Weathering With You Movie Review: A sweet film, but one that's dwarfed by the shadow of its predecessor
Makoto Shinkai's follow up to Your Name doesn't quite live up to the high expectations set by that film, but is still a lovely introduction to anime for Indian audiences
Makoto Shinkai's Weathering With You is the first Japanese animation (aka anime) film to get a wide release in India. The release happened thanks to an online petition which garnered over 50,000 signatures. And if the show I went to today in Chennai is any indication, this may not be the last anime to hit screens here. The film ran to a full house of extremely enthusiastic fans. One that was clearly familiar with the director's previous work (a couple of cameos from Your Name got the loudest cheers I've heard in a movie in recent memory, louder even than those some of our real life stars get!) as well as knowledgeable about anime in general. I can't claim much more than a passing familiarity with the genre, but I am a fan of Shinkai's previous film, Your Name. A huge fan. I'd even go so far as to put it near the top of a best of the decade list, if I were to make one. It was this that made me really keen to catch Weathering With You. And I must admit to feeling a bit let down.
Don't get me wrong, it's still a nice film with some incredible animation. And the emotional beats do work, yet it somehow feels a bit hollow, especially when compared to Your Name. That film had everything — lovely animation, science fiction/fantasy, romance, comedy, all tied together with a brilliant story that was emotionally gratifying. Weathering With You has a lot of the same elements, but it lacks the solid story of Your Name. And this, for me, lets the rest of it down because it all feels very cursory.
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori
Weathering With You is the story of a young runaway named Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) who comes to Tokyo and meets Hina (Nana Mori), a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather. Much of Japan is experiencing unprecedented rainfall and Hino is able to bring little pockets of sunshine by just praying for it. The duo go into business where Hino — the 'Sunshine Girl' — prays for clear sky for a fee. There's a price to pay, naturally, one that threatens to tear them apart. The denouement is not entirely satisfactory, even as certain story beats and dialogues really work (the audience at my screening went wild at one significant line by Hodaka at a critical juncture). The same applies to the entire film. There's a sense of missed opportunity and unrealised potential throughout.
But that said, there's still much to like here. The voice performances are all good and the supporting cast of characters are quite memorable — special shout out to the little sensei. And as mentioned before, the animation is top shelf. The film is filled with rain scenes and they are all astounding. Tokyo too really comes alive in Weathering With You. The way the city initially intimidates and overwhelms Hokado, who by and by comes to appreciate it more, rings quite true — most cities have this effect one someone who is from the country perhaps, but Tokyo is a special beast among cities and that comes through in the initial portions. The music by Japanese rock band Radwimps, who also provided the soundtrack for Your Name and got loud cheers from my audience during the end credits of this film, is quite lovely and fitting. If only it had all been tied together with a plot with a bit more heft!
Perhaps a lot of my disappointment is because of my high expectations going in. But that's the curse of a filmmaker who has to follow up a hugely successful, nearly perfect movie. That Shinkai himself was aware of this is evident from the shout-outs to his previous film in the form of those aforementioned cameos and in a general sense of familiarity that pervades the story here. I hope, for his next, he can shrug this off and do something unexpected and daringly original that will thrill us in a way this film isn't able to. The way Your Name did. For now, we'll have to be content with this sweet, if not entirely satisfying, introduction to anime for the wider Indian audiences.