Drenched in passion Japan’s only submission to the 2020 Academy Awards is “Weathering with You,” in the best international feature film category. It is the first time since Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke," in 1998 that Japan has selected an anime in the best international feature film category, known as the best foreign-language film until last year. After it’s first 72 hours at the Japanese box office, "Weathering with You," jumped to 18th on Japan’s charts of all-time top-grossing films, and to 1st in Japan’s top-grossing animated films of all time. Director and writer Makoto Shinkai has returned to the top of the box office leapfrogging the critical and commercial record-breaking success of his previous film the 2016 romantic fantasy film “Your Name".
(From left to right) Hodaka, Hina (Weathering with You), Taki, Mitsuha (Your Name).
Theatrical poster for "Weathering with You."(right)
As a whole, it can be said that the protagonists of “Weathering with You,” have unconvincing relations with the city. “Whether through losing their parents or having ran away from hometown, they live in the margins with little adult supervision, struggling to make their ends meet with their own work even though they are underage” (Muhammad Kaori Nusantara). While defensibly their position is not capable of being maintained in the long run, in any case, the intention made from authorities in order to find a solution to their social welfare issue in accordance with the law is inimical. On account of even though they are based on good intentions, it involves removing the characters from relations that matter and give them a sense of belonging. The authorities want to help, but without listening and paying attention to those they are helping.
There is something about the architecture of foreign films that is able to capture an emotional perspective that is lacking here in the west. I don’t believe that any western studio would have the poignant ability to capture the human soul in the refreshing way “Weathering with You,” does. In part, this has to do with the Japenese language. Traditionally, Japenese has earned a reputation from westerners as being difficult to pick up because of the intertwined relationship it has between emotion, language, and the difficult and overwhelming number of kanji. The challenge of emulating this curt concept of soul-driven language in a practical setting is why I believe that Western society would fail at adapting this story, and rightly so because it is already perfectly on display for all to see in Weathering. The spirituality of foreign films carries not just into the work of Makoto Shinkai but into Japenese film making. The best example I can muster is Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s 2015 film “Happy Hour”.
Like Makoto’s 2019 release, “Happy Hour,” builds its scenes in ways that organically allow characters to feign from states of passive observation to physical action, and, in the process, seem actually to undergo “a spiritual and emotional transformation” (BrodyTheNewYorker). The two films are able to capture the agonizing intimacies of everyday life in a way that if attempted by the west would result in a cliche climax of murder or some trap door depiction of depression.
Theatrical poster for "Happy Hour." (Left)
“Weathering with You” is far more than an intimate romance. Its spectacularly complex grasp of the details of daily life, which—as in the working montage—are seemingly tethered by mighty cinematic cables to the vast societal lore above, presents private lives and a fantasy world, a way of life in which ideas and feelings are dominated by the force of law and the weight of tradition. The movie’s underlying and overarching drama is a struggle between these ideas.
"'Would you like the rain to stop... It's gonna clear up soon." - Hina (left) shows Hodaka her ability to clear the bad weather.
Throughout the film, Makoto Shinkai turns that action into natural symbol, reminiscent of the way that Douglas Sirk did in his romantic melodramas of the nineteen-fifties. A runaway and the search for meaning, a journey to an sunshine shrine atop an abandoned Tokyo building, the pointing of a gun at an importuning man, a contrast of modern clothing and traditional robes, a gaggle of umbrellas and raincoats at an intersection—the physical details of the characters’ lives fit their existence perfectly even while leaping beyond their context to form a world of independent emotional connections and supervening ideas.
(Left) A section of Tokyo being showered in the sunshine brought by Hina's power to change the weather. ("Weathering with You")
Hina clears the bad weather for a fireworks display. (right)
“Weathering with You,” a work of distinctly modern cinema, reaches deep into the classic traditions of melodrama—along with its coincidences and its violent contrasts—to revive a latent power for grand-scale observation through painfully close contact with the agonizing intimacies of contemporary life and it's relation with classical lore that surpasses the time of recorded history.
Natsumi (left) introduces Hodaka (right) to his duties at K&A Publishing.
Hodaka is a high school student who runs away to Tokyo. He is running from his suffocating island home. While on a ferry to Tokyo Hodaka’s life is saved by Keisuke Suga after a freak storm ambushes the ship. Suga gives Hodka his business card and tells him to call in case he ever needs help. Hodaka tries to live in Tokyo. He is unsuccessful in finding work as a high school dropout since he has nothing to show to potential employers. He finds a gun in a trashcan. Hodaka receives a taste of kindness when he meets Hina, a worker at Mcdonalds who gives him a Big Mac. Hodaka is desperate and low on money; he reaches out to Suga who hires him as a live-in assistant at his small publishing company. At work, he meets Natsumi. They investigate urban legends relating to the unusual weather in Tokyo; from a psychic, they hear the legend of a weather maiden who can control the weather. Hodaka saves Hina from a sketchy club owner with the gun he found. Hina reveals to Hodaka her power to clear the sky and bring out the sun.
(Left) Hodaka proposes that he and Hina start a business together; Hina would provide her mysterious ability to people who want clear weather for special events.
“You see- the sky is a deeper world than the sea.”
"Who cares if we don't see the sunshine ever again? I want you more than any blue sky. The weather can go crazy." - Hodaka to Hina