Weathering With You is the moving, affable story of two 16 year-olds, Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano, who encounter each other during an interesting crossroads in their lives. Hodaka comes from a small community and has run away to Tokyo, hungry for the dream of experiencing the sights and sounds of the big city and seizing a better life for himself. Hodaka struggles to make ends meet and survive in his new home, but he finds a welcome companionship with Hina, an orphan who lives with her younger brother. Hodaka saves Hina from danger and the two struggling teenagers become irrevocably linked and ready to tackle the world together.
As Hodaka and Hina grow closer, Hodaka learns that Hina possesses an unusual, incredible power that allows her to manipulate the weather. With Tokyo currently experiencing abnormal and disruptive torrential downpours, Hodaka and Hina commit to using her powers for good and to improve the weather for people when it’s needed the most. Hodaka and Hina’s mission to brighten the skies takes them on a life-changing journey, but as they continue to push the limits of what should be possible, they slowly realize that their inspiring new life may be full of obstacles—both physical and emotional—that neither of them is prepared for.
Weathering With You is the glorious kind of film that tells a story that’s simultaneously sprawling and unbelievable as well as tiny and intimate. Writer/Director Makoto Shinkai knows how to lure the audience into this seemingly unassuming tale and by the time its full scope is obvious Weathering With You has already pulled you in. Over the past few years, there have been a number of extremely emotional standalone animated dramas to come out of Japan, like A Silent Voice, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, or Shinkai’s Your Name. Anime films are becoming much more adept at weaving highly dramatic stories and Weathering Your Name is another satisfying example of how far the genre has come.
Makoto Shinkai is a pro at creating real, lovable characters who quickly find their way into your heart. Even though Weathering With You contains plenty of mystical elements, it’s a film that would completely fail if its characters don’t connect. Hodaka and Hina are such realistic characters that you just want to spend more time with. Shinkai’s works always delight in the minutiae that bring people together and the more muted moments in relationships. Every character in Weathering With You, even the minor supporting ones, feel like real people.
Weather is the major element that Weathering With You revolves around, but it cleverly uses this concept to thematically reflect Hodaka and Hina’s struggles. The insurmountable strength of Tokyo’s monsoons is greatly felt and it’s a strong parallel to the depression that sweeps over many of the film’s characters before Hina’s sunshine can break through to them. Accordingly, Shinkai’s use of weather is very effective, but it does feel like there could be more done with this concept towards the end of the film. A certain standstill gets hit that the movie struggles to overcome, even if the events are still satisfying.
Additionally, this weathered material resonates much more in the film’s first half. There are definitely third act problems that don’t cripple Weathering With You but does hinder its overall brilliance. The film’s ending lands and there’s a very emotional finish for both Hodaka and Hina, but one can’t help but feel like Shinkai falls back on previous tricks to wrap up this story. Weathering With You’s abrupt finish works, but it’s also a very safe way to conclude the film.
There are plenty of breathtaking sequences and moments of beautiful character development that fill up Weathering With You, but beyond all of the spectacle and catharsis, there’s a simple elegance over just taking in the sights and scenery of Tokyo. So much work has gone into the film’s animation to painstakingly recreate the streets and neighborhood of this village in Tokyo. Even when there’s nothing explicitly exciting going on there’s still a sense of awe in the authentic environments that are created. It’s not just highly enjoyable to get lost in these scenes and take in the local charm and culture, but it also effectively mirrors the same sense of wonder that Hodaka feels as he experiences Tokyo for the first time. So much of his character arc revolves around his appreciation and fascination of finally being in an exhilarating hub that can properly foster his passions. Weathering With You wonderfully illustrates Hodaka’s obsession with his new surroundings, but by seamlessly placing the audience in his position his goals become even more palpable.
Weathering With You is gorgeous to look at, but the film’s sound design and soundtrack often rival its polished animation. The layered work done to create the many rainstorms and shifts in weather is incredibly immersive and the always-reliable Radwimps reunite with Shinkai to handle the film’s soundtrack. Radwimps has put out more memorable tracks in the past, but this is still some very sublime music that perfectly compliments the film’s tender, awkward energy. There are numerous occasions where the score swells in tandem with the intensity of the shifting weather that creates such a powerful feeling. Seriously, the scene where Hodaka and Hina gracefully careen through the sky with the power of the rain behind them as “Grand Escape” plays is just amazing. It’s hard to picture any other music working as well here.
Weathering With You is a very good movie, but unfortunately one of its biggest deterrents is Makoto Shinkai’s other films, primarily his last effort, Your Name. Your Name is essentially perfect in every way and made seismic waves upon its release. It would be incredibly difficult for anyone to top that magic and while Weathering With You does tell its own, original story, it does feel like a redux of Your Name in many respects. There’s a very similar trajectory for both of these films and even though Hodaka and Hina’s relationship is powerful and connects, the heights here aren’t as powerful as in Your Name. Even though it’s slightly unfair to hold Weathering With You and Shinkai to Your Name’s standards, it’s hard to not draw comparisons between the two when Weathering With You feels derivative of his past works in many ways. This never drags the film down too much, but it does raise a larger concern over Shinkai’s ability to deviate from his typical routine. Hopefully whatever he does next will be more of a challenging change of pace.
Weathering With You is a clear triumph of both film-making and animation, not to mention another very satisfying addition to Makoto Shinkai’s filmography. It succeeds in telling a very moving, human story that’s deeply emotional, yet is also able to indulge in whimsical fantasy in a way that actually enhances the character work, rather than detract from it. Weathering With You is one of the better-animated efforts to come out of Japan this year, but it pales in comparison to the rest of Shinkai’s oeuvre. Even though the film may fall flat for those that are well versed in this kind of territory, Weathering With You is still likely to tug at your heartstrings. Whether it’s magically raining outside or you let out the waterworks, it’s bound to get a little dusty whenever Weathering With You plays.