Makoto Shinkai’s Box Office Smash
Makoto Shinkai may always be chasing Your Name, his wildly successful and beloved anime masterpiece. The movie became popular enough across the globe that even Hollywood took notice. Eagerly anticipated by anime lovers everywhere, Weathering With You is Shinkai’s first movie since that classic’s 2016 release. The theatrical anime feature soon became the highest-grossing Japanese film of 2019, a box office sensation.
Rehashing a few basic anime elements from Your Name commonly found in anime, Weathering With You sees two young teenagers romantically meet in a crowd-pleasing adventure tinged with fantasy and slice-of-life touches. The parallels are clearly there between the two movies, even if the characters and story are very different. A rain-soaked Tokyo provides the setting, critical to the film’s core message and themes. The film’s music is composed by Japanese band RADWIMPS, providing several songs.
High school boy Hodaka Morishima runs away from his parents to Tokyo, hoping to land on his feet by himself. On the way to the city, his life is saved by Mr. Suga. Suga operates a small tabloid rag running articles about the supernatural and sees something of himself in the young Hodaka.
Weathering With You is engaging and warm entertainment made for all audiences
Weathering With You is engaging and warm entertainment made for all audiences
Hodaka eventually tracks Suga down with the hopes of finding work. As the teenager struggles living in Tokyo without a proper ID and burning through his meager cash, he meets Hina Amano. First meeting the teenage Hina working at McDonald’s, the pair start making a little cash by exploiting Hina’s mysterious ability handling rainstorms for paying customers. If you pay attention, two certain characters from Your Name make brief cameo appearances.
All this happens as Tokyo is inundated with constant rain for over two months. It’s an unexplained storm of biblical proportions, leading to a tragic choice for Hodaka late in the film connected to Hina’s mysterious gifts.
Weathering With You is engaging and warm entertainment made for all audiences, despite a few quirks and plot devices that get our main characters into trouble. Hodaka ultimately ends up on the run from the police. The recurring sub-plot involves a gun he found early in his Tokyo adventures. That leads to an overly dramatic final act with messy plotting.
Both Hodaka and Hina are likable leads. The teenagers have a believable relationship, which isn’t always true in anime. However, that doesn’t always mean their character development is fluid and orderly. The storytelling isn’t quite as refined or crafted as well as it was with Your Name. That isn’t a real knock at Weathering With You, few directors achieve perfection each time out.
Weathering With You was Japan’s most popular movie in 2019 and it is easy seeing why. What’s not to like about beautifully expressive animation and a romantic fantasy adventure tailored for its teen protagonists, made in the director’s same successful mold as Your Name? Weathering With You doesn’t hit quite the same high notes as that beloved classic but it’s a charming, well-made anime with lovely themes.
After the overwhelming success of Your Name, Makoto Shinkai had enough clout for an even larger budget for his next animated feature. When it comes to creating animation, time is money. Weathering With You spent nearly three years in production, made by many of the same former Studio Ghibli animators who worked on Your Name. Viewers familiar with that masterpiece should know what to expect in terms of pure animation and picture quality.
Weathering With You goes for a slightly different aesthetic than Shinkai’s most visually impressive movies such as Children Who Chase Lost Voices. The expressive hand-drawn animation nicely integrates with occasional 3-D CGI elements. The art direction is more grounded with fewer fantasy elements.
Backgrounds are loaded with realistic detail, down to the noticeable product placement often used throughout certain scenes. Color saturation is moderated when necessary, opening up when the sun finally breaks through the biblical deluge in Tokyo.
Despite the omnipresent rain, Weathering With You isn’t gloomy-looking. When the sun shines, Tokyo comes alive with gorgeous reflections and gleaming surfaces. The character designs are somewhat ordinary and even a bit generic. It’s telling when characters from Your Name make an appearance and they slip into the same mold.
The 1.78:1 presentation offers outstanding clarity and fluid animation in sparkling 1080P video. It’s a flawless digital transfer highlighting the bold color palette with perfect black levels and contrast. The AVC encode is superb, rendering details without banding and chroma noise. The main feature runs over 112 minutes on a BD-50. I look forward to seeing this animated film on UHD in 4K with HDR.
