TL;DR – Hina is the ‘sunshine girl’, a person with the power to halt the rain. She meets Hodaka and together they earn a living bringing sunshine to people requesting fine weather for events. But Hina hasn’t told Hodaka that using her power comes at a cost and that eventually the price that she will pay is her life.
Review (warning: spoilers)
In a hospital in Tokyo, Hina Amano sits next to her dying mother who is hooked up to a ventilator and bedside monitor. The rain pouring outside reflects the sadness inside the room, but as Hina looks out the window she spies a ray of golden sunlight that splashes across the rooftop of a building like a beacon. Drawn to the phenomenon, Hina rushes outside, umbrella in hand, and locates the building. She ascends to the rooftop and discovers a garden shrine with a Torii gate. With heart in mouth, she clasps her hands together in prayer and walks beneath the Torii wishing she could make the rain stop so she can take her mother outside in sunny weather.
Her prayer is answered but not probably in the way she anticipates. Hina becomes the mythical weather maiden. She has the power to bring about fine weather for brief periods of time, but the rain will continue to fall over Tokyo until she sacrifices her life. The more she uses her power the more her body turns to water until she disappears completely. Only then will the abnormal rain stop and Tokyo’s weather return to normal.
Enter high school student, Hodaka Morishima, running away from home. He heads to the big city but is unable to find work. To make matters worse, the city seems to be against him. Though he tries to mind his own business, strangers try to talk to him, a pair of police officers try to question why he is alone in the city at night, another man trips him causing him to stumble into a rubbish bin, and as he pick up the rubbish, he finds a gun in the trash. Everything about Tokyo yells danger and scares him, making Hodaka wonder whether it was wise to run away.
He winds up in a McDonalds restaurant, hungry and broke. There he meets Hina, who happens to work there. Seeing the pitiful state Hodaka is in, she gives him a burger on the house though she shouldn’t be doling out free food. This act of kindness renews Hodaka’s decision to go it alone. Their paths will cross again as Hodaka seeks to navigate how he will survive and make a life in Tokyo.
Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai, the animation is a feast for the eyes as is expected if you have seen Shinkai’s previous films. I’ve also concluded that he has an obsession with rain. The Garden of Words and to a lesser degree, Your Name, both have significant scenes involving rain. Perhaps he knows that animating rain is atmospheric, but clearly for his last few films, it is a key motif in his stories.
Shinkai also has a particular view (or dare I say connection) with characters that are torn apart or experience forlorn love. How much of this comes from his own personal experiences, I don’t know, but his body of films commonly centre around two characters who feel connection when they are together and disconnected and broken when they’re apart.
Voices of a Distant Star, 5 Centimetres per second, The Garden of Words, Your Name, and now Weathering with You all tell stories along these lines. However, even with this familiar formula, when combined with the outstanding animation, you still end up with an evocative and moving film.
When you discover that Hina is trying to take care of herself and her brother because her mother has passed away, and Hodaka is trying to escape his own circumstances at home, you know that they’re kindred spirits. When Hina reveals her powers to Hodaka, he sees a way for them to earn a living by setting up a website to hire out their services to provide good weather for events such as weddings and flea markets. Of course, Hina doesn’t reveal to Hodaka that using her sunshine powers comes at a cost until it’s too late.
When Hina disappears into the other world in the sky (as goes the mythical story surrounding the tragic fate of the weather maiden), Hodaka seeks to enter that other world and save her. He manages to achieve this through a crazy series of events including police chasing him and him firing the gun he found in the rubbish bin. The animation when Hodaka enters the sky world and the music that follows this sequence is magical stuff. And though he succeeds in bringing Hina back to earth, it results in rain falling in Tokyo for years to come causing flooding and much of the city to become submerged. In addition, Hodaka and Hina are separated (Hodaka’s parents filed a missing person and the police arrest Hodaka and take him home). For three years, they are apart as Hodaka serves his probation but they reunite at the film’s finale. It leaves an ambiguous end for the fate of the city but the fate of our pair is secured.
8 out of 10