Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko)

Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko) 2019

I watched Children of the Sea a little while ago, and afterwards I stuck with the aquatic-theme for a couple more films. One of those movies was Ride Your Wave* while the other was obviously Weathering With You, which I’ll write about now 😀

I’m also going to kick off the post with something different compared to my usual review structure, and share this from director Makoto Shinkai:

“I thought, ‘Should I make my next film so that I don’t anger more people, or should I make a movie that angers them further?’ And I chose the latter.”

Here, he’s talking about Weathering with You as per a quote that appears in this Variety article, and I was really interested in the context around that statement… but I’ll actually come back to it later. I guess I’m raising it now to frame the idea that Weathering with You is maybe more reactionary than a lot of his previous work – and that’s probably not a surprise, considering the enormous success of Your Name.

If you haven’t come across Weathering with You yet, it’s a teen drama/romance-fantasy told in a wonderfully ‘saturated’ way, and I didn’t really mean for that to be a pun.  

I guess what I mean is that Shinkai’s fascination with and also his devotion to water, light and colour certainly continues: everything looks so beautiful, whether it’s CGI or traditional animation. In fact, you could argue that it’s crushingly beautiful, and the detail – the atmosphere, the way you really sink into the setting, it’s all quite dream-like in a way.

[Spoilers from here on] For me, the visual elements are enough to compensate for what seemed like a slightly less cohesive story overall. Something about it didn’t quite pull together as neatly as say, Your Name (or his older films) and I wonder if I needed just a few more scraps of info re: what main character Hodaka was running from, for one. Feeling suffocated by a place – I buy that 100%, but maybe just a little more on specifics at home?

I also craved some extra follow-up on a few threads by the end and I’m not sure Hina turning her back on all technology for three years feels right? Related, would Hodaka not have attempted to contact her in some way (and vice-a-versa)?

Apologies, but I’m going to jump around again as I want to mention some other things that I enjoyed, before eventually circling back to Shinkai’s quote.

Firstly, I thought it was fun to see Mitsuha and Taki from Your Name – they don’t show up in flashy, attention-grabbing cameos, it’s far more low-key and maybe somewhat connected to the Variety quote above. 

Suga and Natsumi were actually my fav characters in Weathering with You, especially Natsumi and her motorcycle, but in contrast, one of the more serious moments I enjoyed was when poor Hodaka is making his earnest promises in the hotel. Moments like that in the film, when you’re young and your conviction is stronger than your ability to make things happen, I thought were nicely done.

For some reason I’ve ended up reviewing Weathering with You before Your Name. And while the order of reviews hardly matters, I think it’s hard not to compare Weathering with You to his older work – either as a progression or a reaction.

I’ll try to expand on that – when I think about colour and tone here, it seems there’s a growing warmth clear to Weathering with You and Your Name, especially visible in the extra moments of levity and hope that I see onscreen, but which don’t appear as often in prior works perhaps.

For instance, The Garden of Words and The Place Promised in Our Early Days are obviously still beautifully coloured, but they feel more melancholy overall. (And certainly Children Who Chase Lost Voices strikes me so).

…or maybe I’m remembering the colours wrong?

In any event, I’m finally getting closer to that quote (I promise) with a note about the ending first. Here’s a quick summation of the film’s conclusion:

After Hina chooses to sacrifice herself in order to save Tokyo from drowning, Hodaka fights his way above the clouds to see her, eventually bringing her home. With her return comes rain that, over the next three years, displaces millions (maybe kills folks too?), and changes the entire city. Hina seems to have been praying, trying to stop it – maybe the whole time – whereas Hodaka reflects that change is inevitable. After this, the two get a personally uplifting reunion.

Now, what I haven’t been able to decide is whether the ending is nudging us toward letting him off the hook re: taking responsibility for changes to the city and all the displaced people? Because there is a bit of time spent on that reflection, time that I took as Hodaka justifying his choice to himself (and maybe us too) via words that others had offered.

Obviously, it’s not so simple – because Hina deserves life too; and it’s a rotten choice he’s faced with.

Doubtless we’re meant to tackle the theme and decide for ourselves, what should Hodaka have done? (Even Suga goes back on his bitter wish).

And perhaps, if real life is about meeting challenges (and not being able to ‘magic’ them all away) then does the ending constitute a bit of authorial messaging? I think it’s clear that Shinkai wanted to bring attention to rising sea levels, and so what seems like a sad ending is probably the only way Weathering with You could have concluded.

So, thinking of Shinkai’s quote and his desire to anger people again – I wonder if this overt message at the end is two things: a sincere concern about climate change, but also a reaction to some criticism aimed at Your Name, where folks** didn’t like the idea of a natural disaster used for entertainment?

Because here is an even bigger natural disaster that is also used in the plot of a teen romance, and maybe within that choice, there’s some hope that in such a popular film, a lot of people will pay attention to the problem being raised… almost like a gauntlet being thrown down?

Ultimately, I hate to drift too far toward autobiographical criticism, nor assign motive to someone else’s work, but in this case I feel like there’s room – especially with that quote and having a little bit of context around Your Name.

4 Stars

* Sharing another collaboration soon! 🙂

** Wish I could find specifics on the response.

I feel like I’ve seen awesome close-ups of writing in more than a few Shinkai films now 🙂

13 thoughts on “Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko)

  1. When I reviewed this (I saw it in theater), I also kept returning to the colors, lighting, and use of water–it’s hard not to. The background is definitely its own character in this film. What I think Makoto Shinkai was actually alluding to in his quote (and this is just personal opinion) is how strongly the characters’ ultimate decision goes against the grain of the Japanese concept of society taking precedence over an individual–their culture basically expects (“demands” might be a better word) conformity and even self-sacrifice for the sake of society as a whole. These five interconnected people looked societal expectations in the eye and refused. Could the part that really threatened to anger (Japanese) audiences be a grudging acknowledgement that their social mores are slowly changing?

    On a lighter note, how about that escape from the police that Nagi pulled? Just, wow!

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    • Ah, that makes sense – and you can see it in Sagi’s first response to the news that Hina’s sacrifice can solve things for everyone, even a bit of an outsider like him had that instinct.

      Yes! Probably my favourite scene 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve come across this movie, but haven’t yet been able to watch it as it’s not yet available here in my country. That’s why I didn’t read the full post yet, because I don’t want to be spoiled😊 Interesting though what the director said….really interesting even. When I’ve watched this one, I promise to come back to your review😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice – I put some fairly large spoilers in there 🙂

      Hope it arrives soon! The waiting is the worst, huh? I had to import the DVD from the states in the end. (I’ve also been waiting for RetroCrush to open up to the rest of the world, hoping it will one day)

      Like

  3. I finally got to see this movie yesterday. Ooh, I have strong feelings about this one and I’ll definitely write about it. I have so many conflicting thoughts. The movie looks beautiful and the voice acting was great, but there were some plot holes and parts of this movie haven’t aged well given the current status of the world and I’m not just talking about coronavirus. This was still a good review though. I’m glad you brought up some of those quotes from Shinkai in regards to things like people being angry or the climate change overtones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very much looking forward to your post!

      I feel like I’ve found more to say about this one than I imagine I will when I write on ‘Your Name’. And that quote really helped too, yeah. It’s fascinating to get a bit more of the context on its reception and his purpose, since certainly didn’t pick up on any of it back when the film was in the cinema (partially as I was trying to avoid spoilers etc so didn’t do much reading up on it).

      Liked by 1 person

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