Weathering With You is a Japanese anime from director, Makoto Shinkai. It’s superficially a coming-of-age film, with all the elements you’d expect from an anime — the sidekick characters, a bit of J-pop, the protagonist making a meal of everything… I thought it’d be okay. But it was better than that and for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.
As a bit of background, I’m not a huge watcher of anime — it’s Mike that is. He loves everything from the darker stuff through to kawaii. The latter I generally call “the squeaks” because it literally sounds like squeaking when you can hear it from the next room over. Not all of it is, but enough that I notice. So, when he asked me if I wanted to watch an anime at the cinema, this time I watched the trailer first* and thought it would make for a reasonable night out.
A few of my early observations were that the animation and style was beautiful — lush urban landscapes that really put me as a viewer into the middle of the action. The constant background of rain was carefully done, not too much to be irritating but enough that we really understood its effect. The soundtrack worked. I couldn’t even criticise the J-pop as it segued perfectly into the plot.
To dig a little deeper though, there were multiple protagonists, each with their own strong narrative. Hodaka, the teenage boy who runs away to Tokyo is ostensibly the main protagonist as it’s through his gaze with which we mainly view the story, but Hina (his love interest, a strong female character and a weather maiden) is very clearly there not as a prop device. She makes her own choices and doesn’t need to be rescued. Other characters each play their part, too, and none of them are two-dimensional, which makes for the ability to truly empathise with those characters and immerse deeper in the storyline.
I actually came away thinking it was a feminist piece. The women in the story line are all strong and independent. Although there was a certain amount of “woe is me and what have I done” from all the main characters, it was very much underplayed compared with other animes I’ve seen, and it mostly came from Hodaka. Of everyone in the story, he’s the one who is rescued and who isn’t able to make a firm decision, dithering and second-guessing until his hand is forced, so the more traditional narrative of “girl meets boy and he saves her” is certainly flipped on its head.
The ending was… satisfactory. Not fantastic, but I like the neat and tidy endings of Western storytelling. I think the ending was clever enough in that it would satisfy all audiences without anyone being able to say it didn’t finish. I would have liked a few more questions answered, but I don’t feel shortchanged.
* last time, I didn’t watch the trailer and lost 90 minutes of my life to something truly terrible. Even Mike had to admit it was ‘lowest common denominator stuff done badly’. Had it had a beautiful soundtrack or some great animated sequences or artwork, I might have forgiven it (and him!) but no, none of that.