We memed ourselves, as the kids these days say, by going out to see this at the “special premiere” showing, because we didn’t realize it was going to get a wide opening the next week. For a Japanese anime like Weathering With You (Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to his smash hit Your Name, based on his novel) “special premiere” means you’re in a theater packed to the gills with weeaboos who are going to cheer inexplicably at some things and weep loudly at the emotional parts.
If you’ll recall, Your Name was a movie that struck me as so odd because it had these crazy good reviews, and as you’re sitting down to watch it, it basically starts up in full, standard Japanese-highschool-sitcom-anime mode, complete with a theme song that would not be out of place on Crunchyroll. And the first two-thirds of the movie is just a very good, light-magical-realism romantic comedy about a teen boy and girl, strangers, a hundred miles apart, who switch bodies at random.
And then it just ups the stakes to an existential level, cranking up the romance to a capital-R Romance, with lovers whose destinies entwine those of thousands of other people—people who may, in fact, just die if the two of them don’t figure out what to do.
Quite a surprise, well done, and dramatically increasing expectations for Weathering With You.
In this story, we again have high-school protagonists: Morishima is a runaway trying to get by in rainy Tokyo without any kind of credentials, something which is apparently nigh-impossible. He meets a cheesy tabloid publisher who “saves his life”, then mooches off of him but gives him his business card. Later, he’s roaming the streets of Tokyo with no money, crashing in a MacDonald’s where a kind girl gives him a Big Mac. Not long after, he rescues that same girl, Amano, from a Very Bad Situation.
But their paths cross most significantly when Morishima is trying to “research” Sunshine Girls: these are legendary maidens who have the ability to make the sun come out simply by praying. Of course, his publisher doesn’t care if it’s true or not, he’s just generating clickbait, but it turns out that Amano is, in fact, a genuine Sunshine Girl. Tired of the pittance he’s being paid, Mori convinces Amano to go into business selling her power.
Classic magical realism, but there’s a catch: Every time she prays for sun, she gets it—but the subsequent weather gets a little worse. And it hasn’t stopped raining in a month. (It’s August.) And every time she prays for the sun, she becomes a little more less-of-the-earth and more-of-the-clouds. Traditionally, the sun maiden is sacrificed for good weather, and Mori and Amano struggle with keeping her alive vs. Endless Rain.
And the thing about Shinkai is, he’s not afraid to massively change the world in his little magical RomCom, as we learned in Your Name. So it all turns out different than you’d probably expect going in. Subverting expectations, even. (Everyone seems to forget the second half of successfully subverting expectations: not sucking.)
Beyond the narrative, there was something else about this movie that really subverted expectations: It’s a movie about weird weather that doesn’t once mention Anthropogenic Global Warning. Weirder than that, it actually takes a stance that can only be described as “settle down about AGW, already”.
See, everyone’s freaking out about the weather. But when Mori and Amano go to the wise, old knows-about-sun-maidens sage they get a lecture on how short human experience is and how long the time-span of the earth is. Oh, you don’t ever remember it raining this long? Well, you’re 20 years old on a billions-year-old planet, so maybe dial back the hysteria. Back when they called the city Edo, Tokyo was actually a harbor.
Apart from being a good message when it comes to climate (“settle down”), it places Amano and Mori’s choices against a larger, yet still intimate backdrop. One of the problems with the blockbuster movies these days is that they always gotta save the universe, and you end up not really caring about the characters doing it. Much like Your Name, though, Shinkai presents the couple with an immediate peril, and direct, dire consequences of making the wrong choice.
Anyway, it’s a fine use of magical realism: Make a point that’s true about human beings, both in large groups down to pairs, by making the metaphorical actual. My kind of thing.
The Boy and The Boy’s Girl also liked it, as did the roomful of sniffly weeaboos. If you can hack the Japanese cartoon scene, it’s worth a watch (subbed or dubbed).