The weather and climate play a huge role in the way we live our lives and do our daily activities. But the problem is we don’t realize enough how important they are. We keep damaging our nature, littering every river, and burning what shouldn’t have burned until it’s all too late. Makoto Shinkai‘s latest anime hit Weathering with You, a breezy romantic drama about two teenagers trying to find love and connection in a rainy landscape of Tokyo, addresses this concern by fusing genres from fantasy, romance, and drama. Whereas Shinkai’s previous feature, the body-swap romance Your Name, operates as a healing journey from the traumatic natural catastrophe of a Japan earthquake in 2011, Weathering with You works more as a dire warning about the effect of our actions on nature, a portrait of how even when we realize that there’s something wrong, our sense of selfishness will always come first.
The story begins and ends with Hodaka, a young boy who runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo for a chance to live a better life. But instead of getting the big city dreams that he has long imagined, Hodaka finds himself in a seedy, underbelly of Tokyo where dark skies and thunderstorms have become everyday scenery. Dangerously low on money, Hodaka then seeks shelter and food by interning for an occult ghost-writing magazine run by Suga, a beer-chugging man whom he met on the ferry on his way to Tokyo, and an attractive young woman named Natsumi. Hodaka is assigned to interview people about several paranormal activities in Tokyo, and during one of his investigations, he comes across Hina, a selfless young girl who has the ability to change the weather and clear the sky from rain by the unknown power she possesses from praying. As their relationship develops, Hodaka makes a suggestion to Hina, who’s also low on funds, to squeeze the lemon out of this Tokyo bad weather for her own benefit, which is monetizing her ability to help others enjoying a sunny day. And for a while, everything works exactly in their favour. Hodaka gets to spend time with the girl he’s smitten with, while Hina gets additional money. But if there’s one thing that we know, it’s that everything always has a significant price. And in the case of Hina’s power of bringing other people sunshine, she may have to sacrifice her life.
For the first half of the film, Weathering with You mostly observes Hina and Hodaka as they slowly fall for each other. And Shinkai, with his usual mesmerizing photorealistic painting of Tokyo, is able to provide an observation of how human beings will always have a desire to be connected with others, finding a love and validation from others while still thinking about themselves. It’s easy to draw comparison between Weathering with You and Your Name, considering how both of them mix the same formula of traditional Shintoism with a fantastical exploration on human desire, a recurring theme that we can easily find in any other of Shinkai’s films. But while Your Name feels more organic in depicting this theme, Weathering with You constantly stumbles to clear the storm because the film is trying too hard to cover a lot of things at once. For instance, the sloppy plot involving gun that Hodaka finds in McDonald’s is totally unnecessary. There’s also a sense of heavy-handedness to display Shinkai’s concern of human selfishness that he somewhat forces upon us in a plot revolving Suga and her daughter, as if what Hodaka does throughout the film isn’t enough to emphasize his criticisms about how this climate crisis is actually a product of our own egotistical behaviours. If only the film was able to focus its vision toward the main relationship being observed in the film and do it in subtler way instead of trying too hard to outrun its predecessor, Weathering with You will be a lot more enthralling.
But worry not, beyond all of those flaws, Weathering with You still has plenty of wonders to offer, especially when it zooms in on the natural crisis that Makoto Shinkai is trying to address in the first place. In the film, Tokyo is threatened by the never-ending rainstorms, endangering the residents and all of the infrastructures, a reflection and concern on how the real Tokyo will literally be flooded in the decades to come. Through Hina’s journey of bringing sunshine to other people, Makoto Shinkai makes a clear case that sometimes in order to solve natural and climate crises, we have to sacrifice parts of ourselves. Like I mentioned earlier, Hina is a selfless human being, a symbol of what we have to be if we want to reduce these climate problems. But on the other hand, Hodaka’s hesitation to let Hina sacrifice herself in the end symbolizes the problem of selfishness that all of us still have. It’s easy to box this will-they-won’t-they scenario between Hina and Hodaka as a big part of the romance element in the film, but when we focus more closely, both of these characters actually function more as an allegory of how short-term selfishness and long-term selflessness have always been the main debate on this ongoing climate issues.
In the end, Weathering with You may not reach the same heights of Shinkai’s previous film, but in telling its fantastical romance tale about two lost souls trying to find love in a hopeless place while at the same time reminding us about how the climate crisis is actually our own doing, the film still has enough magic to awe you.
Reyzando Nawara is a passionate Indonesian based film and TV enthusiast who enjoys to write and discuss about cinema or anything TV-related. Big fan of Mia Hansen-Løve, Alex Ross Perry, and Noah Baumbach.