The influence of Your Name cannot be overstated. Makoto Shinkai’s cultural phenomenon became the highest grossing anime film of all-time. Beyond that, Your Name remains something of a critical darling, so all eyes were on Shinkai’s next project to make lightning strike twice. Now, Weathering With You is here, and miraculously recaptures the magic of its predecessor.
Tokyo has been overtaken by a constant rain. Like Your Name before it, Weathering With You tells the story of two star-crossed lovers: Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano. Hodaka has run away from his suffocating high-school existence on a small island to Tokyo, working under tabloid writer Keisuke Suga as he evades authorities. Fate brings him to Hina, a strong-willed young woman taking care of her younger brother in the absence of their deceased parents. Upon spending more time with Hina, he discovers her secret ability to summon sunshine through prayer. Hodaka and Hina weaponize this gift as a way to make money, but are faced with a dilemma when they discover a little bit of Hina disappears every time she uses her powers.
The conceit of the star-crossed lovers isn’t the only element here that’s similar to Your Name. In a way, Weathering With You feels like something of a spiritual successor to that film. Where this could be seen as a weakness, Makoto Shinkai takes it in stride, improving upon Your Name at every turn for an experience that’s simply better. The most obvious strength of Weathering With You is its visuals. Be it the rainy streets of Tokyo or the brilliant beams of light that break through the grey, CoMix Wave Films has outdone itself with striking imagery that combines traditional and CGI animation techniques. You simply can’t see this stuff in any other medium than Japanese animation.
It’s unlikely you’ll see films with as deep an appreciation for Japanese culture, either. Tokyo is a character within itself, an endless wonderland of various subcultures and architecture for Hodaka and Hina to explore. Weathering With You isn’t interested in holding the audiences hand in regards to explaining to international audiences Japanese culture. And that kind of works! It might fly over audiences heads that the shrine Hina got her powers from belongs to the Shinto religion, but it’s easy to go with it.
Most of this is because the characterization is strong throughout. Hodaka is a wonderfully angsty lead that teenage worldwide should be able to relate to. Conversely, it’s easy to see why Hodaka is so charmed by Hina. The “100% sunshine girl” is a joyful, downright magical presence throughout, while revealing emotional depth the further Weathering With You progresses into its run-time. The supporting characters similarly leave an impact. The gruff, sarcastic Mr. Suga, his bubbly niece Natsumi, or the inexplicable ladies man that is Hina’s younger brother Nagi are all deserving of their own articles of praise.
My favorite element of both Your Name and Weathering With You is a “heart-on-its-sleeve” earnestness. The feelings between Hodaka and Hina are obvious and youthful to the point where they might feel corny. As both writer and director, Makoto Shinaki trusts in these emotions and doubles down.
In breathtaking montages with original music by Japanese rock band RADWIMPS, I found myself on the verge of tears myself. The power of these sequences carry through to every inch of the third act, where the imagery, culture, character, and heart all come together to try their hardest to move the audience. Consider me moved.
Anime fanatic or casual moviegoer, Weathering With You is a film you simply can’t miss. Makoto Shinkai has made two films that will appear to the young and the youthful at heart. Simply put, they’re two of the greatest films of the anime medium. Rain or shine, make it a point to catch Weathering With You when it’s in American cinemas. –James Preston Poole
Weathering With You is now playing in theaters.