Title: Weathering With You
Release: July 19, 2019 (Japan)
January 17th, 2020 (North America)
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer(s): Makoto Shinkai
Starring: Brandon Engman, Ashley Boettcher, Lee Pace, Alison Brie,
Barbara Goodon, Emeka Guindo, Mike Pollock, Riz Ahmed
*This review is for the English dub, released
in the US on January 17th, 2020*
**Warning, this review may contain spoilers.**
Man do I finally feel great about writing this piece. Not only does it feel great to be writing about anime again, but even being invited to watch an exclusive preview for the English dub? Fantastic! I would also like to thank you for everyone who read our Top 10 Anime of 2019 list, it showed that you wanted more. Anyway, this has been in the works for a bit of a spell now, so finally putting my thoughts down on paper. I know that Weathering With You has been kicking around in its native Japan since last summer, but it finally appeared in my neck of the woods!
The Power of Love and Rain
For those who are not familiar with Weathering With You, let me give you a quick rundown. The film follows the story of Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who ran away from home to live his life in Tokyo. Unbeknownst to Hodaka, Tokyo has been experiencing a typhoon for an extended period of time, with record numbers of rainfall. After almost being swept away by the typhoon, Hodaka is saved by independent businessman Keisuke Suga who later hires him. Through Hodaka’s experiences, he saves/meets fellow teenager Hina Amano who in turn reveals that she is a legendary Sunshine Maiden. Now with an opportunity to clear away the rain even just for a moment, what do you do? You monetize it!
If you have watched any other project that was helmed by Makoto Shinkai, then you know that his characters are king. While I enjoy the relationships Shinkai creates throughout the film, there aren’t many that absolutely hooked me. Hodaka and Hina’s relationship is adorable as it evolves but is one of the least interesting in the bunch. I personally enjoy Hodaka and Hina’s brother Nagi, which gives more depth to Hina’s situation as well as giving Hodaka someone to bounce relationship advice off of, even if Nagi is much younger. However, the highlight by far is between Hodaka and Keisuke’s assistant Natsumi. Hodaka originally thought Natsumi is Keisuke’s mistress, yet later reveals that she is his niece. Crass, forward, blunt, hilarious. There are not enough positive adjectives to describe Natsumi.
Conceptually, Weathering With You is definitely something you wouldn’t see out of the anime world. However, with all of the other surreal ideas that have become popular over the last few years this story feels like it could be entirely possible. Makoto Shinkai plays with the dualities of life and makes incredibly bold leaps throughout the story that don’t always connect. Anytime you dive headfirst into the idea of time travel, you are bound to make mistakes based on loose logic.
Beauty Within Every Layer
Makoto Shinkai is not an artist that I would normally praise for his art style. as for me it is not the first thing that catches my eye. I have recently discovered that I am much of a character vs plot-driven individual, and Shinkai’s style for this doesn’t work for me. His characters are written to be incredibly generic, yet perhaps this allows us to put ourselves into these roles, much like Keanu Reeves as Neo. Where Shinkai does stand out is the background and set pieces, bordering on almost photo-realistic depictions of these worlds. Looking past the characters, the worlds Shinkai created are stunningly beautiful. Not to mention this time around, the amazing fluid dynamics.
But Brandon, why fluid dynamics? Well, reader, it is actually for a simple reason. Liquid, in this case, water/alcohol/blood, etc, appear to be the most lively entities throughout the entire film. Without stepping too deep and dropping possible spoilers, Weathering With You treats liquid almost as its owns separate but principle character of the cast. Whether it be the rain as it suspends itself in the sky, the blood flowing off their faces from an injury or tears streaming from their eyes, I have never seen fluid be so beautiful and alive. Hell, I would go even so far to say that you should see Weathering With You for that animation alone!
Coming from a primarily music-focused background, a film’s soundtrack and score are normally the first elements to jump out at me. While Makoto Shinkai is a master in his craft, he couldn’t create every note by himself. To help with Weathering With You‘s score, Shinkai recruited Japanese rock band Radwimps to add their talents to the mix. Their inclusion makes many of the major tracks have a rock/pop sound, that definitely doesn’t rub me the wrong way. While Shinkai does craft mini montages throughout the film that feel like AMVs to showcase the major tracks like “Voice of Wind“, the soundtrack stands out much more within the quieter and more intimate moments. I do have to say that “Great Escape” has officially been in heavy rotation on my personal playlists for weeks.
But An English Localization?
After finally being able to see both the original Japanese version as well as an official English localization, I have to admit I prefer the English variant. Yes I know all of you purists are out there screaming at me, but the core cast surprisingly killed it. While I wasn’t familiar with our main protagonists’ VA (Brandon Engman and Ashley Boettcher) but I was lured in by the two talents I did recognize. Lee Pace, also known as Ronan the Accuser in the MCU, and Alison Brie, most recently known as Diane from Bojack Horseman, killed both of their roles respectively. They each brought so much life to their characters, yet stepped out of the way when needed so the fresher voice cast could shoot their shot.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Weathering With You won’t be as well-received (despite its 90% rating), mainly due to sheer comparison. Coming off of a monumentally popular project like Your Name, you know that your next project will be heavily scrutinized. Makoto Shinkai has proved that he is one of the modern masters of the anime craft, and with another strong entry like Weathering With You under his belt, we are already awaiting his next project. Even though Shinkai is at the helm of both projects, Weathering With You is an entirely different beast and should be treated as such.
Well, I have to say I was glad to be given the experience to check out this anime on its limited run. While I still recommend seeing it with the original Japanese language for authenticity, the English dub was enjoyable and quite an overall surprise.
Are there any other projects/albums/movies that you think we should check out? Let us know in the comments!
Who am I? Just some guy who decided to start writing on the Internet years ago and now operates his own brand and site. Owner/Operator of Modern Neon Media, I make all kinds of niche content to suit my interests at the time. DIY Enthusiast, Brewmaster extraordinaire, and avid freak for geek culture. Follow on my socials for a more “on” version of me.