Tokyo Through the Cracks
Makoto Shinkai broke into the scene with his 2016 masterpiece, Kimi No Nawa (Your Name). Kimi No Nawa¸upon its release, broke barriers, becoming the title of being the highest-grossing anime film AND Japanese film. Well, that was until the Chinese release of Studio Ghibli’s ever-popular masterpiece, Spirited Away in 2019. Indeed, Shinkai is slowly inching his way towards being the best Japanese animator, a title long held by the aforementioned Studio Ghibli’s Hiyao Miyazaki. Some critic even went as far as tagging Shinkai as the “New Miyazaki”.
Shinkai, however, is not in a rush to cease that title. Three years after the runaway success of Kimi No Nawa, he finally released another anime film, Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You) last July 18, 2019. Will it conquer the world stage the way its predecessor did? Will it live up to the hype? These were just amongst the bevy of questions that played around my mind when we stepped into the cold cloisters of the cinema to witness Shinkai’s newest masterpiece.
Tokyo, Japan is experiencing an uncharacteristically rainy weather, when it was supposed to be the peak of the summer season. Pitter, patter, the profuse falling of rain the skies are battering the pavements of Tokyo. Caught in the quagmire of the perpetual rain is Hodaka Morishima, a teenaged high schooler. He ran away from home and is overwhelmed by the tumult of Tokyo. Hodaka took on a job as Keisuke Suga’s aide. During an assignment to write about popular urban legends, he meets and befriends Hina Amano.
Hina recently lost her mother and is working hard to support her younger brother, Nagi. However, Hina is not your typical orphan. She had a gift, an unusual gift: she can manipulate the weather. Bonded by this knowledge and peculiar gift, the trio of Hodaka, Hina, and Nagi try to change the course of rainy Tokyo. But everything comes with a price, a price that could inevitably alter their lives, and that of the entire city.
One of the movie’s more riveting facets is its distinct premise. Echoing Kimi No Nawa, Shinkai again fused tradition with contemporary Japanese life in Tenki no Ko. The movie related the Shinto tradition of praying for a pleasant weather. Moreover, Hina is a personification of the urban legend hare-onna. A hare-onna is a person who is believed to bring sun to anywhere they go. In contrast, Hodaka was an ame-otako, a man whose presence invites rain.
Whilst its predecessor showcased the Tokyo’s chic and fashionable streets, Tenki no Ko highlighted, although subtly, Tokyo’s darker side. Shinkai made the spectators plod down Tokyo’s tawdry and part. Majority of the scenes occurred in dingy streets, love hotels, and bars. It is a world away from the ostentatious lights of Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing.
The cracks in the pavements of Tokyo were vividly portrayed during Hodaka’s search for a job. He met odd and shady people, including yakuza bosses who rebuffed him for being underage. Tenki no Ko’s Tokyo is dark, unforgiving even; a place where one must do anything in order to survive. It painted a view of Tokyo that is beyond one’s imagination, one that is rarely portrayed in anime movies. This stark contract makes the movie more fascinating.
Technically, the movie’s greatest achievements are its appealing graphics and musical score. Both elements were stellar. The movie vividly captured Tokyo’s perpetually revolving landscape. Tenki no Ko’s Tokyo viewed from a bird’s eye view is so realistic. It made the viewers feel the raindrops. There was an element of realism that hardly escapes the viewer’s notice.
Shinkai has that amazing talent of capturing Tokyo; not just the Tokyo we see in pictures but the Tokyo through the eyes of its denizens. The cracks, the glamour, and the fanfare were all there. Through Tenki no Ko, he was able to portray Tokyo’s darker side through amazing cinematography. The moving snapshots of the city was, as always, outstanding. This is something that Shinkai is thoroughly great at, drawing the viewers with the imagery that is tinged with a bit or reality.
One of the movie’s sweeping facets is its depiction of Tokyo’s past, present, and future. By exploring Tokyo’s and Japan’s drastically changing weather as of late, the references to climate change were palpable. It is a timely and relevant issue but, unfortunately, this subject wasn’t explored more. Rather than highlighting the potential dangers of these unpredictable weather changes, the movie showed how the rain foiled the fun of summer days for the younger Japanese generations.
In dichotomy to the cold damp weather, there were several heartwarming interactions among the characters. Kimi no Nawa’s Taki and Mitsuha did some cameos; their interjection brought some nostalgia amongst the moviegoers. As characters, Hodaka and Hina were interesting and relatable. Very little is known of their past but a simple reference to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye gave one a hint of Hodaka’s history. However, Hodaka’s docile nature in Tokyo makes him no Holden Caulfield, however.
Just like the typical teenagers, some of their actions were governed with hints of selfishness. Hodaka summed it up nicely with his realization that, although the world maybe crazy and nature might take its course, we are still governed by our choices. Their choices, however, disregarded the bigger consequences and when confronted with these dire consequences, they didn’t seem to give it so much reflection or thought.
It is inevitable not to draw comparisons between Tenki no Ko and Kimi no Nawa. Tenki no Ko resonated a lot of elements of Kimi no Nawa. There was too much Kimi no Nawa stamped all over its successor, dampening the overall experience. They are two contrasting stories but suffice it to say that Shinkai tried to replicate the winning formula he had for Kimi no Nawa. This time around, the formula was not effective.
What Kimi no Nawa achieved was transcendental and it is this lofty achievement that Tenki no Ko tries to emulate. It was quite difficult not to compare the two movies as, individually, they were both good. There was too much of the element of the former embedded in the latter for me not to notice. Besides, Kimi no Nawa was two steps ahead of its successor. It didn’t help that some of the story lines in Tenki no Ko were unsatisfactorily resolved.
It was just too sad that Tenki no Ko was overshadowed by its predecessor. It may not have flowed seamlessly, but it was still a heartwarming coming-of-age story. There were several upstanding elements that gave the viewers glimpses of Shinkai’s genius. Irrefutably, he has that knack in fusing traditions and contemporary living. It was so fascinating to witness, making me excited for what he has in store in his next works.
7 Raindrops out of 10
P.S. This is my first time doing a movie review so do please excuse me if there were elements that I wasn’t fully able to explore.