Last night, I went to see Weathering with You at my local theater. It’s the latest movie from Makoto Shinkai, so you expect something pretty damn good. I don’t love all of his movies, but I also haven’t hated any of them. At worst, I’ve been lukewarm about a couple. To spare myself the needless discussion, I won’t specify which ones. That aside, I was also very interested to see how Shinkai would follow up on Your Name’s massive domestic and international success. After all, it’s one of the few non-Ghibli anime films to gain notoriety outside of Japan. Well, once again, our writer/director gives us story about youth, romance, and a hefty helping of spirituality on the side. Weathering with You follows Hodaka, a runaway, and Hina, a “sunshine girl” who has lost both her parents at a young age. They proceed to lean on each other as they try to survive in Tokyo all on their own (plus Hina’s brother Nagi). Living in the big city is hard enough, but this Tokyo is faced with seemingly perpetual rainfall. But that’s where Hina’s status as a “sunshine girl” comes into play. She is essentially a weather maiden who can call forth the sun whenever she clasps her hands in prayer. At first, our couple manage to carve out a few blissful sunny days, but eventually, life catches up to them and it catches up to them hard.
Looking back at Shinkai’s movies, I feel as though he rarely strays too far from his strengths, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He’s more evolution than revolution. Shinkai is content to make small tweaks to his formula. I can understand, however, why certain critics may feel as though there still isn’t enough of an evolution in Shinkai’s oeuvre. This isn’t something that I’m particularly concerned with, but it’s a point-of-view worth considering. Personally, I can’t really find anything to criticize about Weathering with You. Like you’d expect, the film is just gorgeous to look at. I mentioned on Twitter how it often feels as though the movie just wants to enrapture you with its visuals. The soundtrack, though mostly light and fluffy, at least fits the mood. I don’t love the song choices, but they’re not bad. And to my taste, there’s just enough humor to avoid the film’s sentimentality from becoming too cloying. I don’t think Weathering with You is a particularly deep or thought-provoking movie. But I also don’t really want to write a review. Like I’ve always done on this blog, I’ll simply try to say what I took away from the movie. I think my conclusions might very well be the same as everyone else’s. Naturally, there are going to be spoilers. I have to write as though my readers have already seen the film, so I would implore you to watch the movie first if you haven’t already done so. After all, it’s pretty good.
There’s a calm before the storm when Hodaka, Hina, and Nagi finally manage to snag a room for the night. They get to bathe, feast like “kings” (it’s all junk food), and sing their hearts out at karaoke. That same night, Hodaka also finally gets the chance to give Hina her birthday present. In a futile attempt to hold onto this tiny moment of pure happiness, the boy calls out to god. They need nothing more, he says. Nothing more, but also nothing less. So please let them be. He hopes that the three of them will never be separated. But obviously, that can’t happen. After all, the authorities are bearing down on them, but even if this wasn’t the case, how realistically far can three minors get on their own? Hotel rooms aren’t cheap. And although Hodaka wanted to treat Hina and Nagi to a good meal, it also wasn’t wise to blow so much money on food if you expect to live on your own. Everyone needs to budget. Last but not least, our couple knows just exactly how difficult it is to not only find a job but to keep it. The truth is that Hodaka never did manage to snag a job on his own. He ultimately had to depend on Kei’s good will followed by Hina’s supernatural abilities. And again, Hina had lost her part-time job and was about to potentially work for one of those shady clubs when she was only fifteen. And of course, all three of them technically belong in school.
