After the hugely successful Your Name., Makoto Shinkai is back with the next film, Weathering With You. No doubt these 2 years has built a lot of hype and high expectations for Makoto’s next film with the huge amount of success he saw. So, has he managed to live up to the hype? Let’s find out.
Weathering With You (天気の子) revolves around Hodaka, a boy who has run away from home to make a new life in Tokyo. Despite being summer, it is constantly raining. When a storm over Tokyo hits the ferry he is on, Hodaka’s life gets saved by Mr Suga as he is about to fall overboard. When Hodaka arrives in Tokyo, he struggles to find a job and a stable place to live. After an act of kindness by Hina, a girl working in a restaurant, he reaches out to Mr Suga who gives him a job as a writer’s assistant and a place to stay. The latest piece the office is writing about is the mysterious rain crisis, leading Hodaka to bump into Hina again who turns out to be the “Sunshine Girl”. Hina shows Hodaka her power to summon the sun despite the rain, where the story takes off as the pair discover more about her powers and the mystery of the rain.
So how is the pacing of this plot? Well, spot on! It is fairly simple, allowing a steady and constant flow forward, not disrupted by sub-plots. In fact, the sub-plots function to provide more depth to the characters and developing the audience’s personal investment in the characters. There is a purity to them, despite the upsetting circumstances, and serve as real feel-good moments. Sure, you aren’t given all the details, or for some their resolutions, but it’s enough to give the scene a purpose in the grand scheme of things. Whilst this review is trying to avoid a comparison, it was a lot more cohesive compared to Your Name. as this time around there was no information overload. Weathering With You is a much easier watch and felt more immersive. Where there is no real big shock or mind-blowing moment, it is just a nice gentle ride throughout and works better that way. Indeed, it is one of those rare films with no dead space that makes you fully invested. Clearly, Makoto has reflected a lot since his last film and has perfected the craft of story-telling.
However, the true gems of the film are the characters themselves. Despite falling into usual stereotypes, they all felt unique in some way and have a lot of depth to them. Particularly being an adult, it was nice to see some older characters at the forefront who are easier to relate to. Even so, the unique and vibrant personality of each character truly brings them alive. They are so interesting, you want to know what happens next to them and for them to succeed in their goals. This effect is only enhanced by the voice acting, which surprisingly was not done by actual seiyuu (voice actor) but live-action film actors which you wouldn’t notice. It was quite a surprise finding that out as it did not hinder from delivering from a high-level performance. Through and through, the characters are incredibly memorable and lovable, bringing the plot alive and the best part of the film.
Moving to the art, another aspect is done to an incredibly high standard. Some of the landscape shots are breathtaking as they have a photo-realistic quality to them. With the film being based in Tokyo, most of the art replicates real-life places that further immerse you within the film. As someone who has been to quite a few of the places, it was like being taken back there thanks to the high level of detail in the art. Where there is a bit too much product placement at the start of the film, reflecting on it at the end, it actually works to make it feel as if it has happened in the real world. Not only that, there is some CGI animation used but for once it is blended in so well you barely notice it. It’s incredible, a true feat in animation, instead of the usual detraction from sticking out like a sore thumb, this time it helps build on the artistic style behind the key scenes without detracting from it. Another element working to wrap your attention in the film, breaking your connection with the outside world.
The last thing to talk about is the soundtrack. RADWIMPS were back to write it, doing another good job of capturing the mood of the key points of the film. More noticeable in this film, the instrumental tracks work in subtle ways in the background and the vocal tracks on a more extravagant level. When the emotional levels were high, it would kick it up a notch with a strong vocal track. They also appeared in the more montage bits to maintain the pace, being a bit more laid back but the vocals helped keep it all going when there were no speaking parts. Although my only criticism of the film does come down to the instrumental tracks mainly revolving around the same piano track few too many times. It is a shame, as the Your Name soundtrack being a lot more vibrant and where this film did use the vocal tracks more effectively, the instrumentals were a bit of a letdown. Where in a lot of ways, Weathering With You was going for a more simple approach, the instrumental soundtrack is the one place this shouldn’t have happened. Even so, this is small in the grand scheme of things and does not detract from the experience too much.
Overall, Weathering With You is one of the most immersive cinematic experiences I have ever had. Immersive is the keyword as every part of this film works to get you fully absorbed, despite no real suspense you want to find out what happens next thanks to the good pace and the lovable main characters. Everything comes together in a spectacular fashion, without a doubt making this a step up on the incredible Your Name. This is a film that should not be missed, particularly in the cinema!