Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Weathering [the storm] With You: A Critique On Love

On Friday, I had the opportunity to watch Weathering With You and it left a lasting impression on me. So much so, that I wanted to write a review for this movie. This is not so much a review of the movie, but rather a change of pace for this blog altogether. Consider it a critique.

Like Promare during Otakon, I had the chance to watch this movie back in Anime NYC, but I was unable to watch the debut screening. Part of the reason is due to the comfort of watching a movie either alone or with a select few friends. I’d much prefer the former because I don’t have to deal with friends ruining the mood of certain scenes. It’s more of a personal thing on my end. Watching a debut premiere in a room full of a hundred fans didn’t seem like my cup of tea so I opted out of the Anime NYC release.

As a disclaimer. I did not watch Your Name. Put down the pitchforks everyone, please!

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I’ve always been meaning to watch Your Name, but after every chance I’d be distracted by something else. This touch-and-go with Your Name has persisted for years until I ultimately decided that if I do come across it I will indeed watch it. I realize that many are unintentionally comparing Weathering With You to Your Name and I feel like even if I did see the latter, it wouldn’t be fair to the former.

This is what I like to call something that is so much of a blessing it’s a curse. Makoto Shinkai is an incredibly talented man with a vision that captivates fans and non-fans of anime alike.

Your Name is one of those movies that set the bar for similar movies, especially Shinkai’s own movies following Your Name. It can be difficult to look at an artist’s work after their magnum opus without thinking of their magnum opus. Rather than doing so, I feel it’s healthier to look at an artist’s work as their own individual vision, their own individual story. Your Name had a distinct message, as did Garden of Words, a Shinkai movie I actually did see. Weathering With You is no different.

Past this point there will be spoilers so if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing, please don’t read further until you’ve preferably seen the movie yourself. I highly recommend watching this movie blind as I did.

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Our story begins with Hodaka, a 16-year old runaway who tries to start a new beginning in Tokyo after not feeling welcome in his own hometown. It’s never explicitly stated why he ran away from home, only touting family problems with his parents. Throughout the movie I wondered what his relationships with his parents were like. After all, to make such a bold decision to leave the countryside and live in Tokyo of all places is a daunting task for anyone, much less a teenager.

Genre savvy viewers would notice something as he is introduced to Tokyo. One of the first locations we see our protagonist in is none other than Kabukichou, Tokyo’s Red Light District.

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This iconic location is also known for being the home setting of the Yakuza series of video games albeit as Kamurocho. Known for its absurdity, the Tokyo nightlife is just as relentless for Hodaka as it was for Kiryuu and other protagonists who walk the same streets.

As to be expected, his first few nights are met with living out of internet cafes, looking for part-time jobs without success, and dealing with all types of characters, from the yakuza themselves, to office workers. All of whom refuse to give a minor without any form of identification a job. Eventually he finds himself resting against the entrance of a club where he deals with a rowdy club owner who kicks him out, knocking over a trash can.

As the trash can is knocked over, he finds an envelope and inside the envelope? A loaded handgun. For expositions sake, a news bulletin is shown highlighting the hunt for several missing weapons. Guess those were one of the weapons stashed in the trash?

Hodaka finally manages to have a bone thrown at him in the form of a McDonald’s meal by a caring young girl who is a part time worker there. Being that this was the first act of kindness anyone has shown him since arriving in Tokyo, he dubs the burger as “The best dinner he has ever had in his 16 years of living.”

I don’t have a picture of the Big Mac in question but shout outs to the animators for making a Big Mac. A Big Mac look absolutely delicious.

Several days later, he runs across the same girl who is being escorted by the same club owners who gave Hodaka a hard time before. Seeing this as an opportunity to repay the girl for her kindness, he steps in and tries to intervene yet he’s thoroughly beat down for his efforts.

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However as a last ditch effort he brandishes the same pistol that he found a few nights ago and threatens to shoot. Calling his bluff, the club owner instigates further until Hodaka eventually does fire a round, hitting the nearby lamp post. Using this opportunity, he grabs the girl and they make their escape.

It is here that he finds out that the girl’s name is Hina and that she was fired from her previous job. While she was contemplating on willingly being a hostess, she nevertheless thanks Hodaka for sticking up for her. It is also at this moment that she shows her hidden power to him. The power for her to control the weather on a whim. The heavy rain that plagued Tokyo since Hodaka arrived suddenly ended. The clouds part,  the sun escapes, and for that moment, everything is bliss. The rain inevitably continues however.