We never really find out why Hodaka ran away from home. He tells Hina that he felt suffocated living with his parents, but he provides no further details. In one of his dreams where he’s still on the island, we see that perhaps there are bruises on his face. Was he being abused? Or are the bruises just a carryover from his current real-life state? I just hesitate to speculate, because there’s a sense in the movie that the kids think the adults are worse than they seem. Of course, we have good adults like Kei and Natsumi. We also have bad adults like the guy trying to strong-arm Hina into working at the club. So when a bunch of cops show up looking for Hodaka, it’s natural to think that they’re the bad guys as well. We don’t think that the government is inherently bad, but we’re also very susceptible to any suggestion that the government doesn’t really know what it’s doing. And from the perspective of a scared kid being chased by cops, I get why Hodaka might think that the government isn’t concerned with their best interests. Likewise, Hina wants to run away with Nagi, because she assumes that they’ll be separated by the orphanage system. It’s not an unwarranted worry. But like with Hodaka and his troubles with the law, the kids and the audience feel this foreboding sense of danger that simply isn’t warranted.
First, people aren’t supposed to have guns in their possession. Tracking Hodaka down just makes sense. Second, unless his parents are abusing him — which we have no evidence of — runaway kids should return home and finish their education. Third, two minors can’t survive on their own. Hina is sacrificing her own education and youth in order to make money for them both. Hell, she was potentially going to sacrifice her body. The kids assume that getting caught by the authorities would result in so much worse, but they don’t realize just how bad things were going to get if they continued on this path. Hina’s ability to call forth the sun was simply a lifeline. Ultimately, she was slowly erasing herself, so this talent of hers isn’t something that they can continue relying upon. So we have to be realistic and take it out of the equation. Without her magical ability, they are kids with no education and no training. They’re NEETs without the whole shut-in baggage. Life as kids isn’t always easy, but it’s so much tougher as an adult. So be a kid! They’re trying to grow up too fast, especially Hina.
When Hodaka manages to elude the cops long enough to cross through the gate and thus reunite with Hina, he finally tells her to live for herself. A lot of this is about the weather. If Hina doesn’t sacrifice herself, then it’s going to rain and rain and rain until Tokyo is half-submerged. And sure enough, this is exactly what happens. In the epilogue, we learn that it hasn’t stopped raining for three whole years. Tokyo has become a bay, forcing a lot of people to move to higher grounds. Well, what about those who couldn’t move? What about those who would stand to lose all their possessions because almost everything is now underwater. The city practically had to shut itself down when it was faced with a bit of flooding. It obviously isn’t equipped for extreme weather. You can only thus imagine what the situation had been with three straight years of rain. The movie never goes there, but the mind has to wonder. We’d be naive to assume that everything is just fine, i.e. “Gosh we just have to move!” Nevertheless, the movie wants us to believe in a young boy’s love. We can’t put everything on one girl. More pointedly, we shouldn’t sacrifice ourselves — especially the youth among us — for the greater good.
When Hodaka revisits an old grandma — as an Easter egg, she’s apparently Taki’s grandma — she tells the kid all about the cyclical nature of the world. In the past, Tokyo was half-submerged just like it is now. But of course, humans live such finite lives, so few people can remember that this is simply how things used to be. So while we may think that the current weather is extreme — we may think that three straight years of rainfall is unnatural (well… it kinda is) — this is simply nature going about its business. In other words, it’d be unnatural to try and defy forces that are beyond our mortal comprehension. Hell, let’s just get down to brass tacks. If you have to sacrifice anyone — much less a young girl — then yeah, you’re doing something unnatural. But this sort of trope is more than common across all cultures; after all, virgin sacrifices are a thing. You need not look any further than anime and manga to find numerous examples of shrine maidens doing what they must for the so-called greater good.
In Hina’s case, we have to go back to the beginning and see how this all started. Why did she become a weather maiden in the first place? Was this her destiny? I’m inclined to say no. I’m inclined to think that there never was supposed to be a sacrifice. The practice had long died out, and in all honesty, it should have stayed dead. Hina tells Hodaka about how it all started. One day, she was desperately praying to the heavens for good weather. Our heroine wanted to spend one last day outdoors with her terminally-ill mother, so the heavens answered her prayers. This led her to stumble upon a conspicuous shrine amidst Tokyo’s concrete jungle, and of course, we know what followed. So it was pure dumb luck that our heroine became the weather maiden and thus the sacrifice. But even if you argue that this was all fate, Hina was never compelled by any godly forces to use her powers after she became the chosen one. She was bestowed an ability she never had to use. The only reason she starts using it is because the kids never knew that it would cost the girl her life.
