A Tor­rent of Ta­lent

Ja­panese au­teur Makoto Shinkai dis­cusses his ca­reer and the ac­claimed new fea­ture Weath­er­ing with You, which ar­rives in U.S. the­aters next month via GKIDS. By Charles Solomon

Animation Magazine - - EDITOR’S NOTE - By Charles Solomon

Ja­panese au­teur Makoto Shinkai dis­cusses his ca­reer and the ac­claimed new fea­ture Weath­er­ing with You, which ar­rives in U.S. the­aters next month via GKIDS.

Weath­er­ing with You, which de­buted ear­lier this year in Ja­pan, is Makoto Shinkai’s first fea­ture since he daz­zled au­di­ences on both sides of the Pa­cific with Your Name. in 2016. An in­trigu­ing, complex film, Your Name. com­bined el­e­ments of a body-switch­ing teen rom­com with a pro­found med­i­ta­tion on the trauma the Ja­panese peo­ple are still suf­fer­ing from what they call the Great East Ja­pan Catas­tro­phe and Western­ers re­fer to as Fukushima.

Shinkai had al­ready won a de­voted in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing for his ear­lier fea­tures, The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), 5 Cen­time­ters Per Sec­ond (2007) and The Gar­den of Words (2013). But none of them ap­proached the run­away suc­cess of Your Name., which be­came the num­ber one box of­fice hit in Ja­pan that year ($361 mil­lion) and the sixth-high­est gross­ing film of all time there. It was the first an­i­mated film not di­rected by Hayao Miyazaki to gross more than ¥10 billion ($92 mil­lion).

Weath­er­ing with You was pro­duced by Genki Kawa­mura (Mi­rai, Parasyte, The Boy and the

Beast) at Tokyo-based CoMix Wave Films with the 2D an­i­ma­tion cre­ated with Toon Boom tools. The movie is another crit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial suc­cess, earn­ing over ¥12.72 billion ($117 mil­lion), mak­ing it the 18th high­est gross­ing film in Ja­panese history and the top grosser of 2019. It re­ceived a 100% score on Rot­ten Toma­toes, and was cho­sen as the Ja­panese sub­mis­sion for the In­ter­na­tional Fea­ture Os­car — the coun­try’s first an­i­mated can­di­date since Princess Mononoke in 1998. It also won the top prize at Hollywood’s An­i­ma­tion Is Film fes­ti­val in Oc­to­ber.

As the film opens, teenager Ho­daka Mor­ishima

comes to a rain-sod­den Tokyo: he has run away from his is­land home­town, hop­ing to find more in­ter­est­ing life. Un­like the sen­si­ble, artis­tic Taki in Your Name., Ho­daka is im­petu­ous and im­prac­ti­cal: He has very lit­tle money and doesn’t carry the stu­dent ID card that would en­able him to get a part-time job. While liv­ing on the streets of Shin­juku, Ho­daka meets Hina Amano, an appealing girl who treats him with kind­ness. He dis­cov­ers she’s an or­phan, strug­gling to care for her­self and her younger brother, Nag­isa.

But Hina also pos­sesses a power out of leg­end: She can call to the sun to part the clouds

‘When I was mak­ing Weath­er­ing with You, I thought about how to make the film more en­joy­able to a larger au­di­ence, be­cause the au­di­ence for Your Name. was so much big­ger than for any of my pre­vi­ous films. I wanted to make some­thing that would re­ally de­serve the at­ten­tion of so many peo­ple.’’ — Writer-di­rec­tor Makoto Shinkai

and shine on peo­ple --for a brief time. Ho­daka hatches a scheme to ex­ploit her ta­lent, which brings them hap­pi­ness and more money than they’ve ever seen in the hard­scrab­ble world of the post-Bub­ble Ja­panese econ­omy.

A Boy, a Girl and a Wa­ter Disas­ter

“I don’t re­ally think of this as a boy-meets­girl story,” Shinkai com­mented dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at An­i­ma­tion Is Film. “A boy does meet a girl, but I didn’t write it as a love story. It’s more about an ado­les­cent boy find­ing some­one who is re­ally im­por­tant to him, then what he goes through with her.”

