Arriving in the middle of a seemingly endless rainy season in Tokyo, “Weathering With You” feels like it’s benefitted from an ingenious stealth marketing campaign. Little has been left to chance with Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to “Your Name.” The film raked in nearly $360 million globally, turning its creator into the most commercially successful anime maker since Hayao Miyazaki.
Some people would be overwhelmed by the pressure to repeat such a feat, but Shinkai barely flinches. “Weathering With You” doubles down on a lot of what made its predecessor such a hit with audiences, from the maximalist visuals to the Radwimps soundtrack, without feeling quite so much like it was focus-grouped to be as addictive to 16-year-olds as bubble tea.
Once again, the story centers on two teenagers who appear destined to become more than just good friends. Hodaka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo) arrives in Tokyo after running away from home, for reasons that are never explained, and soon finds himself sleeping on the streets of the seedy Kabukicho district.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||114 mins.|
That’s where he first encounters Hina (Nana Mori), a plucky orphan who lives with her younger brother, Nagi (Sakura Kiryu), and boasts an unusual superpower. After a fateful visit to an abandoned rooftop shrine, she’s been able to bring fair weather on a rainy day.
While Hodaka finds work interning at an occult magazine run by the rakish Suga (Shun Oguri), he discovers a more lucrative enterprise hiring out Hina’s services online. The capital is in the grip of a prolonged rainy season, and everyone from brides-to-be to the organizers of the Jingu Gaien fireworks is keen to take advantage of her powers.
However, those powers turn out to have a significant cost. By bringing sunshine into other people’s lives, Hina may have to sacrifice her own.
All of the familiar Shinkai hallmarks are here: the gushing adolescent emotions, sci-fi hokum and Shinto mysticism, mixed with some welcome real-world grit. When Hodaka and pals go on the run and spend a night crashed out in a love hotel, you could be watching a Hirokazu Kore-eda film.
Yet the storytelling is surprisingly sloppy. A plot thread involving a gun that Hodaka finds in a trash can is totally out of place. It’s also hard to get invested in narrative tangents involving Suga’s attempts to repair his relationship with his young daughter, or the world-weary detective (Sei Hiraizumi) who ends up on Hodaka’s tail.
On a purely technical level, Shinkai has surpassed himself. Tokyo is rendered with such painstaking fidelity that the film could be used as an artifact by future historians wanting to know what the capital looked like in mid-2019. Unusually for an anime, even the brand names are authentic, although when many of those brands — from Cup Noodle to part-time job site Baitoru — are running tie-in ad campaigns, Shinkai’s insistence on verisimilitude seems to have converged with straight-up product placement.
Like Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” the film’s hyperrealism tends to impress rather than inspire wonder. What’s frustrating is that, when “Weathering With You” shows the known world in a radically different light during an extended coda, it’s far more intriguing than what’s come before. Shinkai’s film is an entertaining ride, but it ends up where it really should have started.
The Japan Times On Sunday will publish an interview with “Weathering With You” creator Makoto Shinkai on July 28.