Weathering with You (2019) Review
THIS IS THE STORY OF THE WORLD’S
SECRET THAT ONLY SHE AND I KNOW
Japanese anime has been around for quite some time; entertaining viewers with stylish animation from the “Land of the Rising Sun” and bringing a plethora of various tales of colossal mechas, magical girls, and fantastical journeys that various characters undergo. Anime has been dabbled into a variety of stories to tell, which range from short mini-series (O.A.V), to TV series, and feature length films. One such anime film titled Your Name was released in 2016 with much celebrated fanfare. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, the film tells the story of a high school boy in Tokyo and a high school girl in a rural town, who suddenly and inexplicably begin to swap bodies. Your Name was critically acclaimed for its animation, intricate narrative, musical score, and emotional drama, with the film being a commercial success in Japan (a total gross of $359 million), becoming the highest grossing anime film of all time. Even winning several awards, including winning the Best Animated Feature Film award at 49th Sitges Film Festival, the 2016 Los Angeles Film Critic Association Awards, and the 71st Mainichi Film Awards, as well as well as receiving a nomination for the 40th Japan Academy Prize for the Best Animation of the Year. Now, CoMix Wave Films and director Makoto Shinkai present the last follow-up success of 2016’s Your Name with the anime film Weathering with You. Does this animated tale finding palpable acclaim at its predecessor or does it flounder within its ambitious “young love” drama?
Escaping an unhappy home life, high school teenager Hodaka Morishima (Brandon Engman) runs away from the life he wants had; traveling to Tokyo, which is experiencing an endless barrage of non-stop rainfall for without end). After struggling with job opportunities and place to sleep (and stay dry), Hodaka manages to find employment at a small publishing company, which is headed by Keisuke Suga (Lee Pace) and his young associate Natsumi (Alison Brie). While researching a sort of puff piece about the rumored “sunshine girls”, young women who have the ability to change the weather, Hodaka meets the mysterious Hina Amano (Ashley Boettcher) and quickly discovers that she has the mystical power to temporarily stop the rainfall and let the sun shine. With the pair getting into a small business of accepting requests from various people who wish to have sunshine to “brighten their day” of the daily rainfall, Hodaka begins to develop strong feelings for Hina. However, the authorities are starting to search for him (wanting to take him back home) as the young man grows desperate to remain with Hina, who harbors a dark secret about her powers….
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Before I started watching more live-action TV shows, I was very much into anime movies and TV series (back when I was in my teenage years). Of course, I like (and watched) all the popular ones, including Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon, but I was found appreciation for others such as Outlaw Star, Escaflowne, Record of Lodoss War, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle just to name a few. While I sort of moved away from anime (favoring live-action feature films and live-action TV series), I never “grew out” of watching anime as I still have come to appreciate it and still enjoy watching it from time to time. Since I always go to the movies (as you guys already know that), I always kept on seeing previews for special engagements screenings for several anime movies, including 2016’s Your Name. I do admit that I wanted to see it (was a bit curious to see Your Name in theaters), but my schedule kept on keeping me from seeing it, especially since it was only in theaters for a limited time. Still, I have been meaning to catch Your Name sometime soon (might rent them). All in all, I am still interested in seeing anime projects.
Of course, this brings me back to talking about Weathering with You, a 2019 anime movie that made its way to theaters in the US in 2020. As mentioned in the above paragraph, I really didn’t hear much about this movie until I saw the film’s movie trailers every now and again when I went out for my weekly movie theater outing (showcasing the film’s preview before the “coming attractions” reel). As stated, I’m still a fan of anime was a curious to see the movie, but feared that I wouldn’t be able to see (at least in theaters). Luckily, my local theater was showing the film for quite some time, so I decided to check it out (a matinee weekday showing) to see if the anime movie was to my liking. What did I think of it? Well, to be honest, I liked it. Sure, there were a few gripes about it, but Weathering with You was still a sweet and visual beautiful romance of young love and the trials of combatting unforeseen trials to test that love. It’s not exactly the quintessential love story in both storytelling or anime endeavors, but it is a wholesome endeavor of climate change, personal journeys, and love conquering all.
