Weathering with You, the new animated feature from Your Name director Makoto Shinkai, starts out with a story I’d like to see more often: 16-year-old Hodaka Morishima runs away from home and spends a period of time living in capsule hotels and paying for showers before eventually sleeping on the Tokyo streets.
His savings dwindle as he desperately searches for a job. Eventually and by happenstance, Hodoka is hired by a small, sketchy tabloid magazine editor who lets him live in a basement office and pays him for chasing stories of UFOs and other supernatural phenomena.
It all falls somewhere between scary and gritty (running away is something people actually do) and the typically rose-colored view of anime (Hodoka’s office is situated on a beautiful sloped street, and no one’s moped breaks down).
And as it begins, Shinkai’s film boasts an intimacy that heightens both the fear and the satisfaction of a small, mundane solution becoming its own adventure.
So it’s kind of disappointing when Weathering with You sinks into the inevitable magical and science-fiction elements that audiences are bound to encounter in a Shinkai film. Then again, 2016’s Your Name became the highest grossing anime in the world, and the second-highest grossing anime film in Japan, right behind Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
Audiences seem to love Shinkai’s approach of pairing an original plot with standard anime emotional blocking: boy meets girl, girl has weather powers, boy and girl reach for each another’s arms in climactic moments, a character runs until they are exhausted and then they keep running, and also someone must die.
Even when Shinkai introduces some interesting ideas about an impending climate apocalypse (oh, like us!), it all feels familiar: The world isn’t saved, but the world doesn’t end. The world continues, changed.