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Makoto Shinkai’s “Weathering With You”

“Weathering With You” Promotional Poster

Over the last few years, Mrs. Desperado and I have become serious anime fans. On the rare occasions when we can see a new show on the big screen, we jump at the chance. Recently we saw “Weathering With You” a feature-length anime by Makoto Shinkai, creator of the acclaimed 2016 film “Your Name,” which we haven’t yet seen. Even more significantly, the theatrical release gave us the choice of watching with English subtitles rather than dubbed American voices.

It was the kind of story we enjoy the most, with interesting characters, emotional depth, and a touch of the supernatural to make it interesting. The movie starts with a common setup: a teenager arrives in the Big City and struggles to make it on his own. Hodaka is a runaway who vows he’ll “never go back” to his The time frame appears to be the present or the near future. The Tokyo area is suffering from record-breaking drenching rains. When Hodaka arrives on a ferryboat, a cloudburst clears the deck, but he stays on top to enjoy being soaked – until stormy seas threaten to pitch him into the bay. Luckily a quick-thinking adult, Suga, is there to rescue him. Grateful, Hodaka uses up his meager funds to buy the good Samaritan a meal. Once in Tokyo, he discovers he’s too young to be legally employed and ends up on a stoop. He takes shelter in a McDonald’s where Hina, a cute waitress, takes pity on him and gives him a free burger. These two kind souls become his life-line – the first gives him a place to a place to stay and the second becomes his best friend.

Here’s where the supernatural enters the picture. Suga runs a small-time newspaper specializing in weird and occult happenings. Though Suga doesn’t believe any of it, it turns out that Hina possesses occult powers for real. She’s a “sunshine girl” with the ability to stop the rains in a limited time in a localized area. All she needs to do is close her eyes and pray to the weather gods, and the clouds open up. People began paying her for her services and the money comes rolling in. Yet it appears that Hina may pay a steep price for her ability. Furthermore, the authorities are after the runaway Hodaka as well as Hina and her little brother, who are orphans living alone.

Those of you who watch anime will represent many of these themes: friendship, loyalty, independence, and sacrifice. We both had an expectation of how the plot would proceed. It did for a while, but as it neared its end, the story took a very un-Japanese direction. According to legend, the “sunshine girl” must sacrifice her life to restore the weather to its previous balance. But Hodaka has no intention of giving up his friend. Normally the tacit endorsement of the boy’s selfishness would be taboo in an East Asian culture. Consequentially, Tokyo’s fate is neither disaster nor salvation, but something in between.

“Weathering With You” has engaging characters, a clever story, and superb direction. Its worst issue is that being nearly 2 hours in length, it drags a bit in the middle. I give it a rating of 4.5 gears out of 5.

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