Finally, if you could somehow give society a choice — if you could go around and ask each inhabitant what they would want — I highly doubt that most of them would place the burden of good weather on a young girl’s life. Contemporary society has mostly moved on from the old ways and lost much of its connection to the spiritual traditions of the past. In other anime, this is often considered a downside to progress and modernity. We’ve lost our cultural identity! But Weathering with You argues that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe I’m wrong about Tokyo. Maybe I’m too cynical. I had mentioned previously that three straight years of rain must have resulted in at least some bad events. Perhaps my cynicism has compelled me to assume the worst when I should be optimistic. After all, humans are a highly adaptable species. Just like how these kids should trust that the government ultimately have their best interests in mind, we should perhaps trust that a modern society is capable of coping with Tokyo’s eventual fate. In the past, perhaps you could make an argument that sacrifices were necessary. They didn’t have the technology to deal with floods, famine, etc. But the reason we’ve moved on from the old ways is because they are largely unneeded.
So this brings us back to Hina and how she should live for herself. There’s no doubt that losing both her parents at such a young age is a tragedy. And perhaps fifty years ago, this would have spelt doom for her and her brother. One of anime’s greatest contribution is that gut-wrenchingly sad movie Grave of the Fireflies. You can argue that the young siblings in the movie should’ve just endured their aunt’s harsh treatment, but ultimately, they died because society couldn’t help them. They died because they were just kids, and kids aren’t supposed to be able to fend for themselves. But we’re not in the past anymore. We’re in the present where things should be better. Children like Hina aren’t supposed to become adults at 15. They’re not supposed to become their younger siblings’ parents. They’re not supposed to sell their bodies for money. Our society can and should do better. So when Hodaka pleads with Hina to live for herself, he isn’t just telling her that she no longer needs to be the weather maiden. He is also compelling her to stop running away. He himself has already surrendered. He told the cops that he would willingly return to them as long as they allowed him to find and save Hina. Since they didn’t, he had to run away once more. But his ultimate goal was to stop running, and he wanted Hina to do the same. Like Kei said, it was time to grow up, but you can only do this by accepting the fact that you’re still a kid.
Like with Your Name, the couple has to endure a gap of separation. It took five years for Taki and Mitsuha before they could find each other again, I believe? Unfortunately, my memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Luckily for Hodaka and Hina, however, they are only separated for three years. Nevertheless, when I learned that the guy hadn’t been in contact with the girl for years, I couldn’t help but think, “Man, again? Why does Shinkai love these bittersweet separations and reunions so much?” But I guess it sorta makes sense. Hina wanted so badly to be an adult who could care for her brother, so she lied to everyone and told them that she was eighteen. But for once, you can’t fake it ’til you make it. Her illusion never became fact. In order for both she and Hodoka to properly move forward in life, they have to start over from square one. Of course, Hodaka is free to do whatever he wants once he’s an adult, but he has to get there first. He has to graduate from high school. He tried to expedite the process three years ago and it became a near disaster. This time, he can at least finally apply for jobs (though it still won’t be easy). I can only assume that Hina also did the same — that she finished her education. I mean, what else would she have done for the past three years? My point is that at least they both got to be kids again.
But I suppose if Hodaka and Hina hadn’t tried to become adults before they were ready, they probably would’ve never met each other.
As a side note, I generally shy away from blogging movies that are currently in theaters. Why? Well, just look at that wall of text up above. Obviously, I can’t take screen captures, so I can’t scatter images here and there to give readers a reprieve from my nonsense. Ah well.