It has been a long while since I've seen anime refined into a masterpiece of art. The usual anime that is released every season could not even measure up to this one. Even the big budget anime are a level below this. Not to put down conventional anime; a whole lot of effort is put into making these episodes. But this movie is the culmination of serious amounts of effort, planning and funding. This is what happens when Japan tries to make another worldwide hit like the movie 'Kimi no Na wa' (Your Name). This is ‘Weathering With You’.
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, ‘Tenki no Ko’ (translated as Child of the Weather) or ‘Weathering With You’ starts with a runaway boy, Hodaka who ran away from home with a goal to earn a living in Tokyo. In the city that has been plagued by continuous storm and rain, he met a girl with the power to clear the sky.
The movie dabbles in the supernatural, specifically in the Shinto faith. Humans has always had a mystical relationship with the weather. Whether it is a festival to invite good weather for crops, a dancing ritual to call forth the rain, or tales detailing magic and monsters that causes natural disasters; man has always had superstitions and rituals that involve the weather across all cultures around the world. For Japan, it's little things like hanging teru teru bozu to invite good weather the next day or tales of a water dragon that brings the rain wherever it goes. This movie takes these legends and weaved it into its beautifully crafted story. Mystical rain fish, abnormal rain, and exposition in the form of ancient myths and legends. ‘Weathering with You’ is a window into Japan's traditional roots with its weather.
A beautiful shrine atop a dilapidated building. Very much like Japan’s traditional folklore. Abandoned but not forgotten.
It’s not only Japan’s traditional folklore that is given the spotlight. Modern Japan is given ample focus as well. Specifically the lifestyle of Japanese citizens that are in tough times or down on their luck. Be it a runaway teen, unemployed looking for work, or a widower vying for custody of his child, the movie offers glimpses of their experience, perfectly weaved into the story. Fleshing out the characters while highlighting the social issues of downtrodden Japanese. That is solid character development.
Three of the characters in the movie. Each has their own life story but only glimpses are shown in the movie.
The plot of ‘Weathering With You’ is more grounded as it centers around the characters in the story. The fantasy element takes a backseat as an ever present afterthought. The characters are more focused on themselves and each other, giving a narrow but more personal story. Only in the later parts of the movie did the fantasy elements take center stage, resulting in tense conflict and an epic climax. All led by the attachments and bonds built up throughout the movie. The exposition of Japanese folklore and the life story of the characters are delivered in a balanced form of ‘show and tell’. Explanation of the fantasy elements that can only be told are done through interviews with mediums and old temple keepers. Not all of the information is dumped at once. Instead the exposition is delivered in different points of view based on each person. The medium who deals with customers would give a more aesthetic view in the form of advice and the temple keeper who has preserved centuries long tradition would give a more historic one. Character background and development is shown through their interactions and subtle details laced around each scene. No monologue about life history here. Just obvious and subtle hints that easily let the audience discover themselves.
The bandages on Hodaka’s face hints at the events that led him to running away.
The soundtrack of the movie is top notch as well. Like the movie, the soundtrack gives a calm sentimental vibe. Most of the songs are remixes of four vocal songs but there is quite a variety to compliment the scenes in the movie. There is also a few unique tracks that addresses the more tense scenes in the movie. But those vocal four songs. RADWIMPS and Toko Miura created amazing pieces. That song during the climax. God damn. It made that scene so beautiful. I was silent in awe the first time around and on the second viewing, I wanted to jump out of my seat and cheer.
The heart and feels I get from hearing those vocals. Rapturous.
There is no holding back in the art quality in ‘Weathering With You’. The art is impeccable. Everything is top notch. The characters, drawn with so much attention and care. This incredible detail is consistently kept, even when the character is far in the distance. Usually, detail is sacrificed for faraway characters, making them appear flat and amorphous. This is common and frequently used to cut down on time, effort and cost in production. But this movie does not do that. The characters are beautifully drawn consistently wherever they are, main character or not. This movie does that.
Throughout its whole run time. Every single frame, hand drawn. People drew all of that.
Characters are one part of the movie. Animation is another major part. Because the animation is so silky smooth. Character movements are fluid and natural. Hair, jawline, sweat and tears. So beautifully executed that the characters are full of life with their own personalities and quirks. The animation does not slack anywhere else. And just so you know, the movie's setting is Tokyo city that is constantly under A LOT of rain. So saying that there will be a lot of water effects is quite the understatement.
All that water physics.
Have I exhausted the point of the movie's incredible art quality yet? We've come to what sets this movie as a monolith of art quality. The background and details. ‘Every frame a painting’ can be said while describing ‘Weathering With You’. The scenes are gorgeously drawn and expertly detailed. Tokyo is a bustling city with all sorts of buildings, streets and alleyways; yet the city is depicted brilliantly with all its quirks. Ads of businesses plastered everywhere, buildings old and new, and all sorts of people living in the city. Not to leave out the parks, the river canals and the every changing sky. So much attention has been put into them that they can express the mood of the scene, be it gloomy rainy weather, a refreshing sunny day, or the cozy messiness of someone’s home. Even minute details bring the movie to life. Subtle things like light refracted through transparent jewels or the familiar scrolling of a webpage on a smartphone gives a little bit of flare to this immersive world.