Weathering with You is directed by Makoto Shinkai, who previously directed other anime projects such as Your Name, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and The Garden of Words. Given the success he was able to achieve with Your Name, Shinkai approaches Weathering with You with a certain gravitas of another “young couple” protagonist narrative, which is set to have quite a journey throughout the film. In this regard, Shinkai succeeds; shaping the film to be a somewhat “spiritual successor” to his 2016 project, with the same sense of youthful love. Of course, any great story can focus on “young love” in the such a difficult time, but Shinkai certainly makes us (the viewers) “feel” for Hodaka and Hina throughout the movie, even if some parts can be a bit more “fantastical” in nature. Beyond those points, a lot of the film’s drama is rooted in reality and human emotions, which range can be felt in the various characters in Weathering with You, including Hodaka’s aimless path, Hina’s dilemma, Keisuke’s failure as a father, and so on and so forth. Thus, the interlacing of the narrative certainly speaks to the film and comes to together in quite a dramatic (sometimes emotional) way that feels genuine, touching, and endearing. Again, there are some fantasy / fantastical elements in the feature, which play a part in the movie’s narrative, but that’s a bit of “double edge” sword (especially in anime), but I’ll explain some of the criticisms that I have on it down below. For most part, the fantasy elements are fun and have that “enchanting” feeling, with Shinkai keep Weathering with You’s footing in reality and the other in fantasy. Plus, the film’s underlining subtext / thematic message is quite palpable…. even for an anime movie. What do I mean? Well, Weathering with You discusses the eventually climate change that Earth faces (whether we believe in it or not) and how that might one day be a consequence that we all might have to face. That is indeed a palpable commentary message to place in a movie (be it anime or not). In addition, the movie deals with plenty of personal struggles, which all of us face (some on a normal day basis). Lastly, there is always the whole “love conquers all” as Hodaka and Hina face challenges in their romance and certainly “weather” the storm that their love faces.
In terms of visual presentation, Weathering with You is absolutely gorgeous Japanese anime motion picture. The level of detail in a lot of scenes is quite beautiful to behold as the animation style is very intricately detailed throughout. While many anime tales take viewers on various foreign / alien worlds (many fantastical), the film’s narrative is set in the urban and bustling streets of Tokyo, Japan (for the most part) and does indeed offer up a visual style that delivers on making the “visual world” appealing…..even if its heavily gray with deluge of rain from above. Plus, details of signs and marketing logos, which is quite heavy-handed in the movie’s story, is quite humorous and fun to see what recognizable name will “pop up”. Thus, the animation is stunningly beautiful throughout the movie as its quite terrific to see, with the art direction by Hiroshi Takiguchi and his team of artisans giving some great work. Plus, it also helps that cinematography by Ryôsuke Tsuda and film composer Radwimps, who both did work on Your Name, reunite with Shinkai on Weathering with You, with both talents drumming up some astonishing piece; finding some cinematic flourishes in the story from Tsuda and an absolute touching / beautiful score from Radwimps throughout the feature. Plus, the film features several song selections that are quite lovely and definitely “fit” in the movie’s story.
There were a few problems that I had with Weathering with You that, while not derailing the project, distracted a bit from the feature’s narrative. For starters, the film (for better or worse) is an anime endeavor, which means there’s gonna be a few aspects and nuances that are quite customary for projects like this. There are your typical anime characters that get entangled up in classic tropes of anime scenarios that don’t distract from the story being told, but its pretty obvious that in some parts that come off as a tad “anime hackneyed”. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve seeing plenty of anime (whether movies or TV series) you’ll know what I mean. As I said, it doesn’t ruin the movie or anything like that….it just there. I do get it that the movie’s story is presented in a more “fantastical” way; weaving in unknown elements of fantasy into the tale, but the script doesn’t quite deliver on certain aspects to fully flesh out certain bits and pieces, which renders some plot points either moot or perplexing. Again, it’s an anime movie and I guess that comes with the territory… I guess.
In addition to the script handling, the film’s story is a bit confusing as in the “why and how” of everything that happens. Yes (again), I do understand the romance fantasy aspect of the tale, but certain things aren’t fully explained. In addition, there are several side characters that play apart of the main narrative and, while they are welcomed addition to the roster of players, their respective side / supporting players journeys aren’t fully realized. Because of this, some of the film’s pacing is a bit off as it tries to juggle a lot of these characters and the movie’s main narrative of Hodaka and Hina. This also effects Weathering with You’s ending, which seems a bit elongated in trying to get its point across. Yes, its indeed sweet and sincere in what it wants to tell (some of the most powerful scenes are in the movie’s third act climax point), but Shinkai could’ve shaved a large portion of the film’s runtime (i.e. 112 minutes) down at least a good ten minutes for a better (and tighter) length.
