Now that the United States is screening the latest Makoto Shinkai flick, we can dispense with the spoiler warnings and realize that thanks to the failed Oscar bid, Americans got nothing in return for waiting to watch Weathering With You, after the rest of the developed world have seen it. As I write this in late January, 2020, the movie has already been out since July 19, 2019, or half-year or so ago. Did you know how many times I’ve been to Japan since? Joke aside, we are long due this next installment of Shinkai’s usual bag of tricks.
As much as I find Shinkai’s love stories cloying at this point, I also see that his stories and ideas blossom most comfortably in that cloaking. Weathering With You did a serviceable job to get the audience to root for the two. The cast is colorful enough and they came together nicely. Shinjuku is wild on a rainy day, let along with rain magic (in context of the story) and even more rain magic (in context of Shinkai’s brand of animation). Add in some artistic urban decay, a funny car chase (uuuukeeeruuu), and Shinkai finally getting his anime directoral balls on (off? down?) in order to blow up Tokyo.
But that is not what makes Shikai’s movies resonate with me. Tenki no Ko wandered around the comfort zone a bit and gave us ambiguous characters with ambiguous internal struggles, and we were outside the comfort zone for much of the viewing. Perhaps it’s not by much, but we never knew exactly everything about Hina and Hodaka. Were they good people? They were just innocent young people. We watched over them with great interests, but will things turn out okay?
Which brings us to the ending. I loved this ending. I love it because, I think, it is saying something that I personally believe millennials need to hear. It is also admittedly a tad paternalistic. Maybe Shinkai is also being more Dad than ever (although he is still ways behind from Kamiyama in this regard). But, anyways, the message: in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Sure, the dramatic climax for Hina and Hodaka was how the couple decide to cope with Hina’s miko magic, in balance with their very wet problems. But it turns out just because Tokyo is underwater, life had no reason to stop going, so it does just keep going. And in truth those two things don’t really have anything to do with each other. Or rather, it is not the point at all if Hina survives or dies; it is the point that Hina and Hodaka live/lived as humans do. And to put a large exclamation point by sinking Tokyo is one great way to tap into that global warming energy for thematic empowerment.
I also think that’s exactly why a great message for people today. Pressure and anxiety about the future will do nothing to make things better in the future. Worrying will not add a day to your life. The challenges that face us as a society or race or as nations are always going to be daunting when we see them from an individual’s point of view. As individuals, only by making the right decisions and acting on them does anything moves forward at all–and we can’t do that unless our hearts are in the right place.
Weathering With You shows us the subtle difference between doing things out of love and doing things out of pressure, anxiety, fear, and stress. The characters themselves do these things at different points in the story, may it be Suga kicking Hodaka out to protect his legal status or pulling out a gun. Weathering With You makes a bunch of value statements, but it also shows that on the grand scale, humanity’s problems are fairly insignificant; that our day-to-day troubles are little in light of massive global shifts (like flooding tokyo), yet all the more, we can enjoy the little things. Well, instant meals and conbini food in Japan are no joke, so maybe it’s not as little as it seems?
In essence, it doesn’t matter if Hina can affect weather, or that Hodaka ran from his troubles, or that Natsumi aided a juvenile delinquent from police pursuit. The reaffirming message that focuses on doing well on each other is the funny way that we see the world upend itself, where we can finally divorce poetic justice from doing the right thing, because who knows what the future is really going to hold anyway? Isn’t doing the right thing its own reward? In a world going to hell in a handbasket, isn’t it nice to shrug off this chain of causality if we want to continue to encourage the next generation to do good; a generation of windmill-tilting idealists, working for ideals, not tit-for-tat, which is utmost good in a world with fewer tats left to work for. Your boomer relatives may have crap the bed, but it doesn’t really entitle the rest of us to behave a certain way, or any way. And that realization frees you (or in Hina’s case, Japanese ritual human sacrifices).
After the time-honored tradition of destroying Tokyo in anime, it is good to see Shinkai does it in a grand style. Between the lost generation and the cultural trauma of the post-war, does trauma really even matter anymore? I think that is the message, and to me this is the uplifting push and it exceeds the power of healing alone.
I’m rather endeared to the Japanese title of Weathering With You, which is simply Tenki no Ko (天気の子), similar to how Hina is referred to by randos online, looking at her retro-future.io web 2.0 vibe job listing. It also echos with me because the film was told from the perspective of Hodaka, the male lead, who in some ways does treat her simply like just another teenage love interest in another Shinkai love story. Yes, she’s that girl. Yes, he’s watching the world burn with her. There is no better way.
PS. Speaking of flying to Japan, some of you might have watched the Science Saru flick that is posed to open in the States in February, because it’s screening on ANA’s in-flight entertainment systems at least. In a lot of ways the same narrative language is used in that film too, so I think it would be fun to compare and contrast the two stories, both cloaked in a simple romantic shell.
PPS. Tenki no Ko seiyuu_joke is strong.
PPPS. I need to watch High School Fleet the Movie…