By Justin Guillou / September 22nd, 2020
Makoto Shinkai is back with a new film called Weathering With You for the world to experience. If you managed to catch the film in theaters or are experiencing it for the first time, GKIDS have prepared a really neat little release here filled with lots of extras to keep fans of the film entertained for hours.
Weathering With You takes place in modern day Tokyo. A particularly gloomy Tokyo where the clouds and rain never seem to go away. It follows Hodaka, a young boy who is coming to Tokyo to escape and find a better life. He ran away from home and is roaming the streets of Shinjuku looking for work and a way to start over. He eventually gets a job writing for a small publication where he is tasked with investigating an urban legend involving a “Sunshine Girl”, or someone who can bring out the sun during the rainiest of times. He eventually meets a girl named Hina, an orphan who is doing her best to take care of her and her younger brother. As the two spend time with each other Hodaka realizes that Hina was in fact this sunshine girl, as she has the ability to pray the clouds away temporarily. The two eventually decide to start using her power to help those around the city and bring some light into their lives in more ways than one. The two eventually fall in love, however, there are some consequences to Hina being a sunshine girl that will get in the way of their relationship, forcing the two to overcome that obstacle.
The film’s story is similar to Your Name, for better or worse. On one hand if someone is going to make a story about two star-crossed lovers overcoming a great hurdle in their relationship and make it interesting to watch, it would be Makoto Shinkai. On the other hand, that also makes this movie feel a bit too much like it’s simply following in the footsteps of its predecessor, and as such the comparisons from critics will be inevitable.
On the surface, Weathering With You is a much simpler story than in Your Name. However, it sometimes gets a bit too vague and vanilla for its own good. For example, we really don’t get to see much of why Hodaka left his home in the first place. There are some hints here and there that imply he was in an abusive household though it would have been nice for more time to have been spent establishing this, which could have given him some more room to grow throughout the story. It could have also added some more perspective to certain decisions he makes throughout the film, especially towards the end. More time is spent on Hina’s backstory to give more context to the origins of her powers but it wasn’t enough for me to really be invested in rooting for these two as a pair. In fact their relationship kind of felt a bit rushed in comparison to Your Name. In that movie, both characters got to spend time in each other’s shoes, literally. By doing that they both got a chance to learn about the other in a deeper and more meaningful manner. In Weathering With You, we don’t get to see the characters interact and get to know each other on the same kind of level. As a result, the buildup to the romance isn’t anywhere near as interesting or satisfying. These two are just teenagers that just happen to meet each other one day and almost immediately fall in love and that’s it. While that’s not necessarily a bad way to tell a story, the execution here is a bit disappointing considering how the same director has shown us in his past work that he can be a bit more original and unique with his approach to this kind of story. As a result you have a film with some genuinely great ideas especially considering the stories ties to the weather, but misses the mark in execution in comparison to the director’s previous works. Perhaps the movie’s biggest mistake is simply being released right after Your Name.
One area where Weathering With You really shines is in the visuals. This movie is nothing short of breathtaking. Every single shot of the city is highly detailed and stylized to the point of almost looking real. The attention to detail shines even in terms of all the product placement. There is a scene where Hodaka is eating at a McDonald’s and I’ve never seen food from there look so appetizing. Hodaka even comments that it was the best meal he ever had and I’m inclined to believe him considering how well drawn the burger was. The score further helped set a rather somber atmosphere and mood which fits in line with the rainy and cloudy climate that is seen for most of the film.
This release contains several extras such as a Director Interview with Makoto Shinkai where he talks about his thought process behind recruiting animators and writing about climate change for the movie. He also spends some time offering commentary on Your Name. Another fun extra is the ‘Weather Front Featurette’ which is a 24-minute narrated by Hana Mori, Hina’s voice actress in the Japanese dub. The feature shows us some backstage footage of much of the film staff and some of their thoughts and concerns moments before the film was about to premiere last year. And if you are looking for even more content, there is a feature highlighting Shinkai’s filmography and an additional 70-minute talk show where journalist Yumiko Udo sits down with Shinkai in his own home and further discuss the film and his storytelling style.
Overall despite my feelings about Weathering With You itself, I think GKIDS and Shout! Factory have delivered an excellent package that fans of Makoto Shinkai’s work will appreciate. There are plenty of extras here along with both an English and Japanese audio track. And of course this is the kind of film that will greatly benefit from being on Blu Ray. It’s worth watching just to experience yet another beautifully crafted world by Makoto Shinkai.
You can purchase a copy of Weathering With You on Rightstuf. The standard edition is currently available for $23.98 and you can preorder a special collector’s edition for $71.98 that will release in November.
Review copy provided by Publisher
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