Topping Your Name was never going to be a walk in the park for writer/director Makoto Shinkai. Despite Weathering With You (his latest), breaking Japanese box office records and being the first Japanese anime to be released in India, following a fan petition, it fails by a long shot to shine half as bright as its predecessor.
With a similar story, style and characters to Your Name, WWY tells the tale of teenage boy Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) who travels to Tokyo to start a new life. After securing a low-paid, live-in position as a Junior Journalist for an occult magazine, Hodaka meets Hina (Nana Mori); a troubled teenager with a superhero-like ability to control the weather. When Tokyo then gets forecast with forty days of rain, Hodaka and Hina set-up an online company where customers can request good weather, and Hina, acting as alter-ego “Sunshine Girl”, makes it happen.
The set-up sees Hodaka arrive in Tokyo followed by a punchy job/lodging hunt and expense totalling montage. WWY then simmers half-baked and ham fisted for its better part like a rainbow flat-lining near a unicorn’s deathbed. Describing WWY using cooking/food analogies and adjectives fits aptly, considering Shinkai’s penchant for scenes featuring mouth-watering meals which leave viewers slavering like stoners at a Creosote sized buffet lunch, as a result steeping cinemas with THX style stomach gurgling.
One scene shows a chain burger bourgeoning from its box as if its bun is breathing out, in a shot that makes WWY feel plastic like an ad. We all know the burger would just sit there like an inanimate Plasticine splodge. This scene also contributed to WWY feeling like an underdeveloped remake of a much better film.
Sentimental scenes seem saccharine on screen and aren’t remotely as touching or comedic as those in Your Name, but Shinkai reintegrates winning coy teen angst and blushing discomfort through new protagonist Hodaka when around Hina. These work wonders, as they did in Your Name. Hodaka’s boss’ scowling cat is also hysterical when staring in disdain at its human counterparts and provides WWY with its mightiest laughs.
Through music by Radwimps and familiar visuals, Shinkai assimilates the ethereal air that adorned Your Name but the flimsy plot, due to lack of structure and strong dramatic substance is a glaring weakness. There are grounding moments that could have been better utilised to serve the story; improving the functionality/foundation through subplots and subtext to reinforce the narrative instead of acting as punctuation points and/or respites.
These take the guise of news reports and social media screen grabs which shed light on the weather phenomena while diluting the airy mysticism to make it less mindboggling. Details about the ecosystem and cumulonimbus clouds, as a result of Hina’s meddling, reinforce both the fantasy and film reality, as do scenes featuring the social services, but this doesn’t stop the plot dithering before degenerating at the end.
Weathering With You retains attention for the better part as the plot beats at a pace to stop viewers getting bored, but it feels too fleeting and slipshod. Instead WWY just glides by fluffy and insubstantial like a sigh, variegated vacuum or the kaleidoscopic yawn of a paranormal donkey, in the guise of a panic written vomit draft, swiftly green-lit and hot-footed into production without a proof read.
WWY also lacks the visual prowess and overall uniqueness of Your Name; seeming more like cutting room floor appurtenances, ripped from its reel then anxiously assembled. The film concludes as a recurrently tepid and reedy cine-soufflé with flickers of excellence that don’t quite gel or cut the mustard enough to match its phenomenal predecessor.