1.21.2020 1:00 PM

Entertainment

'Weathering With You' review: More beautiful and weirder than 'Your Name'

Makoto Shinkai delivers yet another anime masterpiece.

For anyone who loved the worldwide phenomenon that is Your Name, writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s new anime feature Weathering With You is going to break your heart again while simultaneously restoring your soul.

It’s a radically different story with similar emotional beats and basic plot structures that feels like a familiar yet refreshing visual spectacle. Weathering With You grapples with climate change and even gun control in shocking ways that feel relevant in America despite the movie’s setting: a version of Tokyo drowning under endless magical rainfall.

The story begins when Hodaka Morishima runs away from his home on a remote Japanese island during the rainy summer before his freshman year of high school. He winds up spending his days on the isolating streets of Tokyo, eventually finding a job at a small occult magazine.

Hodaka begins researching various legends that might explain this neverending rain, and it’s around this time that he meets Hina Amano, a young girl who mysteriously develops the power to control the weather. The two make a business out of clearing up the rain, and it’s a delight to watch them spread the joy of good weather in a dreary, wet Tokyo … until we learn that this power comes at a cost: a dark prophecy seemingly aimed at Hina.

Hina showing Hodaka her weather maiden powers.GKIDS

The entire middle section of Weathering With You is a dazzling spectacle, much like Your Name, with a joyful story that takes a dark turn near the end. A cryptic prophecy warns that “tragedy will befall the weather maiden, setting up a final act that will feel familiar to anyone who’s seen Your Name.

Weathering With You resembles Your Name in its overall structure, going all-in on themes of teenage heartbreak and desperation in a chaotic world, but this new movie is just different enough to forgive its formulaic plot. The setting of Tokyo caught in an endless rain also feels like a moody character just as memorable as Hina or Hodaka. And unlike Your Name, which split itself between a small town and Tokyo’s urban sprawl, this movie is set entirely in a single location, giving its version of Tokyo a more live-in feeling.

Hina and Hodaka in 'Weathering With You'.GKIDS

Despite the fantastical backdrops of both movies, Shinkai’s strength as a storyteller isn’t his intriguing supernatural mechanics or the phenomenal visual spectacles that come with them. Instead, his talent lies in the tender, realistic ways that damaged characters open themselves up to new human connections; along with the brave, kind things they’ll do to fight for the people they love.

Out of sheer desperation, love, and longing, the kids in these stories do things regular people never would. They find strength in loss and only succeed through a Herculean amount of perseverance and great suffering. It’s like really smart chicken soup for the soul.

There’s a feeling of innocent heartbreak in Weathering With You we all recognize and remember. Young characters recklessly protect their ideals and fight for some impossible dream. The movie’s supernatural plot only amplifies universal feelings of love and hope.

Hodaka develops a close relationship with his boss Keisuke Suga.GKIDS

Shinkai has a great talent for overlapping character arcs, seamlessly demonstrating how two people can grow together through a shared connection. It would be easy to focus the entire story of Weathering With You on just Hodaka and Hina, but this is a world busting with interesting characters. Every side character — from Hina’s little brother to the random guy who saves Hodaka from falling off a ferry at the start of the movie — grows as a person during the story.

Ultimately, Weathering With You might feel a tad predictable for anyone familiar with Shinkai’s work, but fans of Your Name know that’s a good thing. While the rules of this new magical world might never be totally clear, there’s more than enough heart — plus beautiful music and stunning animation — to keep the audience interested.

Weathering With You is in theaters in the U.S. now.

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