Weathering With You

****1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Weathering With You
"This is one of the most beautiful animated films of the year."

'Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.'

It's a simple enough wish and one that most of us have made at one time or another. It is also, arguably, where all of humanity's problems began. It's a good thing to have some control over our environment, but forget why the balance of the natural world matters and things can get dangerously out of control.

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Directed by Makoto Shinkai (who is best known for Your Name), Weathering With You is a poetic reflection on climate change delivered - as most animé is - by way of a love story and a little bit of magic. It follows high school boy Hodaka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo), whose adoration of shy girl Hina (Nana Mori) only grows when he discovers that she seems to be able to control the weather. For some reason, her prayers for sunny days are answered. Perhaps it's because she's a Sunshine Girl - once upon a time, we're told, there was a Sunshine Girl and a Rain Girl in every village in Japan.

This is an enchanting fairy tale but not quite as enchanting, to the ambitious young couple, as turning Hina's gift into a commercial operation. It's not all about profit - she loves making people happy, helping children with asthma to go outside and play or brightening up people's wedding days. But all that rain that she's wishing away will have to come again sometime - and when it does, there will be no stopping it.

This is one of the most beautiful animated films of the year, with some breathtaking weather effects and fireworks. It's also richer in ideas than most animé, multi-layered like the ecosystems it depicts and the folklore it references. It's culturally important for the fresh perspective it brings to discussions of climate change. Japan has had to deal with extreme weather events throughout its history. The spirit of mono no aware - an acceptance of change, a way of loving what is recognised as ephemeral - infuses the story and suggests that the world as we have known it, like romance, loses none of its value if we recognise that it's unlikely to last forever. The changes we see impact Tokyo here are more dramatic than those generally wrought by kaiju but for all the loss our hero experiences, he never ceases to find beauty in his surroundings.

"The world was always weird," he is advised.

All the usual romantic animé tropes are here - teenage awkwardness, intense emotion, giddy fantasies about a shared future - but they take on different aspects in a changing world. Shinkai has crafted something with real resonance which will have lasting import, come hail or storm.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2019
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A boy falls in love with a girl who can control the weather.

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