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The sunshine and the clouds of ‘Weathering with You’

and | Friday, January 24, 2020

Diane Park | The Observer

Weathering with You: The Sunshine

By Daniel Liggio, Scene Writer

I’m not certain anymore about most things. The information age bombards us with choices so that every day carries the potential missed opportunities of a trip to the world’s largest ice cream store: “But what if fudge ripple would have been the better choice!?” Often, this leaves us paralyzed — unable to decide out of fear of failure. However, Nagi — a young boy whose suave demeanor supersedes his age — imparts onto Hodaka — an older runaway — that “indecisiveness is the worst trait in a man.”

Makoto Shinkai’s anime “Weathering with You” is a film about decisions in an uncertain world. It begins with the arrival of Hodaka to a foreboding Tokyo — one in the midst of experiencing an unprecedented stretch of constant pouring rain. He soon finds employment after meeting Hina, a similarly unsupervised teenager trying to make a life in the city for herself and her younger brother, Nagi. Except Hina has a unique ability to pray for sunshine — and see her prayers answered. They sell sunshine to families, flea markets and whoever needs it amidst the constant downpour. 

Images of rain and sunshine in the city glisten on the screen. Makoto Shinkai has pieced together a visually impressive film with an enveloping atmosphere. The world of “Weathering with You” is one in which the sight of rain standing in still droplets in the air appears more incredible than it could in reality. The rays of light slicing through the clouds as Hina prays looks the way walking into a cool basement on a blistering summer day feels — like a tingling suit healing the soul. 

The soundtrack swaddles the viewers’ ears like the images cradle the eyes. It consists of resounding ballads and energizing rifts. The music is beautifully thoughtful at times when emotions are high enough that a few key presses on a piano would have been sufficient; but “Weathering with You” does settle for sufficient. 

The visuals and audio of “Weathering with You” are incredible, but they are only accessories to the catharsis found in the central struggle which drives the motion of the feature. Hina and Hodaka, soon after beginning their sunshine business, discover that they have a greater responsibility to society than simply clearing the sky for moments at a time. They also soon realized the depth of their care for each other — it becomes a choice between each other and the wider world they inhabit. 

Through a story fixated around the immense scale of weather, Shinkai creates a plot in which the happenings feel inevitable and unstoppable. Despite the sky being the antagonist, Hodaka and Hina find a way to rise above it — a way which feels every bit impossible as the circumstances dictate it should be. They make a decision for each other against the expected movements of the movie’s historical lore. The actions of the two-dimensional characters of “Weathering with You” hold more weight than the majority of what I can muster in the physical world. 

Despite a moving execution, “Weathering with You” hinders connection with its world through unnecessary and jarring insertions of anime tropes. Angry blushing embarrassment cuts through gravitas on screen more than once. In addition, childish but explicit sexual references and innuendos serve to place the viewers in a viewing space that is generally intimate. The film could have easily done without these stereotypical staples of the genre.

“Weathering with You” invites you inside like a neighbor on a rainy day. As the audience, we get an invitation to the pivotal life experience of two teenagers without any direction except towards each other. It’s moving and beautiful in a way which can be felt in the heart days later. In a world where we can no longer decide, it is an impetus to do just that: decide. “Weathering with You” tells us to seek shelter or brave the storm but never waste time in the threshold. 

 

Movie: “Weathering with You”

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori

If you like: “Your Name,” “Neon Genesis Evangelion”

Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

 

Weathering with You: The Clouds

By Ethan Utley, Scene Writer

One of the pinpoint talents of Japanese animation, and often what draws the crowd in so dramatically, is the ability to take the story to heights unattainable in live action. The constraints for angles or scenery, aging actors/flashbacks, dramatic character changes, close-up action, (etc.) are non-existent when everything is being drawn. In this sense, writers for these movies have infinite opportunity of what to portray, or where to take the audience next. Makoto Shinkai writes and directs the very beautifully drawn ‘Weathering With You,’ a romantic, coming-of-age anime film.

The story involves several characters dealing with serious struggles, whether they be financial, self-worth issues, dealing with grief or all of the above. The anime was well-drawn, and though the character design was pretty standard, the portrayal of Tokyo and other backgrounds were awe-inspiring. The sceneries were all trapped in the dreary and endless rain, an unavoidable theme of the movie. The only scenes that surpassed these were those taking place in the clouds, where Hina — the sunshine girl — and Hodaka — our main character — were fated to meet.

Overall it was a standard anime love story, wrought with scenes of nervousness and high tolerance for odd and at times questionable behavior. Though an easy watch, there were metaphors that somewhat missed the mark. It’s not clear whether or not Hodaka loved or hated the rain. The story pushes him to accept a certain fate and sacrifice another, but it is unclear whether the latter was so much of a sacrifice. After this decision, Shinkai shows us how Hodaka longed for sunshine before leaving home, yet in the first scene, where he begins his journey to Tokyo, he loves the rain, and when everyone goes inside for the storm, he smiles at the sky, embracing the downpour. The metaphor likely represents giving up security (financial, and state) for love, but the presentation was inconsistent.

Character development was another issue left unopened. We remain in the dark about why it is that Hodaka ran away, and are only given that he ‘wanted to find the sunshine.’ It wouldn’t seem his parents abused him or anything of that nature, because they requested the police to help them search for him. Therefore, it makes it a bit difficult to get behind Hodaka during his sometimes selfish and unreasonable actions. I believe the aim was to leave the viewer to relate his or her own experience with Hodaka, but even this seemed far-fetched.

The character development of Keisuke, however, was quite well-done. This was an older man and mentor of Hodaka’s, and his first friend/boss in Tokyo. He represented all the things Hodaka was becoming; completely concerned with money, desperate for acceptance from loved ones, rejected by society — you name it. They even pointed this out twice in the movie; Natsumi (Keisuke’s niece/Hodaka’s friend) points out to Keisuke that Hodaka reminds him of himself, and she calls Hodaka out on caring only about money — just like Keisuke would. The culmination of this external (but internal) friction places Hodaka and Keisuke against one another, and through Hodaka’s sacrifices, both of them are able to realize what is truly important.

Shinkai’s movie has received both praise and criticism for it being well-done, yet somewhat unpolished, and a bit too similar to his previous films. It’s certainly an enjoyable watch, but at times can be frustrating. Approaching this movie with an introspective and accepting mindset would benefit the viewer the most.

 

Movie: “Weathering with You”

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori

If you like: “Spirited Away,” “ReLife”

Shamrocks: 2.5 out of 5

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