Back in 2016, the Japanese movie of the year was an animated romantic fantasy drama entitled "Kimi no Na wa"( or "Your Name"). That film, about a teenage boy in Tokyo swapping bodies with a teenage girl in rural Japan, was written and directed by Makoto Shinkai.
This year, the Japanese movie of the year is yet again another animated romantic fantasy drama, also written and directed by the same man Makoto Shinkai. Thanks to Shinkai's reputation, "Tenki no Ko" (or "Weathering with You") actually passed the record of "Your Name" in box-office receipts in its first three days, and is now in 9th biggest Japanese films of all time only in its first month of release. Critical acclaim has led to it being selected as Japan's submission for Best Foreign Language Film (now to be called Best International Feature Film) at the Oscars this season.
Japan was suffering the longest continuous spell of rain in its history. Hodaka Morishima is a 16 year-old boy who ran away from his home. He struggled to survive in scary Tokyo, until he started working for Keisuke Suga, a writer of sensational subject matter, to whom Hodaka owed his life by rescuing him from a near-accident at sea. Hina Amano is an independent 18 year-old girl who was raising her young brother Nagi on her own after their mother passed away. After going through a mysterious shrine gate on the rooftop of a old rundown building, Hina developed the ability to make the sun shine through the rain.
The constant rain was most probably a metaphor for Hodaka's miserable life, until Hina came along and became the sunshine in his life. The artwork was beautifully conceived and animated to reflect these themes of coming of age, young love and idealistic sacrifice against the harshness of the world around. It was imaginatively executed how raindrops rose like swimming little fish when Hina was around, and how the sun broke through the gloom to provide empowering warmth. The art can make you actually feel the weather and the emotion through the screen, and mind you this was in 2D. Amazing.
There was violence in this one, more than I remember seeing in "Your Name." Hodaka and Hina had critically dangerous encounters with sleazy gangsters and strict policemen which further pushed their interdependent relationship closer with each other. I wish there did not have to be a gun in the story, as it felt very much out of place. There was a high-speed chase between a motorbike and the police which was totally improbable, but a lot of fun.
The specter of "Your Name" can still be felt in this follow-up with its blend of young lovers in a calamitous science fiction situation, infused with Japanese religion and culture. There were also funny and poignant moments involving younger kids and the elderly.
What thrilled "Your Name" fans more (and they cheered loudly!) were the unexpected individual cameos of Taki and Mitsuha, now looking more mature and assured, in this world of Hodaka and Hina as well.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."