Eventually he is taken in by a news editor and Hodaka helps out around the small office space, gathering stories and writing for him. While the pay is meager, he thinks of the girl with the special power to control the weather. Hodaka thinks of a way to have Hina make a living and that entails a self-run service.

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The service is a job posting website where people will post weather requests and Hina obliges by praying for sunny weather. Various requests included a sunny day for a festival, a park day for kids, and a fireworks concert come pouring in and everything is a success.

The major problem shows itself in the climax however. Every time she prays for anything weather releated, a part of Hina dissolves as she becomes one with the sky. The more she uses her power, the more she sacrifices herself to make the perfect weather a reality. Even as she doesn’t pray for weather, the weather changes according to Hina’s mood.

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When Hodaka’s life is endangered, she is able to summon a thunderbolt at will to cause a distraction. When Hina and her younger brother are forced to leave under suspicion of being underraged and living on their own, the weather changes into an unstoppable torrent. The weather even briefly changes to snow at one point.

Despite all of this, despite the weather changing and the seemingly eternal rain, Hodaka is met with a decision. At this rate, Tokyo is suffering from severe flooding and downpour. Knowing that the heavy rain would go away if she sacrificed herself, Hina asks Hodaka if he would want the rain to go away. Not thinking of the consequences of his choice, he answers “Yes.”

The following night, she disappears, only appearing in a dream that she had became one with the sky and is now currently amongst the clouds. The last physical remnant of Hodaka, a ring that he had given her for her birthday, falls from the heavens.

The conclusion of this story revolves around Hodaka being chased by the police, as he rushes against time to the shrine where Hina first discovered her powers. By returning to the place of origins, he was able to connect to the skies themselves in order to get Hina back.

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Despite Hina’s sacrifice ending the plague of bad weather. Despite the return of Hina spelling eternal rainfall for Tokyo. Despite their lives never returning to normal again. At the end, Hodaka chose to be with Hina. He chose for Hina to live her own life rather than sacrifice herself. He chose love.

In the epilogue, it is shown that most of Tokyo is submerged in water three years later. The metro system is replaced with ferries, most residents live in high rises, and everyday life has grown accustomed to the increase in rainfall. Hodaka returns to Tokyo after finishing high school back at his hometown. After encouragement from friends and former clients alike, he is reunited tearfully with Hina. Happily ever after.

Returning to the climax, this raised a lot of emotions within me. How far is one willing to go for the one they love? As he was approaching the heavens to save Hina and bring her back down to Earth, he was telling her that what they did together, changing the weather, was special. A life without her wouldn’t be the same in the slightest.

And you know what? Watching that scene with Hina and Hodaka reuniting in the skies above? I cried. Didn’t care if people heard me in the theater. I silently cried.

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I can understand why some may think of Hodaka’s choice as selfish. After all, with this decision, Tokyo is on course to be completely submerged underwater. If Hina’s sacrifice was kept, the weather would have surely returned to normal. Millions of people would have welcomed this weather with open arms.

However, even if the weather returned to normal and sunny days returned, Hodaka days would had been cloudy without her. Even if Tokyo rains forever, Hodaka’s days would be sunny with Hina by her side, no matter what.

If given the choice between the life of someone who gave meaning to my own life, someone who had lost life with her mother’s death, someone who had endured enough pain alone for so long. If I had to choose between that one missing piece to the puzzle of a complex, young, abrasive heart. I would choose that person every time if I was in Hodaka’s position. Especially when you’re already in such shallow water that you’ve arrived with nothing but the shirt on your back and no sense of family.

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Seeing the one you love suffer is enough to sacrifice as much as you can to ensure that they are happy. Hina’s sacrifice was due to this very doctrine. When she asked Hodaka if he wanted to rain to go away, she wanted to relieve the burden of her existence. She wanted to ease his own suffering, a vagabond without a home who gave everything he had for her. When Hodaka was willing to go to the skies above to relieve her of the burdens of making those around her happy, the feeling was mutual from both parties.

Love is a highly complex matter. It hits us when either of us expect it. Hodaka and Hina’s first meeting was a chance encounter above all else but it blossomed into a series of trials. In many ways they lived up to the title of the movie. They weathered the storm together.

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