Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to 2016s anime phenomenon Your Name hit UHD last week thanks to GKids in a gorgeous deluxe limited 4K UHD collector’s edition. The film continues the director’s streak with another masterwork that will no doubt solidify his reputation as one of the great Japanese anime auteurs with its mix of sci-fi/fantasy/coming of age romance. That’s not an easy mix to pull off, but the film does it flawlessly while also digging into the bleak nihilism that seems to creep into the narratives of a certain caliber of Japanese filmmakers.
Weathering With You is an original work that takes place in alternate reality of 2021, where Tokyo has been inundated with rain for months on end. From there it’s the age-old story — boy meets magical girl; who then turns out to be cursed. In this case young runaway Hodaka Morishima flees the county side for Tokyo where he meets Hina Amano in a McDonald’s in one of the most egregious scenes of product placement since Mac and Me. From there we discover Hina is a “Sunshine Girl”, which essentially means she can summon the sun for brief periods of time and give those around her a respite from the rain that’s been inundating the city. The enterprising young pair decide to offer Hina’s services to the public as they soon discover the only way to fix Tokyo’s non-stop downpour is if the young girl offers up her own life in exchange. By this point Hodaka is head over heels in love with Hina and will do almost anything to stop this, but can he?
While trafficking in well-worn tropes Weathering excels with a cast of memorable characters coupled with a dense mix of hard sci-fi/fantasy. The film flirts with climate change and its very real outcome, which definitely caught me off guard. The love story here at the center of the film is as engaging as you’d expect, given Shinkai’s work on Your Name, but it’s the world around the couple that really elevates the material. Things aren’t simply black and white here; the film is filled with nuances and shades of gray that invites the audience to draw their own conclusions about the choices of our protagonists. I think the piece of the film that toys with fatalism and nihilism is what makes this more than your standard magical girl romance and shows Shinkai’s brilliance as a writer within the genre confines.
A limitation of digital presentations is normally the more activity you have on screen the harder the codec has to work to render all that action smoothly. Rain and water are notoriously two of those things that cause pixelation or distortion in an image. That being said Weathering has A LOT of water and rain, but luckily its presented beautifully on a 4K UHD disc and the picture quality in these scenes is nothing short of flawless. This allows the viewer to fully appreciate the animation techniques and design of some of the colorful creatures that are birthed from the sky. The colors here are super rich and this 4K disc also highlights the crisp hybrid computer/hand drawn animation at work. This is paired with an immersive DTS 5.1 soundtrack that definitely takes full advantage of the sound field when portraying the weather and storms as expected definitely makes this the definitive viewing option for the film.
For those familiar with the Japanese 4K, GKids are definitely giving US fans an edition that is a worthy competitor at half the price point no less. Along with the 4K UHD, you get the film on Blu-ray, another Blu-ray with a feature length doc on the making of the film and the CD soundtrack. Also included in the box is a 13.25 x 21.25 poster, a sticker and a 104 page book with interviews, character designs and more. This is all housed in a very sturdy slip cover that collects this great presentation in a package that should please any fan of this animated masterpiece.
While I liked Your Name, I absolutely adored Weathering With You, this is probably thanks to the film’s more realistic approach to the film’s outcome and the ambigiuousness of the morality of the ending. I was kind of in awe for a moment that the film actually went there, and its something I’ve been mulling over since. Makoto Shinkai has crafted a more mature follow up that is easily my favorite film by the director and easily a masterpiece. I also have to note that while I am a subs guy normally, the dub here is quite good as well with a very compelling cast who do the original a worthy localization.
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