Review for Weathering With You
I don’t know why I fail to get excited for a new Makoto Shinkai film, but I’ve never been particularly enthused by his filmography; that’s despite cutting edge production values and a facility for storytelling that merely gets better with each subsequent release. I think it’s his tendency to remain on familiar ground. His films always put me in mind of the first line of Avril Lavigne’s Sk8ter Boi. There’s a boy, and there’s a girl, and it couldn’t be more obvious where the film is going to go. Romance coupled with themes of separation, and you have the skeleton of every Makoto Shinkai film to date. I recently took the time to re-watch his last, Your Name, and was happy to lose myself for a couple of hours. That should have primed me for his most recent film, Weathering With You, but one look at the BD Amaray sleeve art, which looks almost identical to the sleeve art for Your Name gave me that sinking feeling that I knew exactly what to expect from this film. It turns out that I was both wrong and right.
Weathering With You is getting the full treatment with All the Anime, and is a landmark release in the UK, as far as I know. This is the first anime film to get a UK UHD release! Finally, anime goes 4k in this country, and there haven’t been too many of those even now. The UHD comes with a 4k disc, the film on Blu-ray with an exclusive Bonus Blu-ray with three more hours of extra features (The initial release also had the soundtrack CD but now you can only get the Deluxe version without the soundtrack). If you want the soundtrack as well, you have the option of the Collector’s Edition steelbook, which has the film on Blu-ray, on DVD, and the CD. Finally there is the standard Blu-ray release, and the standard DVD release, one disc in one case. The All the Anime release repurposes the US GKids disc for UK Region B. I’m reviewing the standard Blu-ray.
One rainy day, a girl in a hospital room sees a solitary sunbeam illuminating an abandoned building in Tokyo. She’s drawn to the roof of the building where she finds an unlikely shrine, and stepping through the gate of that shrine changes everything.
Sometime later, a boy named Hodaka runs away from home and heads for the big city. The metropolis is unwelcoming and impersonal, and it never, ever stops raining. But Hodaka manages to find a job with a sketchy looking guy, writing for a pulp magazine reporting on supernatural phenomena and conspiracy theories. One of his assignments is to report on the mystery of sunshine girls, an urban legend about girls who can literally bring the sun out. It seems like so much nonsense, but then he meets Hina, a girl who does literally bring out the sun if she prays for it. In a city of eternal rain, Hodaka has the idea for a money making scheme.
Weathering With You gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image is impeccable and Weathering With You looks spot on; the image is clear, sharp and colourful throughout, and the animation is smooth, fluid and detailed. And when it comes to image detail, this release pushes beyond the limits of the Blu-ray format, and it’s a title that truly warrants a 4k release. Makoto Shinkai’s films have always been about light and shade, about atmosphere, and his films glow with an inner light that few other directors can emulate. There is also a realism and detail in the worlds that he depicts that border on the photo-real at times. Weathering With You pushes the benchmark yet again, especially with the prevalence of rain in the film, something which has been notoriously hard to animate in the past. I think Weathering With You is the most detailed animation I have ever seen, but its story immerses you long before you think about its technical achievement, so that you’re merely blown away by the visuals on an emotional level.
This release also goes an extra mile when it comes to audio and subtitle options. You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and Japanese, and for a first in anime to my knowledge, there is a DD 5.1 Surround English audio descriptive track as well. You have the choice between English translated subtitles, English HOH ‘dubtitles’ and a signs only track, and on top of this, you can choose whether you have the insert song lyrics translated as well. And there are Spanish and French translated subtitles too. This is the most accessible anime release I have seen in a long time. I went with the Japanese audio and was happy with the experience, a nice surround track that immerses you in the film (and there is a whole lot of precipitation to get immersed in). Shinkai continues his predilection for casting newcomers in lead roles, and the acting performances are top-notch. The subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos except for one instance at a rather key moment in the film, where a ‘sacrificed’ misses out the second ‘c’ and it’s a rather obvious clunker.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case, and thankfully the sleeve is reversible to make it look a little less like Your Name. The disc boots to an animated menu.
You may not get the bonus disc with this release, but you still get a couple of hours' worth of extra features.
The Interview with Makoto Shinkai lasts 11:14.
Exploring Makoto Shinkai’s Filmography is a 13:00 trailer reel.
“Weather Front” Featurette goes behind the scenes of the film’s promotion for 24:08.
