By Makoto Tanaka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer“Weathering With You” (original Japanese title “Tenki no Ko”), the latest animated work directed by Makoto Shinkai, was released last month and is now showing in cinemas across the country.
It is his first animated film in three years since “your name.” (Kimi no Na wa.), a critical hit that made Shinkai a director to watch all over the world.
“It’s a pure entertainment that makes you both laugh and cry,” Shinkai said of the new movie, a boy-meets-girl story between two teenagers.
In Japan, “your name.” grossed the second-highest box office revenue of all time among domestic films, earning more than ¥25 billion. The film won various awards at home and abroad. Fans also made headlines by flocking to places believed to have been featured in the film.
With the film’s unexpected success, however, Shinkai started hearing some people calling him names and criticizing him. Some would say it was a historically revisionist film (although it was fiction). Others would say they didn’t like the film’s introspective atmosphere (although that is a signature of Shinkai’s works).
“My earlier works were watched by people who liked my kind of films and chose to watch them by themselves. So there was a happy, codependent relationship between us, I think. With ‘your name.,’ I was able to meet people I hadn’t been destined to meet in the past. That was a both fortunate and shocking experience,” he said.
Why was he criticized? What made those people angry? “As I thought and thought, I started seeing where the core of my work lay,” he said.
“Your personal thoughts, wishes and prayers are not necessarily the same as those of society, are they?” he said. “Sometimes you may wish something you’re not supposed to. I started making ‘Weathering With You’ thinking I need to delve into such wishes again and I should make the film into something that would enrage the people who got angry after watching ‘your name.’ even more.”
In “Weathering With You,” Hodaka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo) runs away from his home on a remote island and comes to Tokyo, where it seems to rain every day, and he meets Hina (voiced by Nana Mori). They slowly fall in love. Hina has a supernatural power of bringing sunny weather just by praying.
Hodaka tends to cause trouble and commotions through his selfish and naive behavior. Shinkai gave him a controversial personality because, “I thought people actually want to see such a boy.”
Indeed, “Weathering With You” is a story of a boy who breaks away from society.
“I think that a human learns to walk straight while struggling to adjust to society and running into a wall. But it’s not that everyone is walking straight. I have a feeling that I’ve been helplessly deviating [from the straight path] myself, so I feel connected to such people,” he said.
Born in 1973, Shinkai comes from Nagano Prefecture and made his commercial debut as a director in 2002 with the short animated film “Voices of a Distant Star” (Hoshi no Koe), which he made almost entirely by himself. The film became a surprise hit and sent shock waves through the animation industry. He has a following in Japan and overseas as a creator who spins out lyrical stories of a young man and a young woman with beautiful colors and delicately subtle words, such as in “5 Centimeters Per Second” (Byosoku 5 centimeters) in 2007.
Come to think of it, his works in the 2000s were defined by an introspective protagonist reflecting on himself or herself. Things changed after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. “I think that the vague feeling that life goes on like this forever disappeared,” Shinkai said.
Such changes in the air in society urged him to start creating more active protagonists, which ultimately led to the more active characters in “your name.” and “Weathering With You.”
This time he chose weather as the theme, a subject familiar to everyone, unlike war with another country or the impact of a comet. “I wanted audience members to think this is their story,” he said. “I’ve never meant to create a romantic love story. I tend to choose a young man and a young woman as lead characters because such characters are easy to draw when you make a work of entertainment. They could be of the same sex or just friends. I like stories in which someone is strongly yearning for another person.”
“I think I’ve done something different from Toho Co.’s usual mainstream films for summer holidays, which are like, ‘Everyone would be happy if it ends like this,’” Shinkai said at a press conference in Tokyo on July 2, referring to the film’s distributor. “I guess this film has an aspect that throws out the question, ‘What do you think?’ I stayed aggressive throughout at the risk of getting criticized. But what I cared about most is to make a work that simply entertains people. Their opinions may vary, but I don’t want them to think they’ve wasted their time or money.”
As with “your name.,” rock band Radwimps is in charge of music, including five theme songs. The band was joined by actress Toko Miura as an additional vocalist. The film will be distributed in 140 countries and territories.