One of my favorite things about Makoto Shinkai’s narratives is how it centers our two leads and the way he allows the world to gravitate amongst and against them. In Weathering With You, the world expands and allows us to realize that it is bigger than our two leads. Yet, they persist. They persist in finding their way into the narrative they fight for at the expense of fate, weather systems, and destruction.
This is a love story about two teenagers: Hina Amano, the sunshine girl, whose faith alone allows the clouds to part and the sun to shine; and Hodaka Morishima, a runaway teenager finding freedom and a home in the cruel streets of Tokyo. Hina and Hodaka’s first meeting takes place at a McDonald’s where Hodaka has spent the last three nights eating at the same restaurant. Hina gives Hodaka a free meal, out of kindness, And that’s where it really starts. A small act of kindness that motivates Hodaka to persist in looking for a job, despite his minor age.
The unfavorable weather of Tokyo doesn’t seem to affect the light-heartedness of our two leads, despite what it had given them. Hina first discovers her sunshine ability on the day her mother died. Hodaka almost dies from drowning on his way to Tokyo, had he not been saved by Keisuke Suga. He would later apply as an assistant to Suga’s small publishing company, along with his niece, Natsumi.
The narrative doesn’t gravitate much towards Hodaka and Hina’s blossoming love story. It also expands in its supporting cast: Keisuke Suga, a burnt-out widow struggles to gain custody of his daughter while chasing the sunshine girl urban legend as well as managing his small publishing company, Natsumi’s cheerful and self-assured demeanor who also helps in her uncle’s publishing company by occasionally doing errands and driving a scooter, looking for sources to interview. Nagi, Hina’s younger brother cons his way into charming his fellow peers while also helping in Hina and Hodaka’s sunshine business.
Shinkai’s past works often boast a sense of melodramatic fantasy. The animation is lush, dreamy and palpable. As someone who adores the relief of petrichor and descending rain, one cannot help but be infatuated by the world Shinkai builds. It’s dreary, it’s crowded, occasionally cruel and cold. And just as he allows us to submerge in its waters, he conjures wonders in worlds in-between. The descent into the earth from the sky-world is one of my favorite parts of the film with its hyper-realistic and mystifying sequence.
Yet, its grand animation cannot save its incomplete narrative. In his previous acclaimed film, Kimi no Na Wa, Shinkai allows us to truly know our two protagonists: Mitsuha and Taki by allowing us to live through their routines, their friends, families, and rituals. Shinkai gravitates the story around our leads and lets it breathe, naturally allowing it’s pacing towards something bigger. In Weathering With You, it only allows us a glimpse of Hina and Hodaka’s characters. They are teenagers, barely into the peak of their ages struggling against the cruelties of an unforgiving city. It doesn’t allow us much insight towards their motivations and desires, nor does it allow us to see Hina’s perspective of Hodaka as much as Hodaka’s. Shinkai lets the narrative expand beyond our two leads but in doing so, makes it feel as open as the sky itself, full of possibilities but none to the brim.
In our current climate filled with consequences and conspiracy theories, it’s hard to pinpoint the film’s definitive message about the abnormal weather system. Japan suffers annually through a range of storms, tsunamis and earthquakes but sifting through the narrative myself trying to find something worth examining further, only made me realize that the answer was in the title itself. It was never about the weather. It was about two teenagers finding love and kindness in each other, willing to submerge the city with their love. It was about looking at what was written ahead and taking hold of it: it was defiance. Defiance against fate itself, and the craziness of the world and all that it had to offer. Hodaka saw and knew it will never be enough and seized it.
There were moments where I waited for him to lose against the weight of the narrative but he persisted and it surprised me, probably because it felt overly romantic and terribly misguided. We aren’t given the chance to completely know Hina and Hodaka, yet their feelings towards each other are sincere, there’s no doubt about it. But of course, they are teenagers acting with their heart of hearts. At some points, I found myself looking at Suga and I can see my own conflicted feelings mirroring his: a cynical desire to disrobe Hodaka’s love for Hina, but also a sense of rooting for this love story because at one point in life, we were all there. What kind of person are we to doom another’s chance of it?
Yet, was the love worth submerging half of Tokyo? I like to think of it impractical, but I look at the chaos of the world and think that we are already headed towards it. It’s like holding an umbrella against a hurricane. We might not stand a chance, but we look forwards anyway and submerge ourselves in all the good that comes our way.