Weathering with You

 

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Shinkai Makoto consciously seeks to repeat the success of his 2016 hit.

 
Weathering with You

   

In 2016, the Japanese animator Shinkai Makoto made Your Name and that wondrous work understandably gave him an international reputation. Weathering with You is a rather self-conscious follow-up to Your Name and in Japan its enormous popularity has confirmed that he does indeed have a formula that continues to work well for audiences in his own country. The fact that this new anime film has followed the example of Your Name and has been nominated in this year's Oscars is evidence enough that there are hopes that the new film will appeal to all those who admired its predecessor. However, despite the skills on display I am not altogether sure that it will, not to the same extent at least.

 

Nevertheless, the first half of Weathering with You is immensely promising. Shinkai's talents give us a stunningly well realised portrait of modern Tokyo that is far from romanticised. Nevertheless, as in Your Name, the focus here is on two youngsters and the romance that develops between them. Shinkai is adept at creating characters whose emotions affect the audience quite as much as any portrayed by actors in a live-action film and the 16-year-old Hodaka is an ideal hero to engage us. He is a runaway who is hoping to experience a better life in Tokyo but finds the city scary. We readily identify with him as he seeks some kind of work and is taken on by a rather dubious figure who is the owner of a magazine devoted to the occult and to urban legends. No less do we feel involved when he is attracted to a girl named Hina first encountered when she is working as a waitress and slips him a burger sensing that he is starving at the time. 

 

Your Name had fantastical aspects more readily understood by Japanese audiences but its depth of romantic feeling carried all before it. Here too fantasy develops when it turns out that Hina has magical powers to bring out the sun, a gift of increasing importance since the story unfolds at a time when Tokyo is suffering from unprecedented continuous rainfall. Hodaka persuades her to sell her services as a provider of sunshine   for special occasions, but this feels more like a moneymaking venture than anything especially benign. Nevertheless, the plot development (which in passing presupposes a fanciful world in the sky where fish exist and which both Hina and Hodaka enter eventually) turns on the fact that sunshine girls like Hina find that exercising their powers gradually uses up their bodies. Ultimately, therefore, if we are to have a happy ending for our couple it would seem that Hina will need to escape her role as a sacrificial victim, but the cost of that will be for Tokyo to be flooded and be returned to what the area had been like centuries ago.

 

If the fantasy seems too central and too odd to work well, it also means that it seems questionable what we should be rooting for as the film approaches its conclusion - is the happiness of the lovers with whom we have been identifying more important than the fate of Tokyo? That question apart, it is, of course, possible to link this tale with the issue of global warming, but Weathering with You doesn't really come across as a serious comment on that. If I felt increasingly distant from the film in its second half that may be a matter of taste, but it was partly due to the fact that my disappointment was the more intense because I had liked the film initially. In any case the quality of the animation here is fine, the music score (by RADWIMPS who also contributed to Your Name) is appealing and parts of this film are very engaging. Even so, it is undeniable that the memory of Your Name sets a standard that casts a long shadow. 

 

Original title: Tenki no ko.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Voices of  Daigo Kotaro, Mori Nana, Hondo Tsubasa, Kiryu Sakura, Hiraizmi Sei, Oguri Shun, Kaji Yuki, Baisho Chieko, Hanazawa Kana.

 

Dir Shinkai Makoto, Pro Furusawa Yoshihiro Screenplay Shinkai Makoto, Ph Tsuda Ryousuke, Art Dir Takiguchi Hiroshi, Ed Shinkai Makoto, Music RADWIMPS, Animation Dir Tamura Atsushi.

 

Toho Co. Ltd/CoMix Wave Films Inc./Kadokawa Corporation/Lawson Entertainment Inc.-National Amusements.
112 mins. Japan. 2019. Rel: 17 January 2020. Cert. 12A