If all this sounds like too much to swallow, keep in mind that Shinkai is concocting a fairy-tale – and, as we know, anything goes in a fairy-tale. He keeps things surprisingly easy to follow, with two lovable protagonists – and, dear God, those awesome visuals. A Watchmen-like shower of squid-like jellyfish; a mind-blowing fireworks show; a quiet night of unexpected snow; Hira sending a lightning bolt to explode a truck. The list goes on, but perhaps the most mesmerizing sequence comes towards the finale, Hodaka traveling through vortex after vortex of unforgettable artistry. The theme of “the human heart [being] connected with the sky” – prevalent in Shinkai’s oeuvre – is duly explored. Weathering with You wears its own heart on its sleeve, and it’s that romanticism that’s bound to win over cynics like yours truly.
The film – apart from being a love story – is ostensibly about preserving nature, arguing that “if you could fix this weather with one human sacrifice, everyone would be happy.” It seems to imply that humanity is at fault for the constant rain. “I feel bad for our children,” a lady comments, lamenting the past. Shinkai submits to our own inherently self-destructive nature by ultimately allowing things to be the way they are – and not doing much about it. An old, wise character even waxes poetic about how our observations are based on “recorded history,” which is “100 years old”, and hence hold little merit – the implication now being that we’re not at fault at all, that nature has its ways, and it’s a cycle that may pass.
“…by submitting themselves sexually or surrendering to the gods of inclement weather.”
Weathering with You features a strong female protagonist, who’s willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good – yet she’s seen only through the eyes of a puberty-stricken, horny teenager (the filmmaker’s alter ego?), who ogles every cleavage in sight and weirdly confuses another young woman with a “mistress.” This constant sexualizing of women makes one wonder if Shinkai perhaps feels that all females are “mistresses” who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the “greater good,” be it by submitting themselves sexually or surrendering to the gods of inclement weather. The prepubescent humor doesn’t help. It’s especially jarring, considering Weathering with You’s truly robust, epic mythological foundation. It prevents the film from achieving Miyazaki-like status (can you imagine Ashitaka taking a quick peek at Princess Mononoke’s breasts?).
I’m not going to rant about the cheesy montages, scored to Japanese pop tunes, nor will I go into the buckets of tears, shed primarily by the film’s male heroes (most of whom are scum, by the way). The intentions here are so palpably earnest that they render the aforementioned aspects peculiar rather than overtly controversial. Shinkai’s animated feature may sometimes seem like it was dreamt up by a 15-year-old teenager. It may move at a leisurely, awkward pace that threatens to come to a dead halt at points. Yet when it takes flight, it soars.