There is beauty to Makoto Shinkai’s works; colors, sounds, and emotions blend seamlessly into scenes of esotericism at times, and grounded contemplation at others. Weathering with You is no exception in its exploration of new love, growing up, and responsibility. In a world where we are constantly being reminded of the responsibilities and burdens of younger generations, the struggles and tribulations of its main characters are relatable to painful degrees at times. The backdrop of impending environmental catastrophe haunts this story, but it is also the catalyst of our reflections into our place in modern society and a reminder that even when it pours, the sun always shines beneath the clouds.
When we meet him Morishima Hodaka is a lost teenager; it becomes quickly clear that he is a runaway. He is radiant and full of life at first; even Tokyo’s never-ending rain is a source of marvel. Joy soon turns to perplexity for him however when he comes to face with the reality of things. He desperately tries to make his way through the thick fog that is Tokyo, desperately trying to find a job and a roof, but in vain. It is during this time that he meets the story’s deuteragonist, Hina Amano, who offers him a free burger out of compassion. Later, Hodaka’s solace comes via his visit to Keisuke Suga who he had fortuitously met on the ferry trip to Tokyo; He is soon to learn that sunshine sometimes comes from the most unexpected places.
In many ways, Suga’s magazine is a representation of the inner desires of people. It is not unusual for people to look for an escape in mystery, away from the discomforting realities of life. Through the interview done with Hodaka and Natsumi, we are given a glimpse for the first time of the legend of the sunshine girl circulating in society. It is not unusual for people to find escape in fantastical and incongruous stories; in a world forsaken by the light of the sun, there is a comfort in the idea that a savior might come to your aid. Shinkai criticizes this viewpoint; it is better to choose than to be the product of consequences he tells us.
Life is chaos; it ebbs and flows, swirls and breaks, and often like Hodaka we are at the mercy of the wheel of fortune. Hodaka and Hina both seek sunshine; they feel lost in the world they live in. Hodaka’s life in his hometown is never shown, only alluded to, we only hear of the stiffness he felt. The exercise in imagination that Shinkai subjects us to allows us to empathize with Hodaka on a fundamental basis; whether from small-town life, complicated family situations, or boredom he invites us to remember our feelings of estrangement, we do not need to know Hodaka’s situation to understand his craving. A subtle shot of a copy of J.D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, a book usually associated with rebelliousness, alludes to the feeling of alienation that Hodaka felt and his search for a place where he might truly belong.
Similarly, Hina feels abandoned in the world after her mother’s passing; she desperately tries to live on to her responsibilities as Nagi’s sister, but like Hodaka, the world continuously reminds her that she is too young. Both feel the pressure of a society that rejects them based on their age, despite them too only wishing to find a place where they can belong. She is forced to lie on her age to find employment, much like with her time as the sunshine girl Hina desperately tries to adapt herself to find a place in society, even at a cost.
“I am in love with this sunshine girl job, I’ve found my role in life” – Hina
Shinkai posits a generational disconnect in his work, throughout their story Hina and Hodaka are often mistreated and misunderstood by the adults around them. Even Suga would be quick to give up on Hodaka in the face of the risk of losing his chance at the guardianship of his daughter; selfishness is often indissociable from desire. The adults that we meet are often oblivious and cannot empathize with the issues of the younger generation. Suga’s mother-in-law does not understand the efforts he makes to be with his daughter, the policeman that arrests Hodaka considers his despair as a mere annoyance and society refuses Hina and Nagi’s wish to remain together; they are unable to connect to the younger generation.
Shinkai strikes at the budding issue of the ever-growing generational gap; as years go, old and young become increasingly estranged. In a world plagued by an impending natural disaster, the parallel to our world is striking. In the behavior portrayed by the adults of Weathering With You, Shinkai echoes the contemporary rhetoric on the environmental burden; after the environment was used and abused by past generations, it is now incumbent on the current generation to shoulder those consequences.
Weathering With You remind us that we are not impervious from the real and moral ramifications of our actions because they are partly the product of chance. The gun that Hodaka picks up is a representation of that, it is fired only once, in a mistaken show of force to defend himself from an assault. Yet, the ramifications of that action are felt throughout the film; to every action, there is a reaction and in a ‘moral’ society excessive force like shooting a gun has its consequences. These would eventually come to haunt Hodaka when the police follow his track, resulting in the breakup of the idyllic situation Hodaka, Hina and Nagi were in and with it the sunshine girl.
However, through the loss of the sunshine girl persona, Hina can meditate on her feelings. As a person in search of purpose, she felt relieved when she became of use to others. But as she starts to face the consequences of shouldering the burden of the whole of Tokyo, Shinkai reminds us that everyone has their role to play if their search for sunshine; again, reliance on a savior is no salvation at all. In a sense Shinkai’s message to younger generations is one of rebellion, to emancipate oneself from the burden of a world that weights down on us.
In many ways, the omnipotent gods that are at the center of Tokyo’s quandaries are a representation of this weight. They remain a mystery throughout the film, we are reminded that the sky is a mystery. In many ways, this is a symbol of those forces that affect our own lives; unbeknownst to us but an integral part of our lives Nature, politics, economics, disease or death are but a few examples of the wildcards that may come into play in our lives; as the fish gods these too are beyond our control, but as Shinkai reminds us, often what is important is what we do with the cards we are dealt.
After Hina disappears through her sacrifice to end the deluge, Hodaka is desperately runs to her aid, braving the cops at his pursuit, the sun may be bright outside but not for Hodaka. He is not the only one that feels her disappearance, Natsumi, Suga, and Moka feel it too. Shinkai’s dreary view of society becomes a bit clearer when the viewer realized the positive impact that Hina has had on all these people and the links she has forged. Hina is connected to the sky we are told, but in a way, she, like all of us, are all interconnected. Our actions have wide consequences and a singular sacrifice has more ramifications that are let on; people all live under the same sky, they are connected.
Suga too through this experience realizes the error of his ways and breaking through the dire portrayal of adults sheds tears as he empathizes with Hodaka. He understands the pain of losing someone loved, Hodaka’s search of Hina reminds him of the pain of the loss of his wife. He is finally able to understand Hodaka on a fundamental level.
As Hodaka reaches to the skies to find Hina, we understand that these two have found the sunshine they had been looking for in each other. They understand the consequences of Hina coming back down, Tokyo will drown But as the elderly lady later tells Hodaka, Tokyo like the, weather, is cyclic. Tomorrow pain might turn to joy, people have no choice but to keep grasping at the light and in doing so they must accept the consequences of their actions and the inevitability of life.
“Who cares if we don’t see the sunshine again! I want you more than any blue sky!” – Hodaka
Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You is through and through a love story that resonates with a younger generation that, like the films, main characters, often feel lost in the a world bent on telling them what they should be . He intricately balances desire inherent to humans with a strong moral on the responsibility that we bear for our actions. Like for Hodaka and Hina, life is not easy to navigate, we just have to keep chasing our rays of sunshine. In the end, Hodaka and Hina did change the world in their own way.