Saturday, January 18, 2020

Weathering with You

Do I like the new Makoto Shinkai film? Of course I do. You can search this blog or eFilmCritic and find fifteen years of me gushing over his most recent works, to the point where I'm not sure whether to cringe a little at the fanboying or sincerely hope for another filmmaker to come along whose work inspires this level of enthusiasm in me. More of the latter, I think. Shinkai is really good.

It's cool to see I'm not the only one that thinks so, with a pretty darn full house on Friday night. I actually pulled up the app to reserve a seat on Tuesday and immediately thought, well, it's a good thing I like sitting in the front section, because that's all that's left three days out. Boston Common has done well enough with some of these big anime releases that I'm a little surprised they haven't booked things more often, but I suppose that there's a fine line between the hits and the things that leave theaters empty.

I might even wind up there again. It looks like it just might be the sort of thing that reveals a bit more on the second time through, or at least makes everything else fit together a little bit better.

Tenki no ko (Weathering with You)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 17 January 2020 in AMC Boston Common #8 (first-run, DCP)

Weathering with You was quite possibly the most anticipated film to come out of Japan in 2019, director Makoto Shinkai's first film after Your Name was a somewhat unexpected (and deserved) smash. It's tricky to talk about what comes next after such a result, especially if the effusive praise you've given to Shinkai's previous films is a click away and your verdict is that Weathering with You is "only" almost as good as what it follows. Even if he can't quite surprise audiences with greatness any more, he's still made a heck of a fine movie.

As things start, it's been raining in Tokyo for months straight, though for 16-year-old runaway Hodaka Morishima (voice of Kotaro Daigo), that's as much a thing to be marveled at as a disaster. It's hard for someone in that position to get by in the city, but a fast-food counter worker gives him an extra burger when he looks especially hungry and a man he met on the ferry, Keisuke Suga (voice of Shun Oguri), offers him work and a place to stay, helping him and his sexy assistant Natsumi (voice of Tsubasa Honda) write stories of unexplained phenomena. One is the "sunshine girl", who seemingly can summon bit of nice weather at will. That turns out that the girl he'd met earlier, almost-18-year-old Hina Amano (voice of Nana Mori), who gained that power after happening upon a shrine while visiting her mother in the hospital and has been looking after her kid brother Nagisa (voice of Sakura Kiryu) since she died. Hodaka suggests she sell her services, and they start a website to do so, but while they're making days brighter one at a time, Keisuke and Natsumi are learning things about "weather maidens" that should make the teenagers nervous, with the more earthly issues that come with Hodaka being a runaway who crossed paths with gangsters while living on the street also hanging over him.

One knows what to expect from Shinkai at this point - earnest teenage characters, a smart fantasy premise, some thrills, and a knack for making his simply-drawn characters feel like they belong in an almost photo-realistic world. The latter is something that he's been building up since he started by rendering short films on his home computer, and having made the big time, it's something where he's currently maintaining a high level rather than topping himself. Still, it's amazing just how good his and his team's craft is at this point - compare the busy, modern Tokyo of this film to that of many other traditionally-styled animations: The detail is incredible without clashing with the foreground characters, and moments that throw Hina into the sky can create a dizzying sensation of vertigo despite her being rendered in a fairly two-dimensional style without a detailed background. And though it seems strange to talk about such things with regard to an animated movie where the cinematography is virtual, the lighting and coloring here is tremendous; the film would arguably fall apart if Shinkai, cinematographer Ryosuke Tsuda, and their team couldn't make the change from a cloudy, overcast day not just believable, but something miraculous.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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