while also working odd jobs and caring for her younger brother Nagi. Side characters in the film are similarly captivating, and add to the story’s emotional richness.
The bulk of Weathering with You involves Hodaka, Hina and Nagi coming up with creative schemes to make money from Hina’s ability to control the weather, meanwhile confronting how she got her power and the gift’s effect on her. Trying to ascertain her power’s source becomes harder once law enforcement gets involved — alongside the blossoming romance between Hodaka and Hina that feels like it has a true sense of vivacity and sincerity that transcend the animation itself — a series of tense situations and harrowing images rarely seen in animation and presented.
The film’s deep contemplations on the value of human lives likewise make it distinct, as does Shinkai’s emphasis on the weather itself — a commentary on climate crisis as well as a reflection of the characters’ emotions. Making the weather a character (arguably the film’s most complex one) is a challenge that pays off in the end.
The film’s original score by Japanese rock band RADWIMPS is among the best from 2019, potentially even topping Hiroyuki Sawano’s work on Promare. The compositions, both instrumental and lyrical, run the gamut of the characters’ emotions, from love and excitement to despair and turmoil. While rockers aren’t typically known for diverse anime scores, there have been a few artists to break that rule — particularly in the series Demon Slayer (LiSA) and Fooly Cooly (The Pillows). The contributions by RADWIMPS, who also scored Shinkai’s last film, Your Name (2016), solidifies Weathering with You’s greatness.