Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko / 天気の子 2019), Makoto Shinkai’s new feature, is a strange beast. The trailer conveys it well: stunningly beautiful, but with two plotlines that seem to be on different planes altogether, to the point where the trailer can’t find a way to put them together. Also, the characterizations are lazy archetypes and many points of tension are artificial. I still enjoyed it though.
The first plot is supposedly a classic anime romance between protagonist Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo) and love interest (and sunshine guarantor) Hina (Nana Mori). He’s a naive young guy, and she’s drawn in a cute but unusual way that hints at a secret part of her identity. Yes, there’s romance, but more striking is the picaresque feel, with Hodaka running around and connecting disparate groups of people. It’s just people with things going on in their lives meeting other people with things going on in their lives. You think the film’s about the weather, but it’s really about the city. As if to emphasize this point, the film has at least four montage sequences, sometimes backed by upbeat music from pop group RADWIMPS.
The second plotline is, surprisingly, a meteorological take on the Matrix trilogy (1999-2003). Either Hodaka can let Hina sacrifice herself to right the Tokyo weather-gone-amok (including an August snow, symbolic in Chinese cultures of society straying from the Way or Tao), or he can rescue her and their love and let the chips fall where they may. Guess which one he chooses. Critics have been taken with this seemingly controversial take on climate change, but that’s like saying that the Matrix films are about taking down capitalism. (Hint: They’re not.) Rather, it’s a parable about (not) conforming to societal norms and expectations; and like the Matrix parable, it raises the question: Just who exactly needs to grow up here, the naive protagonist or the jaded society around him?