Weathering With YouReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 01/19/20 09:23:13
(Worth A Look)
"Weathering with You" was quite possibly the most anticipated film to come out of Japan in 2019, director Makoto Shinkai's first film after "Your Name" was a somewhat unexpected (and deserved) smash. It's tricky to talk about what comes next after such a result, especially if the effusive praise you've given to Shinkai's previous films is a click away and your verdict is that "Weathering with You" is "only" almost as good as what it follows. Even if he can't quite surprise audiences with greatness any more, he's still made a heck of a fine movie.As things start, it's been raining in Tokyo for months straight, though for 16-year-old runaway Hodaka Morishima (voice of Kotaro Daigo), that's as much a thing to be marveled at as a disaster. It's hard for someone in that position to get by in the city, but a fast-food counter worker gives him an extra burger when he looks especially hungry and a man he met on the ferry, Keisuke Suga (voice of Shun Oguri), offers him work and a place to stay, helping him and his sexy assistant Natsumi (voice of Tsubasa Honda) write stories of unexplained phenomena. One is the "sunshine girl", who seemingly can summon bit of nice weather at will. That turns out that the girl he'd met earlier, almost-18-year-old Hina Amano (voice of Nana Mori), who gained that power after happening upon a shrine while visiting her mother in the hospital and has been looking after her kid brother Nagisa (voice of Sakura Kiryu) since she died. Hodaka suggests she sell her services, and they start a website to do so, but while they're making days brighter one at a time, Keisuke and Natsumi are learning things about "weather maidens" that should make the teenagers nervous, with the more earthly issues that come with Hodaka being a runaway who crossed paths with gangsters while living on the street also hanging over him.
One knows what to expect from Shinkai at this point - earnest teenage characters, a smart fantasy premise, some thrills, and a knack for making his simply-drawn characters feel like they belong in an almost photo-realistic world. The latter is something that he's been building up since he started by rendering short films on his home computer, and having made the big time, it's something where he's currently maintaining a high level rather than topping himself. Still, it's amazing just how good his and his team's craft is at this point - compare the busy, modern Tokyo of this film to that of many other traditionally-styled animations: The detail is incredible without clashing with the foreground characters, and moments that throw Hina into the sky can create a dizzying sensation of vertigo despite her being rendered in a fairly two-dimensional style without a detailed background. And though it seems strange to talk about such things with regard to an animated movie where the cinematography is virtual, the lighting and coloring here is tremendous; the film would arguably fall apart if Shinkai, cinematographer Ryosuke Tsuda, and their team couldn't make the change from a cloudy, overcast day not just believable, but something miraculous.
The filmmaking is impressively solid throughout - Shinkai does a great job of telling much of the story visually, sometimes pushing a lot of information before slowing down to watch the kids do something small (the subtitles sometimes have their work cut out for them in terms of labeling things that might be significant later for those who can't read Japanese while also not giving the game away by only labeling the important stuff or overwhelming with text while dialogue and song lyrics are being translated on other parts of the screen). He gets a nifty soundtrack from Radwimps, letting it become sort of unconventional as situations on screen demand, with a bit of a tremor where other movies might shift entirely into exciting chase material. Characters get to have lives outside of the needs of the story, whether it's Natsumi looking for a job or a gangster who barely remembers Hodaka when the cops show up.
There is, at times, a bit of friction between the ordinary, the extraordinary, and the things which have become a sort of shorthand in this medium and genre as they intermingle here. The character with the most exaggerated design appears in a scene alongside a mural that impresses for its detail and realistic wear, for instance, and Hodaka's particular naïveté and deference to little ladies' man Nagi. There are things about Hodaka's situation that sometimes seem like they should be examined a little more closely, as well - he's introduced as a runaway with multiple bandages on his face, but all he ever talks about in terms of reason is that he felt suffocated in his rural hometown, and while the specific details aren't necessary for much of the movie, it might be worth addressing when well-meaning people are encouraging him to go home near the end.
That ending is in some ways the most interesting part of the movie; I find myself genuinely curious how it plays for others, though I think I'm going to like it the more I think about it. Shinkai seemed a bit timid with his story at some points, but chose not to back down when it counted, recognizing the vulnerability and desperation of his young characters when many manga and anime would be all too happy to make these teens an idealized combination of independent and innocent. After spending most of the movie on getting the audience to identify with Hodaka, he's willing to alarm them in a couple of different ways and shift the focus to Hina with one pointed but hugely relevant line, not backing down on what that means in a larger sense.It's a smart and pointed way to bring everything together, which is no less than one should expect from Shinkai at this point. He may not have discovered quite the same amount of gold as he did with "Your Name", but he's still created something that hit enough of a nerve to become the biggest movie in Japan for 2019 and one that had already traveled pretty well even before packing the screen where I saw it on opening night.
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