The cluttered state of one’s home. It shows not only the character of the person but the state of their current livelihood.
But that’s not all, the movie also uses dynamic background is specific scenes that need that special touch. There’s a scene where the entire city transitions from rainy to sunny weather. All of Tokyo turned brilliantly bright; glass flashing in the sun and the gloom colors turning bright. That scene did what it was made to do. To bring a huge contrast of feeling from the audience and show how precious a simple sunny day is to so many people. There are also scenes with a panning shot and the beautifully detailed background moves fluidly with the camera. In conventional anime, these panning shots usually consists of a continuous landscape moving in the back with objects and people moving past the screen, usually blurred to hide the missing details. This is not the case for this movie. Objects nearer to the camera moves differently from the landscape in the far back. Heck, these objects even turn in correspondence to camera’s position and the landscape properly curves around in a circle. The effort to draw these shots must have been insane. Furthermore, the panning shots is not limited to a simple circling shot. There is a scene where the camera pans around and retracts as well, revealing more of the background and another scene where the camera freely moves around Tokyo, showing the entire city at night. I know that there is likely some 3D modeling done to speed up the process but god damn, this is on an entire new level.
Truly a sight to behold. Go watch the movie to see those scenes in action,
Alas, ‘Weathering with You’ is not without any flaw. However, these flaws are quite minor and can quite unnoticeable. For the first half hour of the movie, the plot does not move at all. The boy is shown to fumble around, looking for a job with no success in sight. I personally do not see this as a flaw as those minutes are absolutely important as it shows a glimpse of the life of a runaway trying to live independently. Furthermore, it naturally introduces the characters and caringly fleshes out their personality and their livelihood. Finally, it setups the goals of certain characters that will drive the story further in later parts of the movie. However, in spite of all of these, inexperienced viewers may find it boring and unnecessary. Maybe they can't understand the life of a runaway? Maybe they are disappointed with the slow pacing of the movie? Quite a shame if they feel that way. Wasteful.
Subtle character building. Easy to miss if you’re looking for something else.
The other, less ambiguous, flaw is the short scenes showing the mysterious creatures appearing in public. Those scenes don’t seem to be necessary to the story. In fact, it dampens the mysterious wonder about these strange creatures. I had a sneaking suspicion that the movie was originally intended to have a more fantasy oriented story and be confrontational towards the mysterious creatures but was ultimately changed to a more fabled setting. These scenes are likely remnants of the movie's initial direction. If that actually happened, I whole-heartedly support the change. The movie is an absolute masterpiece with its current direction. Myths and legends are best under the veil of obscurity and mystery.
Another world in the sky. Not isekai.
Now this is one point in the movie that I can clearly see as a flaw in the movie. In the scenes prior to a conflict, a character made a decision for the sake of other party even though they clearly do not wish for that outcome. That action seems very random. I even suspected that the missing stakes that drive that action might have been from the fantasy oriented setting that was ultimately cut. But my suspicions are just conjecture. Still, for this random action to be the one that drive the story forward. Oof.. A minor trip. The conflict and climax that came after is absolutely amazing though.
He’s been through some rough patches.
There is one unfortunate thing with this movie and that is its inevitable pairing to Shikai’s last anime movie blockbuster, ‘Your Name’. The theme of ‘Weathering With You’ is more laid back and compared with the energetic story of ‘Your Name’, it will look inferior. So many reviews calling it a step down from ‘Your Name’. That’s a load of crap. Like comparing apples to oranges. Pearls before the swine. With all these reviews making that unfair comparison, I could only hope those haughty takes do nothing to hamper the success of ‘Weathering With You’.
It’s inevitable. If a movie is just fantastic, they need to post an unpopular opinion to get those clicks.
‘Weathering With You’ struck me hard. I am head over heels about this movie. It is one of those euphoric feelings that make you feel like your life has changed after watching. If you are interested in slice of life with a bit of traditional Japanese folklore, I enthusiastically recommend this movie. Don’t bring any expectations set from watch ‘Your Name’, you will needlessly put thought into comparing scenes when all that attention should be focused on enjoying the movie. I am pissed with the movie’s release dates around the world that are scattered across different dates. Two months! I had to wait for two months for ‘Weathering You to be released in my country. When the movie come out in theaters near you, pick the best seat and settle in for an amazing experience. Watching in at home or on a computer is such a waste. Have your first viewing be in a movie theater. It is an incredible ride. I am now more wary of anime movie releases. I want to find more gems and experience them in a movie theater.
… I’m considering watching Weathering With You again. Wallet be damned.
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