Weathering With You review – thrillingly beautiful anime romance

A runaway teenager falls for a mysterious ‘sun girl’ who has the power to stop the rain in Japan’s highest-grossing film of 2019

Makoto Shinkai, the Japanese anime director dubbed “the new Miyazaki” after the huge success of Your Name, his swooning YA body-swap romance set against the backdrop of a trippy natural disaster, returns with another apocalypse-tinged, boy-meets-girl adventure. Weathering With You, full of overcharged teenage emotion, was Japan’s highest-grossing film of 2019. Like Your Name, it’s thrillingly beautiful: Tokyo is animated in hyperreal intricacy, every dazzling detail dialled up to 11, but it’s less of a heartbreaker.

During the wettest rainy season on record in Tokyo, 16-year-old runaway Hodaka, homeless and hungry, arrives from the sticks. In a fast-food restaurant, teenage waitress Hina gives him a free burger, and two patches of red flush across his cheeks adorably. (The animation of first love, its highs and humiliations, is gorgeous.)

Hina, it turns out, is a “sun girl”. Like weather maidens from mythology, she can bring a halt to the rain with a prayer. The pair start a business: weddings, school sports days, flea markets – if you need a dry spell, call.

Japanese, apparently, has at least 50 words for rain. The film gives us the cinematic equivalent. It’s everywhere: raindrops bouncing off umbrellas, ploshing into puddles on grey streets, or shining like diamonds on electricity cables. Each instance is a miracle of loveliness. And, as the rainy season drags on, it dawns on Hodaka and Hina that the fate of the world depends on her powers, but at a personal cost.

I’m not sure how far environmental catastrophes in Shinkai’s films reveal an anxiety about the planet. They may be there simply to ramp up the emotional intensity. Is that the end of the world coming? Or a teenager’s heart breaking? Same thing. Still, I remember watching Your Name with a heart-squeezing feeling. This movie didn’t leave the same impression; maybe second time around it doesn’t have quite the same impact.

• Weathering With You is released in the UK and in the US on 17 January.


Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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