Shinkai ex­plained that the in­spi­ra­tion for the film came from the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal and ge­o­log­i­cal threats the Ja­panese peo­ple face: “Ev­ery sum­mer, there’s a wa­ter disas­ter of some sort. But in re­cent years, there have been more dis­as­ters, more earth­quakes, more wa­ter dis­as­ters — and in Oc­to­ber, Typhoon Hag­ibis struck. Liv­ing in Ja­pan, I’ve seen a lot of dis­as­ters, so the film prob­a­bly re­flects that fact.”

In Ho­daka’s Tokyo, it rains con­stantly, flood­ing sec­tions of the low-ly­ing city. Com­men­ta­tors have in­ter­preted the un­ceas­ing rains as a metaphor for cli­mate change. Like other young peo­ple around the world, Ho­daka and Hina feel trapped in the rapidly warm­ing, in­creas­ingly in­hos­pitable planet pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions have left them.

“In Gar­den of Words, I used rain as a visual chal­lenge,” Shinkai said. “Hav­ing done that, in Weath­er­ing with You, I wanted to use the rain more emo­tion­ally. It’s al­ways rain­ing, just as there’s al­ways this peer pres­sure mem­bers of the young gen­er­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence: Peo­ple have to be a cer­tain way. All these emo­tions keep ac­cu­mu­lat­ing, just like the rain ac­cu­mu­lates. I wanted to ex­press that with the rain.”

“Also, Tokyo is a city full of black as­phalt, and when it rains, it gets re­ally black,” he added. “I imag­ined an im­age of a girl wear­ing a white sweat­shirt stand­ing on the black as­phalt and the light just spread­ing around her.”

Knowl­edge­able view­ers have noted that if any­one needed to re­con­struct early 21st cen­tury Tokyo, they could use Weath­er­ing with You as a tem­plate. Shinkai’s de­pic­tion of the city is metic­u­lously and ac­cu­rately de­tailed. The metropo­lis al­most be­comes another char­ac­ter in the story.

“I wanted to make Weath­er­ing with You re­ally re­lat­able for Ja­panese au­di­ences,” Shinkai said em­phat­i­cally. “This is the city that we live in, this is the city we see on the screen. So there’s a McDon­ald’s in Shin­juku — just as there is in real life — and we use real cor­po­rate lo­gos in the film, un­like most an­i­mated fea­tures.”

The di­rec­tor felt is was so im­por­tant to have Ho­daka and Hina meet in a real McDon­ald’s, rather than one of the ob­vi­ous spoofs in other anime, he met with McDon­ald’s ex­ec­u­tives in Ja­pan and even­tu­ally per­suaded them to grant per­mis­sion to use the fa­mous Golden Arches.

Mu­si­cal Sto­ry­telling

The rock band Rad­wimps wrote and per­formed the mu­sic for Your Name., draw­ing praise from crit­ics and fans. Shinkai wanted to work with them again for his new film.

“For Your Name., Rad­wimps did a won­der­ful com­po­si­tion, but in Weath­er­ing with You, they ac­tu­ally changed the story,” he re­called. “I wrote the script, but when I sent it to Rad­wimps, lead vo­cal­ist/song­writer Yo­jiro Noda wrote the lyrics to ac­com­pany the film. His lyrics made me bet­ter un­der­stand the char­ac­ters of Ho­daka and Hina bet­ter, so I changed cer­tain scenes and some of the di­a­logue. Rad­wimps aren’t just com­posers now: They re­ally got in­volved in the sto­ry­telling.”

As Your Name. broke so many records, fol­low­ing up its suc­cess could be daunt­ing. But Shinkai ap­proached his new film with his ac­cus­tomed mod­esty: “Your Name. was a hit, but Weath­er­ing with You was only my first film af­ter it. When I was mak­ing Weath­er­ing, I thought about how to make the film more en­joy­able to a larger au­di­ence, be­cause the au­di­ence for Your Name. was so much big­ger than for any of my pre­vi­ous films. I wanted to make some­thing that would re­ally de­serve the at­ten­tion of so many peo­ple.” ◆

GKIDS will re­lease Weath­er­ing with You in the­aters on Jan­uary 17, 2020.

Come Rain or Shine: The new Makoto Shinkai movie cen­ters on a high school boy runs away to Tokyo and be­friends an or­phan girl who seems to be able to ma­nip­u­late the weather.

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