‘Weathering With You’ Should Have Been a Much Darker Film

Cameron C.
Otaku Tribune


*spoilers below*

Weathering With You is a 2019 film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai (Your Name., 5 Centimeters Per Second). The film was met with immense critical acclaim and grossed $180 million before hitting U.S theaters, and helped solidify Shinkai as one of the world’s top directors to watch.

The film follows Hodaka Morishima, a down-on-his-luck young boy, who has run away to Tokyo and befriends Amano Hina, a mysterious girl revealed to wield a supernatural power to create sunshine. The two drifters band together and create a business of helping people by bringing sunshine to momentarily stop the everlasting rain which is plaguing Tokyo.

However, after eagerly anticipating Weathering With You after the astounding quality that is Your Name., I found myself slightly disappointed with the film. I originally thought my expectations were too high and I was comparing the film’s quality to Your Name., but after revisiting it again, I found my disappointment was because Weathering With You was dishonest with itself.

The film’s emotional core stems from the connection Hodaka makes with Hina and her younger brother. And it’s quite good. They all share tragic — although ambiguous — backstories of which led them to their current situations of being misfits in Tokyo. The three go to Tokyo to make money, escape child protection authorities and start a new life, though they are struggling with bills. They also share the pain of lacking parental figures and connecting with anyone that understands their strife. On an emotional level, Shinkai has created characters that are incredibly easy to fall in love with and root for. However, the world around them isn’t congruous with their personal journey or message the film is trying to convey.

Thematically, the film is like an onion. The outside layer consists of themes such as the harrowing economic issues younger generations are facing by showing Hodaka’s difficulty obtaining employment. It also shows monetary struggles of younger generations with Hina facing eviction. However the central theme at the core is about dealing with the existential dread of climate change amidst dealing with the grief of being lost and/or aimless in life.

The problem is, the external story about climate change never has its time in the sunshine because the conversation is quickly silenced by the film’s other themes. It’s a film that wants to start a conversation but never begins speaking.

In the film, every character is surrounded by grief. Even the side characters, such as Hodaka’s boss, Keisuke Suga, share a universal grief. Keisuke has fallen into smoking and alcoholism in the wake of his wife’s death and his struggle for custody of his daughter. People are longing for sunshine and haven’t seen the sun in months. Terrorism levels are high, crops are failing, buildings are abandoned and our characters are evicted and on the run from police. And every time Hina creates more sunshine, like Lady Thor, she loses a part of herself in helping others.

Hina was met with a moral dilemma: to help others at the expense of her own life, or perpetuate the disasters of climate change but survive. For Hodaka this meant the one person in the world he could connect with, his one cure in his aimless and lonely life, was slowly withering away as he was powerless to stop it.

Besides the few acts of kindness, such as Hodaka and Hina helping customers by creating sunshine, there’s few very uplifting moments in this film — and for good reason. There’s very little uplifting news about a topic as deadly and devastating as climate change or the economic state of Japan’s great stagnation. All of these themes meld together quite well in the depressing world of which Weathering With You takes place, but it all falls apart in the third act.

In the third act, Hodaka is in pursuit of Hina, who had crossed through a fantastical torri gate, causing her to vanish into the clouds and become one with weather. Using a Chekhov’s Gun found in the first act, Hodaka narrowly manages to escape a three-way standoff with the police with the help of Keisuke, who aids Hodaka due to empathizing with Hodaka’s grief of losing the woman he loves and the only one who understands him. It’s actually a fulfilling climax had it ended there, with Hodaka unable to save Hina but stopping the rain. It would have acted as a bittersweet ending and a perfect reflection of the existential issues and optimistic message Shinkai set out to explore in the first place regarding younger generations’ insurmountable issues of climate change.

Instead, the film detaches itself from the core conversation it presented itself as and has the characters double down on their selfish act. Hina is met with two choices: she can either surrender herself to create sunshine, ending the grief and rains which are damaging the entire city of Tokyo, or she and Hadoka can choose to live in a world post-climate change, where half of Tokyo is flooded and the rains haven’t stopped — but they’re together.

Their love was too strong and the characters chose the latter, causing all of the problems introduced in act two to remain. The climax is visually appealing and it comes equipped with another beautiful score by Radwimps (teaming up with Shinkai for the second time), but when the aftermath settled and the credits began to roll, I found myself wondering why the disconnect happened. It inadvertently turns two lovable characters into two frustrating ones that acted out of character and for selfish gain — something they had never done before.

Hodaka spends the first and second act of the film helping others and even saving Hina from a group of thugs. He’s selfless, putting himself in harm’s way to aid others. He struggles to find work but still manages to put everyone else’s happiness before his own. He does everything he can to ensure that he and Hina have money so they can survive and be together. Hina does the same. Hina gives up a part of herself every time she creates sunshine to momentarily stop the rain — bringing happiness to those around her. She also has given up her youth to look after her younger brother. In the first act she gives Hodaka a burger for free upon speculating he may be homeless.

The decision the characters make to perpetuate the rain feels incongruous with that equation Shinkai set up in the first two acts. When Hodaka decides to let the pain and misery of everyone else perpetuate in order to be with the person he loves, he’s giving the audience something incongruous with everything established before it, logically and thematically.

For a movie presenting itself as a reflection of the despair younger generations and the average person experiences, the pseudo-happy ending felt like the rug was pulled out beneath me, leaving an unfulfilling and disconnect with what came before it. Had Hina sacrificed herself to bring sunshine back to Tokyo, relieving people’s grief and misery, it would have provided the sad, yet bittersweet and hopeful ending Shinkai set out to make in the first place.

But perhaps this incongruity is intentional and acts as a reflection of our own behavior. I wondered if I would do the same as Hodaka. I am not without hypocrisy just like many others. The vast majority of us believe in climate change and understand the horrendous conditions of a slaughterhouse, yet we still eat beef. We understand the negative effects of cars and cruise liners, yet we are excited to go on a cruise for vacation and have made little to no effort to turn to electric vehicles.

Perhaps Shinkai is telling a story nearly identical to Your Name. and exploring how far humans will go to overcome the limitations society has put on us. Perhaps just like Your Name., Shinkai is telling the audience that love will conquer all and transcend reason and logic.

Shinkai has a unique way of putting a magnifying glass to these questions and observations. He thrives in the gray areas of which the answers to those questions reside. The problem is, Weathering With You never asks those questions. The film presents itself as if it wants to hold the magnifying glass and have the conversation, but never speaks. The film does nothing to make us question the dilemma the characters are in. It never asks to weigh the outcomes or the risk. The film gives us an answer outside the gray area — incongruous with what preceded it.

Had Hina actually sacrificed herself and Hodaka was left grieving with the bittersweet feeling of everyone else’s pain being relieved besides his own, those questions would be properly asked. Was her sacrifice worth it? Is this what Hina would have wanted? Could I had made the same choice if I was in her shoes? If Hina didn’t make the sacrifice, would someone else be brave enough? Is Hodaka’s pain worth the lives and well-being of others?

In order for Weathering With You to fully capture what it presented itself as, it should have been a much darker movie.