Weathering With You

Weathering With You was Japan's highest-grossing homegrown film in 2019. Now it comes to our shores. As with his previous film, Your Name, writer/director Makoto Shinkai has crafted a teenage-themed fantasy about the unlikely, yet meaningful ways in which people connect. This new one isn't quite as good as that one, although it's still a worthy and beautifully-animated work.

The story revolves around Hodaka, an adolescent runaway trying to make it on the streets of Tokyo. He gets a job helping a tabloid publisher, Mr. Suga, who has him chase down paranormal stories with his assistant, Natsumi. One day, Hodaka meets a fast food restaurant employee named Hina. She's a “sunshine girl” who has the magical ability to control the weather.

Given that Tokyo is in the midst of a weeks-long torrential rainfall, Hodaka comes up with an idea. He and Hina create a business where people can pay her to make the rain go away so they can hold events, enjoy a day at the park, or simply get a reprieve from the wetness. Before long, they're flush with cash. The two teens bond powerfully during this time. Then something happens that threatens to tear them apart.

Weathering With You may sound a little goofy on the surface, but it's actually quite poignant. The story explores the way outcasts find one another in this big crazy world. Hodaka is looking for something he can't quite pinpoint. After meeting Hina – who initially feels she has to hide her gift from the world – he realizes that connection is what he's been seeking. She, meanwhile, needs someone to help her embrace her most special quality, to make her feel like the thing that separates her from everyone else is okay. The movie nicely shows how the friendship between them develops.

The weather-related aspect is fun from a fantasy perspective. Who wouldn't want to be able to conveniently control the weather? At the same time, it also serves as a metaphor for how special people bring light into our lives. Hina's ability to make the sun shine represents how Hodaka feels upon getting to know her. His life is suddenly a whole lot brighter.

Every single shot in Weathering With You is stunning to look at. The traditional hand-drawn animation has an incredible amount of detail, especially in how it recreates Tokyo. Characters have the stylized look (prominent eyes, wide mouths, etc.) that's common in anime, which gives them a sense of warmth. A few CGI enhancements are used in some of the more fantastical sequences, to provide an injection of awe. Nowhere is this more evident than in the eye-popping finale that takes place in the clouds.

Weathering With You is too cerebral for young children, who would also be bored by two or three slow spots in the story. Teenagers and adults, however, will be enchanted by the visuals, the humor, and the very touching way the plot resolves itself. The movie is further proof that animation can be used to address mature, thoughtful themes. It's also a lot of fun.

out of four

Weathering With You is rated PG-13 for suggestive material, some violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.