Last month to I went to the movies to see “Your Name” director Makoto Shinkai’s latest film “Weathering With You.”
The romantic anime film follows Hodaka, a small-town boy who ran away to the big city of Tokyo. In the midst of his struggle to adjust and survive (looking for work as an underaged orphan; securing shelter in a metropolis undergoing a seemingly endless downpour of rain, etc.), he meets Hina, a “sunshine girl” who has the power to stop the rain and bring sunshine through her prayers. The struggling duo, along with her little brother Nagi sell Hina’s gift to those looking for sunshine—but at cost; the more she uses her gift, they more her body fades away, yet if she accepts her fate, the rain will stop for good.
“Weathering With You” is a masterful expression of the power of love, kindness, lost and how the choices we make having rippling effects in the world. Its visuals—the neon cityscape, the liquid fish and dragons made from clouds, the lush aerial purgatory between earth and Heaven—were gorgeous and buttressed but the beautiful melodies and songs on the soundtrack.
While the narrative in screenplay and the Yen Press novel of “Weathering With You” are essentially the same, they do offer unique experiences. Different mediums have different affordances—in the film you get “the expressions and colors in the visuals, the emotions and rhythm in the voices, the sound effects and music” like RADWIMPS vocalist Yojiro Noda writes in his essay at the end of the book.
But reading the novel gives lovers of the film more insight into characters’ personal thoughts and feelings. The film primarily follows Hodaka, but in the book, you see characters speak from their own perspective, like the passage below of Hina recalling how she got her powers:
Up there, it was like a puddle of light. One ray of sunlight shone through the clouds to light up that roof. Grass and little flowers were growing all over it, the songbirds were twittering, and the bright-red torii gate was shining in the sun…
…Gods, please. Let the rain stop. Let Mom wake up and let us walk under clear skies together.
There was one passage in particular that really captured the same poetic and magical imagery as well as the film, in the scene where Hodaka chases Hina to the heavens to bring her back to earth:
A reflection of lightning flickered violently in Hina’s wide eyes. We plunged through clouds vibrating with thunder, falling straight down below a cumulonimbus cloud. Beneath us were the shining streets of Tokyo. My hands were gradually drawing nearer to the city, and to Hina. Yes, I knew what I needed to say.
“I don’t care if the sun never comes back!”
Tears welled up in Hina’s eyes.
“I’d rather have you than a blue sky!”
Hina’s big teardrops danced in the wind, striking my cheeks. In the same way the raindrops created circular ripples, Hina’s tears were creating my heart.
Watching the film and reading the book helped me get a deeper sense of how “Weathering With You” tackles the complexity of the human heart. At the end of the novel, Shinkai writes that he wanted to reveal “our secret wishes that others would frown upon if the knew.”
In some ways, Hodaka and Hina’s love story was selfish — not in the apathetic connotation of the word, but more in the sense that getting what they want meant the perpetual shower would continue to disrupt lives of many.
Hina received a celestial gift and, despite her pure intentions, she can’t truly control nature in the way she thinks she can. And it was Hodaka’s idea for Hina to make money from her powers. There’s a subtle irony there—Hodaka saved Hina from being used by a yakuza-type but then, without intending to, he ends up using the girl he fell in love with (at least partly) for his own gain. It took the anger and grief caused by Hina’s evaporation into the heavens for Hodaka to wrestle with the implications what they were doing.
The adults try to let them off the hook a bit near the end—an older woman explains to Hina that Tokyo used to be under water, hinting the rain was a merely nature in its cyclical form; Hodaka’s rough and scruffy father-figure Keisuke tries to reassure Hodaka not to blame the rain on what they did. He says “See, the world—it’s always been screwed up.”
But I think the slower pace of the book helps audiences see how Hodaka and Hina wrestle with and accept love as the ultimate choice. “Weathering With You” asks us to think about what we would do for the ones we love.
What would you do for the person who showed you kindness in the roughest moments of life? Would you out run society just to be with them? Would you curse the world to endless rain if it meant reviving the one who held your heart?
The point isn’t necessarily the morality of your answer, the point is that you get to choose. In Noda’s words “we can decide the beauty and ugliness and evanescence and sadness of the world ourselves…we can define this world for ourselves.”
Something about that sentence seems like a rainbow of right and wrong and loneliness and freedom and simplicity and flattening and paradox and romanticism and naiveté and essence and selfishness and beauty.
And that’s what “Weathering With You” is.