For those wondering…yes…I did see Weathering with You with the English dubbed voices. I know, I know, some of you out there might cry “foul” when I said that, with many anime fans out there preferring the original Japanese voice with English subtitles. However, I’m a little bit of the opposite in preferring the English Dub (I know…call me crazy). So, as I said, I saw the movie with the English dub voices and I do have to say that they were pretty good. Of course, some did sound like the stereotypical “anime English dub” vocal performances, but, for what it was worth, it was still solid in their performances; bringing a lot of emphasis energy and dynamics into these characters. Of course, this goes without saying in the respective lead character roles of Hodaka Morishima and Hina Amano, who are voiced (in English) by actor Brandon Engman and actress Ashley Boettcher. Engman, known for his roles in New Amsterdam, The Oath, and After Forever, hasn’t really much in the “leading role” department (more of small / supporting roles), but makes his great debut in the “lead character” in Weathering with You as Hodaka. Sure, there character might be the atypical “reluctant” type from some previous anime endeavors, but Engman certainly embraces Hodaka’s struggles, frustrations, and elations throughout the feature as well as his relationship courtship with Hina. Likewise, Boettcher, known for her roles in Lost in Oz, Alone Together, and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, is quite loving as Hina, who always has a spritely sunny disposition within her vocals and is tender in her more dramatic heartfelt moments. Together, both Engman and Boettcher are terrific as Weather with You’s star-crossed lovers of Hodaka and Hina.
In supporting roles are the characters of Keisuke Suga, a booze loving writer who offers Hodaka a job as a junior writer for his company, Natsumi, a college student that works for the same company as Keisuke and Hodaka, and Takai, a young police officer that goes looking mischief on the streets. These three respective characters are played by recognizable acting talents (by the ways and means of “recognizable” in Hollywood), with actor Lee Pace (Halt & Catch Fire and Guardians of the Galaxy) as Keisuke, actress Alison Brie (How to be Single and Community) as Natsumi, and actor Riz Ahmed (Venom and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Takai respectfully. All three are solid in the roles and really do bring the character to life (at least in my opinion), with most of them (mostly Keisuke and Natsumi) being heavily featured in the movie’s narrative.
The rest of the cast, including actor Emeka Guindo (A Case of Blue and The Good Fight) as Hina’s younger brother, Nagisa (Nagi) Amano, actor Mike Pollock (A Cat in Paris and Pokémon) as the old and experienced police officer, Yasui, actress Barbara Goodson (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Akira) as an elder woman, Fumi, and young actresses Echo Picone (Thorp and Pinkalicious & Peterrific) and Emma de Paauw (Molly) as Hina’s two girlfriends, Kana and Ayane, make up the rest of the characters in the movie. While some have bigger screen-time than others, all of these talents are fine in their respective roles (no harm, no foul…in my book). Lastly, there is a small cameo-like appearance from a character from Your Name. Not going to spoil it, but just be on the lookout on who it was.
In trying to find himself in life, Hodaka finds an unexpected purpose in his romantic relationship with Hina in the movie Weathering with You. Director Makoto Shinkai’s latest film project acts as a “spiritual successor” to his 2016 movie (Your Name) and attempts to heightened its storytelling narrative of two young people falling in love and facing consequences because of it. While some of the story elements are fully fleshed out (some writing problems and some typical anime nuances) as well as an elongated third act, the film still succeeds to a beautiful anime feature, especially thanks to Shinkai’s direction, the heartfelt story, beautiful animation, a sweeping musical score (and selected songs), and vocal performances. Personally, I liked this movie. Sure, there were a few problems that I had with, but it was still a sweet and touching movie about young love. Plus, as I mentioned, the film’s animation was great. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is solid “recommended”, especially if you’re a fan of anime. In the end, Weathering with You is a heartwarming tale of growing up, facing trying times, and (the most important) the power of love conquering all.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: July 19, 2019 (Japan)
January 17th, 2020 (US)
Reviewed On: February 10th, 2020
Weathering with You is 112 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for suggestive material, some violence, and language