National / Media | Japan Pulse

Anime director Makoto Shinkai's new film can't shake 'Your Name.' comparisons

by Mark Salupen

Contributing Writer

Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, “Weathering With You” (“Tenki no Ko”), may have outperformed the director’s 2016 blockbuster, “Your Name.,” at the box office on its opening weekend, but it failed to create many waves on social media in its first week.

“Weathering With You,” which opened in cinemas nationwide on July 19, centers on high school freshman Hodaka Morishima (voiced by Kotaro Daigo), a teen who finds himself struggling to make ends meet after running away and making a beeline for Tokyo.

Morishima runs into Hina Amano (voiced by Nana Mori), an orphan who has the power to manipulate the weather.

Reactions on social media have been rather mixed.

One Twitter user praised the film’s aesthetic visuals, but felt let down by the discourse of the plot. “Okay, Weathering With You is Makoto Shinkai’s 2 hour long water porn,” user @aitaikimochi writes. “Like wow the water is animated so well, so beautifully, but uh … story-wise it’s all right.”

Given Shinkai’s breakout success following the release of “Your Name.,” it was somewhat inevitable for people to draw comparisons with “Weathering With You.”

“Watched Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie, ‘Tenki no Ko,’” user @_flyte writes. “I liked this story waaay better than ‘Your Name.’”

Discussion on social media focused on how the film might be received by non-Japanese audiences, with some suggesting it didn’t really offer any cultural explanations that might make it easier to digest by foreign markets.

“‘Your Name.’ became such a huge international success because of its Asian audiences, but I get the feeling that the themes/values of ‘Weathering With You’ won’t appeal as much to Asian audiences,” Twitter user @frog_kun writes. “Well, that’s just my opinion as someone with a Filipino background.”

“Weathering With You” introduces a number of cultural iconography that are inherently Japanese. Throughout the film, teru teru bozu charms, ghost-like figurines made of cloth or tissue, serve a thematic purpose. The charms, typically made by children, are believed to produce clear skies in Japanese culture and yet the film doesn’t offer any real insight into their overall significance.

Brian Ashcraft, a writer for “Kotaku,” is quick to praise the way in which the film alludes to Shinto beliefs, a consistent motif that Shinkai chooses to convey in his work as he juxtaposes traditional Japanese imagery with modern aesthetics — something that was also present in “Your Name.”

“But that’s the problem,” Ashcraft writes. “When ‘Weathering With You’ is compared to ‘Your Name.,’ it reveals more of the latest film’s weaknesses.”

Ashcraft, who is also a contributing writer to The Japan Times, claims that “Weathering With You” proves to be a strong stand-alone film but pales in comparison to “Your Name.”

A number of viewers thought the animation that was used in Shinkai’s latest film was a little repetitive at times.

Alicia Haddick, a writer for Otaquest, says the film struggles to muster the leverage as a formidable follow-up. She goes on to describe how the plot of the film shares many similarities with “Your Name.” and is almost predictable or formulaic.

“While I want to avoid making this article a comparison piece between ‘Weathering With You’ and ‘Your Name.,’ it’s impossible to watch this film, think about this movie, write about this movie, without the presence of ‘Your Name.’ sitting there in the back of your mind,” Haddick writes. “Comparisons were always going to be inevitable considering its success, but the movie doesn’t do itself any favors to avoid such comparisons, either.”

Despite the mixed reception, no amount of criticism will appear to rain on the film’s commercial success.

While the audience reception of the film over social media has been varied, the film’s box-office success remain strong, earning ¥1.64 billion (about $15.22 million) only three days after its premiere — outselling “Your Name.,” which earned ¥1.28 billion (about $12.51 million at the time) in its first three days.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5