Following Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) in 2016, Makoto Shinkai took two years to create his recent film, Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko) in collaboration with CoMix Wave Films.

Taken from The National Post, Weathering with You, GKids Films

Hodaka Morishima runs away to Tokyo, struggling to survive as a young high school student with no plans and no desire to return home. He befriends Hina Amano, who possesses a strange ability to control the weather.

Weathering with You was featured in two movie theaters in my city where special releases of foreign films are shown. It was followed by a short interview video curated by GKids Films and shown in the original Japanese dub with English subtitles. The anime film was released in Canada on January 17th, 2020.

In creating this film, Shinkai tells GKids Films that he was inspired by climate change. In Shinkai’s previous works, nature is depicted as something beautiful. For example, Shinkai uses vibrant colours to represent Japan’s changing seasons in the spectacular backdrops in his films. According to W.R. Miller’s interview with Shinkai for Animation Scoop, the issue of global warming and its consequences (i.e. natural disasters like floods) are seen and experienced during Japan’s recent summers, becoming a huge concern for its citizens. With climate change as a major theme, the weather was changed from something viewed as aesthetically pleasing to an entity that threatens humanity. The rainy weather in Weathering with You is aggressive and unrelenting, which is a stark contrast to the rain in The Garden of Words (Kotonoha no Niwa) which brought together the protagonists in a beautiful romantic narrative.

Taken from Giphy, Animated Gif by 1-800-ghost-dance @ Tumblr

Shinkai notes in the GKids Films interview that the rain animation in Weathering with You and his previous films is difficult to pull off technically. He states that the process begins hand-drawn. From the reflections of characters on wet pavement to backdrops and other elements hiding behind a transparent umbrella to individual raindrops cascading down the hair and face of the film’s protagonist are all done by hand. According to W.R. Miller’s interview, Shinkai states it’s difficult to blend and find a balance using hand-drawn images with CG. The animation software used in the film are 3D Studio Max, Blender and Adobe After Effects. It is time consuming but for me, so worth the effort and energy to see it on the big screen.

In selecting the voice actors for the film, Shinkai noted that 2,000 actors participated in tape auditions before a select few moved onto an in-person performance. Although he initially wanted popular experienced actors for the cast, Shinkai decided that he didn’t care about appearances and experience. He wanted the actors to express energetic youthfulness – a quality that he wanted to lead and push the movie forward.

The two leads are played by young actors, Kotaro Daigo and Nana Mori (Hodaka and Hina’s voice actors respectively), who I think delivered their voice acting performances pretty well. I really felt that the emotions they conveyed were genuine, even if some of the writing in the script made the comedic moments a little cringe.

Personally, I enjoyed Weathering with You over Your Name because I liked how Shinkai fleshed out his supporting cast and made me genuinely care about them, especially Natsumi.

Screencap taken from Weathering with You Trailer

Natsumi is a relatable young adult character who’s trying to find her place in the world. She comes across as laidback, slightly childish and mischievous with a bright personality, but I liked how Shinkai made her realistic. Despite helping out at Keisuke’s business by researching, interviewing and writing articles about supernatural/bizarre things and teasing Hodaka like an older sister figure, Natsumi struggles with scoring job interviews and successfully getting a job. Natsume, for me, seems to represent the reality of young adults who finish a certain amount of schooling but are unable to find a job related to their field of study and it resonates with me so much that it hurts. What I like about Natsume is that despite how things don’t go her way, she never gives up on herself or others. She continues on without letting discouragement stop her from achieving her goals and won’t hesitate to commit a crime to help out her loved ones.

I also liked the fact that the supporting cast and minor characters were used to their full potential. Each character had a purpose in the grand scheme of the story but the minor characters weren’t throwaway characters who are only used once in one scene and disappear once they served their purpose for the rest of the film.

Reflecting on how the script created the high stakes situation for Hodaka at the film’s climax with running down between train stations, a chase scene and the dealings with the authorities seemed a little weird and extreme to me in a film that felt like a slice-of-life drama with a touch of fantasy. I won’t deny that the build-up was entertaining and was the best sequence in the film because seeing Natsume riding on her scooter like a badass was a high point for me.

Listening to Shinkai’s explanation for Hodaka’s choice in the GKids interview and having watched other recent anime films, I realized that anime film directors are not only thinking about creating something entertaining but are sending a message to Japanese youths to freely express themselves. Shinkai says that Japanese youths nowadays are hesitant to discuss their troubles or to be honest about themselves because of how easy it is to be criticized or receive backlash from others online. Giving Hodaka the opportunity to shout,

“I want you more than the blue sky!”

during the film’s climax was important for Hodaka to express his true feelings and fight for what he believed in without having to be judged by others for being different or outspoken. This choice reminded me of Kai’s solo performance in Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall where he expresses his feelings through lyrics in his song. Yuasa felt similarly to Shinkai when creating his film and that moment definitely screamed this message.

What’s interesting about Hodaka’s choice is the consequence that comes out from it and I enjoyed how Shinkai presents this dilemma in his film to see how the audience would react. No matter what decision a protagonist makes in a story, I find that the narrative usually never punishes them for being wrong but always rewards them for doing the right thing in the story’s conclusion with a happy or neutral ending. For Hodaka, Weathering with You ends happily for him because he chose to follow his heart and he got what he wanted. If we looked at the situation by leaving his point of view, then the result is dire and it can be perceived that Hodaka’s choice was completely selfish in that he refused to make a sacrifice that would have made everyone happy.

One thing that I’ll quickly add in this review is that it was fun to see the Easter eggs from Your Name. It was sad that it felt like I was the only person among the five other people in the large room to recognize them. But watching the GKids interview where Shinkai addresses it, I laughed out loud when he acknowledges those who noticed as real otaku.

Shinkai’s works always feature a natural environment created in stunning detail. In using climate change as a theme for Weathering with You and showcasing nature’s destructive force directly juxtaposed to a city emphasizes the reality of this issue and how we can’t continue to ignore it. The film also brings with it the message of people being able to live their lives the way they see fit. I think that Weathering With You was definitely worth my time going to see in theaters. I worried that it would become another teen romance story – not that there’s anything wrong with them, especially since I also didn’t read anyone’s review about it. I wanted to see it for myself and this movie felt like it was more than just a romance story.

Who’s your favourite character from a Makoto Shinkai movie? Let me know down below!