Charming rather than gripping, Weathering with You is a bizarre mix of the everyday and the fantastical, a story set in a world where it never stops raining, unless you happen to know a “sunshine girl” who can bring the weather to a standstill.
That mix – of normal and weird – will be familiar if you’ve seen any of Makoto Shinkai’s animated output, particularly his international breakthrough, Your Name, a boy/girl bodyswap romance that also featured a comet hurtling towards Planet Earth, as if a teenage male and female swapping bodies wasn’t fantastical enough. (Incidentally, thanks to that film, Shinkai now has an asteroid named after him, 55222 Makotoshinkai.)
The style is a more grounded Studio Ghibli, of cityscapes and instant noodles, neon lights and people who actually work for living, and the story turns on a runaway, would-be Holden Caulfield called Hodaka who winds up alone and friendless in perma-raining Tokyo and, by sheer fluke, gets a job writing clickbait journalism for a boss who entirely exploits him but at least gives him a bunk and a purpose in life.
One of his assignments is to write about the “sunshine girls” who can disrupt the weather by the sheer force of their… well, it seems like their gender, which squares with Shinkai’s fascination for and trepidation about the differences between men and women. In Your Name the bodyswap duo decided on a “no looking, no touching’ approach to suddenly having a dick/boobs. Here, boobs seem to have more of a grip on Hodaka’s imagination than the ability by new acquaintance Hina to make the rain stop. Boys, huh.
Having got acquainted, they go into business, Hodaka and Hina, running an agency that offers control over the weather for important events. But there’s an exploitational angle here, which is what interests Shinkai. As with the clickbait agency, and the people walking like drones in the city, it is costing Hina something to make the weather change, a fact that Hodaka doesn’t fully understand… until it’s too late.
Climate change is obviously on the agenda here as well as unequal male/female relationships, and at one point an ancient sage is wheeled on to make disparaging remarks about weather forecasting of the “since records began” variety. How long since records began, he wonders. 100 years? That’s nothing. You’re talking weather, not climate.
Climate v weather, love v commerce, the everyday v the fantastical – Shinkai likes dealing in oppositions, but it’s debatable whether it is really always working to his advantage. The everyday here includes a runaway kid, the social services and a young woman who might be the mistress of the boss of the clickbait outfit, or might be his niece, or both.
Up in the sky, meanwhile, is where Hina eventually ends up, having sacrificed herself in a job too far. They sit uneasily, these two worlds, because they’re contradictory, and because the agency seems to rest with Hodaka, though the power is clearly all Hina’s.
This quailing to one side, Weathering with You looks great, its weather effects in particular. Water pooling on the ground, or falling in torrents out of the sky, or a solitary drip falling into a new puddle as the rain abates and the sun starts to peek out. It’s also at bottom a sweet film. As for Shinkai being “the next Hayao Miyazaki”, as is so often claimed, Your Name has now overtaken Miyazaki’s Spirited Away as the highest-grossing anime movie of all time, so in commercial terms at least, that is now a fact.
But Miyazaki’s shoes are big ones to fill. In the meantime, Hollywood is having a go at a live-action remake of Your Name. Will Weathering with You be next?
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© Steve Morrissey 2021