Weathering With You Review: Shinkai returns with another beautifully animated emotional rollercoaster
Fresh off his 2016 global hit, Your Name., writer/director Makoto Shinkai has another strong film on his hands with the beautifully animated and emotionally driven story of Weathering with You.
This film is easily one of the most beautifully animated films I’ve seen in recent time and the vivid detail in its sound design is something that sets it apart. I’ve never seen water and weather be animated so creatively in the way that it is here and it’s stunning to look at. From the spirit-like creatures that form together through water to the fantasy elements that stems from the bond that grows between Hodaka (voiced by Kotara Daigo/Brandon Engman), a young runaway, and Hina (voiced by Nana Mori/Ashley Boettcher), a young girl connected to an urban legend about a weather maiden that can control the weather. Even just seeing how they animated immense rainfall and a beautiful bright sky was incredible and made even better through the film’s excellently detailed sound design. All of the unique sounds create a much more realistic environment that viewers can get sucked into and even hearing the different sounds for raindrops makes a huge difference. It’s this kind of attention to detail that really sets Weathering with You apart and makes Shinkai such an important filmmaker.
The environment and animation aren’t the only thing that viewers will find themselves getting immersed into with Weathering with You as it also contains a story and characters that are easy to invest into. There’s a great balance between maturity and innocence that comes with Hodaka that makes him such an enjoyable protagonist. He’s determined in being able to provide for himself and live more like an adult, yet there’s a whimsicalness to him that makes him a lot of fun. He, for the most part, is someone genuinely good hearted and always look to help those who are hurting or in a bad place. This is what makes the relationships he has so powerful and easy to attach yourself to – especially with Hina.
Although Hodaka is definitely the main character, the film contains and explore other people that are important to his overall journey and just interesting to see in general. The father/son relationship that develops between Hodaka and Keisuke (voiced by Shun Ogari/Lee Pace), the man who takes Hodaka in and offers him a job, is great and the storyline with Keisuke similarly picking up the pieces of his life to regain custody of his young daughter. Their stories actually parallel each other quite nicely with them having to overcome their past struggles to gain a new understanding of their maturity to find self-worth.
The same can be said about the relationship that sparks between Hokada and Hina as they share similar issues in having to provide for themselves and wanting to help others. I loved the idea of the two starting a business to use Hina’s power to clear the skies of rain by praying to help the people of Tokyo. The care they grow for one another is very easy to connect to and relatable, and the mythology behind Hina’s power, while a little hard to fully take in with one sitting, does lead to an incredibly emotional climax. I also really appreciated how their use of Hina’s power leads to the world, sort of, pulling them apart as the returning weather becomes more and more disastrous and their age causing them to be unable to live the lives they want. It made me connect to their relationship more and want to see things work out for them when fate attempts to pull them apart – up to a certain point.
Shinkai’s script is also very strong and the comedic dialogue and moments came across very naturally and I was surprised with how often it hit. Hodaka’s job under Keisuke as a writer tackling urban legends leads to plenty of funny moments with Tokyo locals and Hodaka’s quirkiness just always made me laugh. Even moments like Natsumi’s (voiced by Tsubasa Honda/Alison Brie), a woman that Hodaka’s hilariously suspects could be Keisuke’s mistress, entire action hero sequence at the end and Nagisa’s (voiced by Sakura Kiryu/Emeka Guindo) relationship with two female classmates are incredibly memorable because of how funny they are. It’s also worth mentioning that Shinkai includes some very surprising connections to Your Name. that made my audience gasp and cheer. It’s something I definitely won’t forget.
Unfortunately, Weathering with You isn’t without its flaws – both technically and story-wise. To put it simply, I really don’t like the ending as I feel like it betrays Hodaka’s likeability and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The film ends on a choice that it feels out of character and oddly feels very similar to the ending of Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare. All of the maturity, selflessness, and care that builds within him is pretty much thrown away as he makes a selfish choice that pretty much dooms everyone else. Even for all the moments that supported things working out for Hodaka and Hina, the end pushes the limits a little too far. On a technical level, the music from Radwimps doesn’t always work in the ways that it’s supposed to and evokes the wrong emotions. Shinkai also has these “cut to black” edits that are only effective in breaking the film’s momentum and lasting for too long.
Even for its imperfections, though, there’s no denying that Weathering with You is a stunning showing of incredible animation and strong storytelling from Shinkai. It sets out to evoke emotion, immerse them in a fascinating world and story, and create characters you’ll never forget – and, for better or worse, it succeeds. You can surely take this statement with a grain of salt, but it’s the best film of 2020 – so far.