Rating:

From a filmmaker at the peak of his powers.

Anime is inconsistent. Well, a good majority of anime is anyway. And the ghost of Studio Ghibli still looms large, especially over films featuring fantastical elements intertwined with modern life; a deep message thrown in for good measure.

Weathering with You is a calm port in this storm; a reliable voice from a creator who has so evidently found a unique method of storytelling through trial and error of previous efforts. It’s well worth a watch.

The genre has seen its fair share of dark tales such as Perfect Blue and The Ghost in the Shell and an abundance of teen melodramas, with A Silent Voice a notable example. But Your Name was special. It felt immediate, important. Yes, there have been amazing, game-changing additions to the genre reaching back decades, but Makoto Shinkai’s magnum opus really showed what modern anime could do. So, how does he follow a masterwork that impacted so many people?

Weathering with You sees a high-schooler, Hodaka, run away from home on a small island to the promise and bright lights of Tokyo. Quickly falling into financial trouble, and faced with the real threat of the big city, Hodaka is hired by Keisuke Suga’s small publishing company following a chance encounter.

When investigating urban legends for an occult magazine as part of his new job, Hodaka meets Hino, a kind and strong-willed girl who possesses the wonderful ability to stop the rain and clear the sky.

The film’s not a million miles from Your Name, nor is it that detached from the director’s previous short Garden of Words, and it plays out each theatrical beat REALLY well. A little too well…and it may be (somewhat) to the film’s detriment.

Let me explain: the film is beautiful, there’s no getting around that. It plays on the same emotional themes and aspects that enthralled us in Your Name; isolation, the longing for an individual, the longing for unrealised potential and, ultimately, searching for meaning. What else is there to adolescence?

And the answers Shinkai offers us are simple and tangible: connection, to the world, to each other, to the environment, time, the weather. Companionship and embracing the naivety that is so often cynically lost in adulthood. It is visually and lyrically poetic.

The universality of these ideas is the reason this works so well, but they’re wrapped in a deep understanding of Japanese tradition, myth, and symbolism giving each character and setting texture. The animation is gorgeous, sweeping and soaring through the city, oozing personality.

All these things make Weathering with You emotionally engaging and a worthy addition to the annals of fantasy anime. But they don’t make it a fantastic film.

Everything is meticulously placed within an inch of its life and, dare I say it, predictable? It’s a formula that works, but it is exactly that: a formula. Each character is completely fleshed out, the adventure is immersive and the love story has heft, but what it doesn’t have is risk.

Your Name is riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies, but it does have an element of risk. Risk in the ambitious storytelling and risk with the plot. We genuinely felt discomfort and threat from an impending catastrophe that loomed just over the horizon. Metaphorically and tonally, this made Your Name inimitably wonderful.

Maybe it is unfair to compare the two, though, and perhaps I’m setting an impossible standard because Weathering with You is full of wanderlust and is well worth watching. There’s just a nagging feeling that we’ve been here before; we’ve heard Radwimps’ balladry colouring epic moments on the soundtrack and choked-up at the innocence of youth. That said, Makoto Shinkai is clearly a force to be reckoned with and may be the heir apparent; the director to exorcise the omnipresent ghost of Ghibli. Maybe.

Dir: Makoto Shinkai

Scr: Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Kotaro Daigo, Nana Mori, Tsubasa Honda, Yûki Kaji, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi

Prd: Kôichirô Itô, Noritaka Kawaguchi, Genki Kawamura, Wakana Okamura

DoP: Ryôsuke Tsuda

Music: Radwimps

Country: Japan

Year: 2020

Runtime: 114 mins

Weathering With You is released in UK cinemas 17 January 2020