Weathering with You: Cloudy but Warm, by David Bax
Imagine you went on a first date and you got along famously. Except, at one point during the evening, your companion made a troubling offhand comment–a dislike for animals, maybe, or a fondness for Ben Shapiro–that you tried to brush off in the moment but, as time wore on, metastasized in your mind until it became the only thing you could associate with that person. Writer/director Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You is a good movie; we got along very well. But its hints of perviness are ultimately bright red flags that are impossible to ignore. Shinkai includes just enough instances of young women–girls, even–chastising boys for looking at their cleavage or warning them to turn around as they undress that it becomes difficult not to suspect that he’s encouraging the viewer to sexualize these characters by having them so conspicuously protest being sexualized. There’s not much more to say on that subject so I won’t harp on it. I just wanted to you be as creeped out while reading this review as I am while writing it.
Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) is a teenage boy who has run away from home, arriving in Tokyo at the beginning of what will be a summer of record rainfall. He eventually finds work (and shelter) at a disreputable conspiracy tabloid run by Keisuke (Shun Oguri) and Natsumi (Tsubasa Honda). One rainy day, Hodaka uses his burgeoning street smarts to rescue Hina (Nana Mori), a teenage orphan girl being pressured by gangsters into sex work who, it turns out, has the ability to make the rain go away and the sun come out, in limited times and places. Local folklore calls those like Hina “sunshine girls” but Keisuke and Natsumi soon discover that she belongs to an exceedingly ancient line of “weather maidens.” Her powers are a curse that make her intrinsic to the very fate of the city itself, which is sinking after months of rain (a supernatural version of a real problem Tokyo faces in the midst of global climate change).
Weathering with You runs nearly two hours and is absolutely stuffed with plot (I didn’t even get to Hina’s brother, the cops or Hodaka’s small business plans). Most of it is engaging but the bits about age-old prophecies and rituals, gods and mortals, feels copied and pasted from various other hoary fantasy stories. It’s the only time the movie threatens boredom.
Surprisingly, Weathering with You is most engrossing in its meticulous attention to everyday details of Tokyo life. There’s something fascinating about seeing an animated film so faithfully recreate the real world, down to the font on the side of a McDonald’s cup (just one example of the overwhelming amount of onscreen text in this movie).
If that seems like a waste of the possibilities of a boundless medium like animation, fear not. Shinkai only uses fastidious realism as a grounded base from which towering visions of magic may bloom. Eventually, these flights of fancy expand to include literal flight by human beings. But, even in the early going, Shinkai suggests there’s something supernatural about those continuous storms by breaking them down into their component parts–raindrops, lightning, thunder–making them seem almost like coordinated strikes on the city.
Weathering with You isn’t all spectacle. There’s a deeper story here about learning to accept what you’ve lost but holding onto what you love while you still can. Still, the spectacle part is what it does best. Plus it almost distracts from all that pervy stuff.