Weathering With You is a vivid listening experience in both English and Japanese. Both the native Japanese soundtrack and English dub are heard in astounding 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Once again working with Japanese rock band RADWIMPS, Makoto Shinkai punctuates several dramatic moments with their ballads. It’s a combination that worked well in Your Name and largely repeats that same success.
Serious money has been thrown at the English dub’s production, led by well-known actors Lee Pace and Alison Brie. Lee Pace voices Mr. Suga, while Brie is a spitfire Natsumi. This is one case where both soundtracks have something to offer and track each other fairly well without discrepancies. Integral to the film, the Japanese pop songs are left intact for the English dub.
The nicely layered surround mix offers palpable atmosphere across a diffuse soundstage. The constant rainfall is nicely dispersed in realistic ways with proper reverb and echo. Tokyo’s bustling urban noises provide a steadily discrete backdrop with distinct channel separation and activity. Crisp dialogue is mostly focused towards the center channel. The songs by RADWIMPS take centerstage, often used in the movie’s most visually stunning moments.
Several subtitle options are available, all optional in a white font: English SDH, English, Spanish and French. The English SDH subs are made for the English voice dub, while the second set of English subs are a direct translation of the Japanese audio. Minor differences in content, but nothing that should upset purists. Optional English subs in a yellow font are also offered for the Japanese pop songs’ lyrics, separately from the normal English subs. 5.1 English descriptive audio in Dolby Digital is a secondary audio choice.
GKIDS and Shout Factory are going all out for Weathering With You. It’s not getting one but three different releases, including a lavish Collector’s Edition later in November with a UHD copy and the CD soundtrack. Keep that in mind when considering this nicely packed regular Blu-ray combo edition. Super fans will almost certainly want the coming C.E. with exclusive bonus features. No standalone UHD will be available due to the Japanese licensing requirements and fears of reverse importation for that market.
The Blu-ray and DVD combo arrives with a glossy slipcover. This regular edition will also be made available in a Steelbook version. The Blu-ray is loaded with special features, filled with behind-the-scenes material straight from Japan. The Japanese bonus features all provide English subtitles.
Interview With Director Makoto Shinkai (11:14 in HD) – Thoughtful, insightful comments from Shinkai on the problems animating rain, the casting process, working with former Studio Ghibli animators, and other relevant issues. It’s a wide-ranging interview with real meat for fans.
Exploring Makoto Shinkai’s Filmography (13:00 in HD) – Introducing each project with a block of text, this featurette briefly covers each major anime project made by Shinkai in chronological order. Beginning with 2002’s Voices of a Distant Star, then proceeding through more recent projects like The Garden of Words and Your Name, each film’s trailer or sizzle reel is featured.
“Weather Front” Featurette (24:08 in HD) – Voice actress Nana Mori hosts this series of seven loosely tied together segments, heavily featuring Japanese rock band RADWIMPS. Mori goes backstage and behind the scenes, often with a camera in tow capturing candid footage.
Talk Show: Makoto Shinkai and Yumiko Udo (70:02 in HD) – Host Yumiko Udo discusses the movie with director Makoto Shinkai over beer. Think Mary Hart and an Entertainment Tonight-style program, featuring a friendly interview mostly designed in selling Weathering With You while delivering carefully-selected glimpses of behind-the-scenes material. Shinkai reveals he aimed for a popular, crowd-pleasing movie made for the masses and some of his regrets as a director. This is more entertaining than expected, as it combines a friendly atmosphere made for fans with a fascinating look into the movie’s long three-year production process.
International Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (10:35 in HD) – A series of nine trailers in English play in order.
Japanese Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots (10:06 in HD) – A whopping 20 from Japan are included.
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Weathering With You
Director Makoto Shinkai delivers another compelling teen fantasy romance and adventure in the mold of Your Name, though the impact is lessened this second time around.
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