If you were to pick from a list of top 10 worst self-inflicted ways to watch Weathering With You I might have accidentally picked the worst one by accident. I also picked the one that most seemed like something out of a mediocre sitcom. If you did not already know Weathering With You involves a Tokyo that is besieged by constant rain therefore falling and flowing water is a constant visual metaphor throughout the movie. Since Weathering With You was the last event at Anime NYC I was running out of steam and only had a small breakfast. Therefore to wake myself up to properly review the movie I got a quick coffee. Getting the coffee took much longer than I anticipated, therefore, I then forgot to go to the bathroom since I had to sit in the back even with my guaranteed press ticket. Anyone well versed in my Zetsubou-Sensei like fortune would realize the obvious outcome. I spent most of the movie in absolute discomfort since I could not leave the theater and get back in but I also did not want to miss out on what could have easily been the highest-profile premiere at the convention. So I suffered through the aquatic film and still had a wonderful time which is quite the accomplishment. If that is not a major endorsement of the film I’m not sure what is.
Hodaka Morishima runs away to Tokyo in the middle of a freakishly long rainy season. As he desperately tries to find a way to live on his own he befriends a young woman named Hina Amano who has the power to banish the rain. They eventually start a small service that creates blue skies for those who need it but Hina’s power is distinctly one that comes with a price and she has tallied up quite a bit of debt.
You might remember a time when everyone was desperate for the NEXT MIYAZAKI after Hayao Miyazaki declared he was retiring. Hayao Miyazaki would go on to declare he was retiring several times but the first time distinctly set off a panic. There was a very palpable need for a new director who could make anime that was universally praised. It felt like the fandom needed someone who could consistently make anime for non-anime fans. This crazy need for the NEXT MIYAZAKI eventually died down for a wide variety of reasons with the far more reasonable question of what was the next title that can fill that hole that the lack of masterwork Ghibli films previously filled. This is not the worst thing because there was a constant need to either fit a current director into a Miyazaki mold or a profound disappointment when any director failed to fill the mold. Overall it was never a good mindset for anyone involved.
I mostly mention this because Makoto Shinkai was one of those names that always popped up in articles about the NEXT MIYAZAKI. He distinctly had the vibe of what if Hayao Miyazaki was a cool indy dude. He was always a bit of a dark horse mostly because his titles were a bit more small scale so he never fit well into the major Studio Ghibli family-friendly blockbuster mold. It did not help that The Place Promised in Our Early Days totally got mixed reviews but he still had some major proponents that insisted he would take the crown. Then Children Who Chase Lost Voices was a very clear attempt at a major Studio Ghibli family-friendly blockbuster film and it sort of just came out and was OK. It was like a film that got a passing grade but only by a few points. It was rarely called a bad film but it was usually considered a disappointing affair.
Then came Your Name and it changed EVERYTHING. Makoto Shinkai had done some smaller works that got a decent amount of praise in the mean time and it mostly felt like he had fallen back into his more indy track. The search for the NEXT MIYAZAKI also had died down so no one was demanding that his next work SAVE ANIME. The thing is Your Name actually would have been the sort of film everyone was waiting for during the search for the NEXT MIYAZAKI. It was a full-length movie, it got tons of critical and fan praise, and it made money hand over fist as it broke all sorts of box office records. Makoto Shinkai did not win the title of the NEXT MIYAZAKI but all eyes were on him.
So comes Weathering With You. He no longer had the weird specter of the Hayao Miyazaki behind him. He only had one ghost he had to live up to and that was the success of Your Name. In a way I feel like the question in the back of most people’s head was will the be a new Your Name or the next Children Who Chase Lost Voices.
If you remember my Your Name review I threw out a theory that one of the reasons the film was a major finical success as to just a critical success was that Makoto Shinkai changed up his formula and created a film with a definitive happy ending. Right after I got out of Weathering With You I was giving a spoiler-free review to Kate and Patz. I said I really enjoyed the film but it was very much a film in the style of his new formula and not a game-changer like his last film. Kate argued that Makoto Shinkai never really changed his craft and she felt we were overstating the difference between what came before Your Name. Patz was glad since he felt Your Name was the first of his films he really liked. They both took my review as a reason to look forward to seeing the film themselves but for entirely different reasons.
Sufficed to say that conversation shaped a lot of my review. In a way I feel like at this point Makoto Shinkai has a legacy and for better and for worse his films are going to be judged for their place in that legacy. Now is Weathering With You a good movie? Hell yeah. It has some amazing visuals. The scenes of the waterlogged Tokyo are breathtaking and the few scenes of the bright sky are given an amazing impact thanks to the contrast. The music adds to some key scenes much like in 5 Centimeters per Second making some unforgettable moments. The characters are fun and bring the story together. All of it comes together to a solid plot. This is very much a proper follow up to Your Name.
I tried to go into Weathering With You without any preconceived expectations. I even reminded myself of that before the film began. But my conversation with Kate and Patz made me realize that Makoto Shinkai’s history makes that a really hard thing to do if you have been following him for a while. I think several other people who read this blog might find themselves in the same predicament. All I have to say is this is a very good movie. Now if you’re hoping for something new from Makoto Shinkai you’re going to be disappointed. This is not a Makoto Shinkai that has reinvented himself. But this is Makoto Shinkai who does what he does very well and Weathering With You is no exception. He is an artist that has honed his craft and this is the result. Enjoy.