Talk Show: Makoto Shinkai and Yumiko Udo lasts 70:02 and is one of those documentaries where a journalist shadows a movie director for a chunk of time.
Finally there are 10:35 of TV Spots.
I have a new favourite Makoto Shinkai film! For years, The Place Promised in Our Early Days was my go to Shinkai film as an exemplar of the stories that he tells, a film where the narrative and the atmosphere came together in a perfect way. Since Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai’s storytelling has been getting better and better, culminating in the gripping Your Name, but the same balance with the atmosphere hasn’t quite been revisited; until now, as Weathering With You has the perfect story and it managed to grab me viscerally by the emotions too. You won’t be surprised that it’s another romance between a young boy and a girl, and they have to contend with enforced distance too, but for a first in a Shinkai film, the forced distancing actually happens off screen, a time skip between the climax and the epilogue. Instead much of the film is devoted to the development of the relationship, and it happens on screen. It is a refreshing change from Makoto Shinkai.
Weathering With You is also his climate change film, a topic which is rarely far from our thoughts these days, although he quite wisely avoids politics, and instead of a science based, man-made cause, he depicts a fantasy inspired person-based cause. That’s actually another thing that elevated Weathering With You above Your Name for me. Your Name was a sci-fi movie, with some pretty esoteric, and mind bending concepts regarding time to make its story work. Weathering With You’s plot is driven by mystical, or fantasy elements which require no convolutions of contemplation to understand. It’s far easier to go with the flow when a prayer at an unlikely shrine changes the world.
I also really appreciate just how vivid, alive and multi-dimensional the characters were. Kodaka has run away from home and has no intention of returning, but he arrives in a city which is completely unwelcoming. Apparently being a teenager alone in the city is a crime, or something that warrants being stopped by the police and questioned, so Kodaka tries to spend his time under the radar. That does lead into more than a few sticky situations, but the odd kind gesture does give him hope, including a free meal from a girl working in a burger restaurant. That girl turns out to be Hina, and Kodaka returns the favour the second time they meet, although in a way that stores a whole lot of trouble for him down the line. Hina lives alone with her little brother, and being a minor herself that too is cause to stay under the radar of the authorities, at least until her eighteenth birthday. When Kodaka discovers Hina’s ability to pray the rain away, albeit temporarily in a localised area, that seems like a great way to earn some money.
On the ferry over to the mainland, Kodaka met a sketchy guy named Keisuke Suga, but it’s Keisuke who gives Kodaka a lifeline when he offers him a job writing for that magazine. Keisuke’s a widower who isn’t the most trustworthy of guys, running his fly-by-night operation from his messy basement apartment, working with a girl named Natsumi who does most of the interviewing. He’s trying to be respectable enough to get custody of his daughter Moka, but he can never quite impress her grandmother. Natsumi’s perky and provocative and prone to teasing Kodaka when he starts working for Keisuke.
The film runs the gamut of emotions as well, starting from a pretty dark place as Kodaka moves to Tokyo and keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into its underbelly, as his money dries up and options run out. Things take a turn for the lighter when he meets Keisuke again, and finds a job and gets a roof over his head, as his work on the magazine leads him to meet plenty of eccentrics, and of course the genuine article when he encounters Hina again and learns of her abilities. It seems a good idea to help people get some respite from the rain, and together with Hina’s little brother Nagi (a precocious middle school age womaniser) they set up a company bringing sunshine into people’s lives on their special days. And along the way, Kodaka and Hina start to fall in love.
It turns out that there are consequences that they haven’t considered, and a price to be paid, and things get serious once again for the film’s final act. The adult world would deny minors any moment of happiness that doesn’t follow the rules, and it turns out that a girl that can wish the weather better, can have a negative impact on the climate as well, albeit unconsciously. They have to fight to stay together, as all good teen romances would demand, and that means making a choice.
Visually, Weathering With You is even more stunning than I would have expected from a Shinkai film. The rain is a character in the film that is so stunningly realised that it can be mesmerising. The level of detail is exquisite and is an order of magnitude deeper than Your Name. Shinkai has once again capture a mood and atmosphere that defines the story in the way I last saw in The Place Promised In Our Early Days, but the richness of the characters, and the involving nature of the storytelling exceeds anything Shinkai has done before. Weathering With You is his finest film to date, and is a must own release for all film fans, not just anime fans.