“Weathering with You” is the perfect anime pick for you

Graphic created by Brenna Flanagan with Canva.

Graphic created by Brenna Flanagan with Canva.

Stephen Lambros, Staff Writer

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In the summer of 2019, “Weathering with You,” the latest Japanese anime film by director Makoto Shinkai, legged its way to a gross of $126.3 million dollars in its home country alone. The film is just now being distributed in domestic markets by independent film distributor GKIDS many months later, with box office pundits expecting the current domestic gross to pass $5 million by the end of the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. This domestic number being widely celebrated as an excellent number for a specialty animated film’s domestic theatrical release, but in all honesty, this is a film that deserves to be seen by even more people. “Weathering with You,” Japan’s official submission for the International Feature Film Oscar, is a delightful film with breathtaking visuals that tells a complete story of love and friendship in the modern age.

“Weathering with You” follows a young Japanese boy named Hodoka who runs away from his small island town to make a living in the intimidating city of Tokyo. Once there, he finds a job writing for a pseudo-weather journal and comes across a girl the same age as him named Hina who happens to possess the power to pray away rain and make the weather clear. Unbeknownst to either of them, Hina’s overuse of her power is leading her to a tragic fate.

Shinkai, coming off of the massive international hit “Your Name,” provides anime fans with a worthy follow-up. Some will criticize “Weathering with You” as being a little too similar to its predecessor, but Shinkai imbues this film with more than enough differences to set it apart. He sets up shots as a live-action director would, even going as far as to layer an unfocused foreground in front of a focused background. He is also the screenwriter, and those well-versed in screenwriting can easily pinpoint the story beats that the film manages to hit. Anime films seldom breakthrough into the mainstream, but when they do, they are almost always helmed by a master animation director such as Shinkai.

The animation and the art in this film are never once anything less than breathtaking. The rays of sunshine cast cascading shadows over characters, while rainfall never once feels fake to viewers. The locations are meticulously detailed in each and every frame. Refreshingly, the design of the characters is much more akin to the current designs of human characters in “Pokémon” than to the current designs of typical modern anime television. If there is one element that the film puts the majority of its stock in, it is the element of the visuals.

There are a few glaring flaws that revolve around the storytelling of the film. The script is mostly excellent, but the film’s execution of it causes some sudden tonal shifts. The film wildly coalesces from irreverent whimsicality to gritty seriousness. The film’s story still works in spite of these tonal shifts, but that is not to say they are not jarring to the viewer. Furthermore, while the ending will not be spoiled, the implications of certain character choices may send perplexing or incomplete messages to viewers.

In short, “Weathering with You” is one of the most fascinating animated films that 2019 has to offer. It affirms the notion that the past and future films of Shinkai will rightfully remain in the public eye, especially as the quality of his films garner fans around the world. It is a thought-provoking representation of Japanese culture with broad strokes that serve to push the animation industry forward. If you are a fan of Shinkai’s previous films or Japanese anime films in general, you owe it to yourself to check out this film in theaters or otherwise.