Director Makoto Shinkai’s previous film, Your Name, a tale about two teenagers who swap bodies, found unexpected success both domestically in Japan and at the global box office. The artful animation with its deft touches of charm and whimsy were lauded by critics and audiences worldwide, so it’s no real surprise to hear that Shinkai’s s back with another story about young love.
Teenage runaway Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) leaves his sleepy hometown in favour of the glittering metropolis of Tokyo, but he soon realises that no one is willing to hire a minor due to labour laws. Alone and hungry, he bumps into Hina (Nana Mori), a fast food worker who takes pity on him and gives him free food.
Eventually, Hodaka finds work writing for a small magazine run by the unkempt loner Suga (Shun Oguri), who tells him to look into the phenomenon of “sunshine girls” who can control the weather. When Hodaka runs into Hina and her younger brother Nagi (Sakura Kiryu), he realises that Hina is one of these mysterious “sunshine girls”, and the three of them soon figure out a way to monetise this ability.
Hina’s strange ability offers a multitude of opportunities for Shinkai and his animation team to flex their muscles, and the result is a visual feast that will delight moviegoers and anime fans alike. Much like Your Name, painstaking care is taken to reproduce all the little details that make up Tokyo, from the neon lights on billboards in the nightlife district Kabukicho, to the abandoned buildings scattered throughout the city, to the bursts of colour and light that come from brief periods of sunshine.
If you have ever been stuck in a city on a rainy day, you will be amazed at how accurately the animation recreates the dreariness of a Tokyo where it is constantly raining. Moviegoers will find themselves emerging from the cinema hoping that they managed to bring an umbrella out with them.
This level of verisimilitude extends even to the brand names that litter the Tokyo of Weathering With You, which may be surprising if you’re familiar with anime’s usual habit of altering brand names in the hopes of skirting advertising laws. Shinkai must have worked out some lucrative deals with some of the major brands shown, but it does veer a little too much into blatant product placement in some parts.
However, the narrative in Weathering With You falls short of Your Name. There are many loopholes and plot threads that are left dangling, which were a little disappointing given the amount of care given to the visual elements of the movie.
The relationship between Hodaka and Hina was also a little less engaging than that of Mitsuha and Taki in Your Name, though no less emotional. There is also Shinkai’s trademark mix of vague sci-fi mumbo jumbo and Shinto mysticism, but here it does not really gel well here.
Nevertheless, Weathering With You is another visual masterpiece from Shinkai. One only wishes that Shinkai would push himself more with the story next time.
Score: 3.5/5 stars
Weathering With You opens in cinemas 12 September, 2019 (Singapore).