The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: Makoto Shinkai

Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below: A Review and Full Recommendation on Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 Film At the Ten Year Anniversary

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” –Haruki Murakami

Ever since her father passed away, Asuna Watase spends her free time looking after the house while her mother works, and listening to music emanating from a mysterious radio that once belonged to her father with her cat, Mimi. One day, she encounters a boy named Shun after running into a Quetzalcoatl, a beast from the ancient world. After tending to Shun’s wounds, Asuna befriends him, but he falls to his death from the cliff ledge. The next day, Asuna is surprised that their new substitute instructor, Ryūji Morisaki, gives a lesson on the legend of Agartha, a world inhabited by the dead, and ends up speaking to him to learn more. Upon returning to her secret spot, Asuna is surprised to find another boy, Shin, there. It turns out he’s here to recover the Clavis fragment Shun had dropped, but the pair are cornered by Archangel, a paramilitary group searching for Agartha. Shin and Asuna manage to escape underground, with Archangel in pursuit. It turns out that Ryūji is leading the operation, and after a confrontation, Ryūji secures Asuna’s Clavis, giving him access to Agartha: Ryūji had been longing to resurrect his deceased wife. Upon arriving in Agartha, Ryūji and Asuna set off for the Gate of Life and Death, while Shin returns to the village and learns that his assignment had been unsuccessful, since Asuna possessed a Clavis fragment of her own. When Asuna is captured by the Izoku, monsters that fear the light, she encounters a little girl named Manna. Shin rescues them, but after Ryūji locates the two, Asuna persuades Ryūji to allow Shin to accompany them. In the village, the elder reluctantly allows Asuna and Ryūji to stay the night as repayment for having saved Manna, but warns that outsiders have always been an ill-omen in Agartha. The next morning, Asuna and Ryūji continue with their journey, while Mimi stays behind and passes away peacefully. After Manna offers Mimi’s corpse to a Quetzalcoatl, Shin notices the village’s soldiers riding out to intercept Asuna and Ryūji. He sets off after them with the aim of saving Asuna, but is promptly defeated in combat. The commander notes he’s betrayed Agartha and leave him to die, while Asuna and Ryūji arrive at the Gate of Life and Death. Unable to carry on, Asuna sets off and makes her way back to the surface, leaving Ryūji to climb to the bottom of the pit alone. As night falls, Asuna is tailed by a horde of Izoku, and laments having accepted this journey because she’d been feeling abandoned. Before the Izoku can kill her, Shin arrives and save her. They grieve Shun’s loss together and return to the Gate of Life at Death. Here, they encounter the Quetzalcoatl who’d accepted Mimi’s corpse, and learn it too is dying. Before it dies, it sings a song and offers to carry the pair down to the Gate of Life and Death. Upon crossing the barrier, they find Ryūji preparing to make his wish of bringing his wife back. However, the cost of resurrecting those from the dead is immense, and Ryūji loses his right eye, while Asuna is sacrificed to act as a vessel for his wife’s soul. Shin manages to destroy the Clavis and stop the process, saving Asuna but leaving Ryūji inconsolable. However, Shin notes that all living things come to an end and implores Ryūji to continue living for his wife’s sake. The pair accompany Asuna back to the portal leading to the surface and bid her farewell: Ryūji’s decided to remain behind in Agartha. Later, Asuna glances at the cliff where she first met Shin and Shun, before heading off to school with a smile on her face. This is Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, literally “Children Who Chase Stars”, and from here on out, Children Who Chase Lost Voices for brevity), Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 film that remains his longest work and treads on territory that is is explored nowhere else amongst his repertoire.

At its core, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents a bold new direction for Makoto Shinkai: although distance and separation still figures in the film’s central themes, as it had in his previous works, Children Who Chase Lost Voices deals predominantly in death and moving on. The film opens with Asuna, whose days are peaceful but lonely. When she encounters Shun one day, only for their time together to be cut short after Shun dies, she finds herself longing for a world where she could be together with those important to her again. That Ryūji appears as a substitute instructor shortly after is no coincidence, and more so than Asuna, Ryūji is seeking out what appears to be impossible, in locating a way to Agartha, the underworld, and its supposed means of bringing the dead back to life. This meeting sends Asuna on a journey into the fantastical realm that had hitherto been the stuff of legends, and through this adventure, Asuna comes to terms with her own desires. Meeting Shun had temporarily stemmed her feelings of loneliness, a consequence of living lengthy days without her father, who passed away when she’d been younger, and her mother, who works long days at a local clinic as a nurse, so it was natural that Asuna had desired more concrete relationships with people. Travelling through Agartha, and speaking to the underworld’s inhabitants, helps Asuna to accept that death and departure is a natural part of life, not to be lamented or feared, but accepted. Indeed, when Asuna leaves Mimi behind, she shows that she is able to let go of attachments in life. Conversely, Ryūji is unable to achieve the same, and his single-minded determination to reach Agartha and resurrect his deceased wife is a tale of tragedy. While he is knowledgeable and measured, he is also obsessed, and this obsession binds him to what should be obvious: that wishes contradicting the natural order will exact a heavy toll. He alone is able to reach the Gate of Life and Death to issue his wish, but the process leaves him disfigured and very nearly costs Asuna her life. Because Asuna is able to do what Ryūji could not, Children Who Chase Lost Voices indicates that our impressions of life and death are shaped early on, and while children may not be fully aware of the ramifications surrounding things like loss, they are also more open-minded and are more perceptive than adults believe. As such, when children ask about things like death, it is important to answer difficult questions truthfully and to the best of one’s knowledge, while at the same time, allowing children to also draw their own conclusions.

Beyond exploring a new theme in a novel setting, Children Who Chase Lost Voices also acted as a trailblazer for Shinkai; in his older works, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Five Centimetres Per Second, the female leads were ethereal and delicate. Sayuri and Akari wound up being abstractions rather than full-fledged characters in order to facilitate Hiroki and Takaki’s growth. Conversely, Asuna has a much larger role in Children Who Chase Lost Voices compared to her predecessors; although she’s accompanying Ryūji, Asuna is shown as being very energetic and cheerful, even taking the initiative to do what she feels is right in a given moment. When they first arrive, Asuna heads off and finds sweet potatoes for herself and Ryūji. Later, she tries to rescue Manna when the Izoku begin appearing, and she is the first to accept that saying “goodbye” is a part of life, when she parts ways with Mimi. This is significant, marking a return to female characters with strength and agency. Asuna isn’t swept away by her circumstances, but instead, takes charge in making her own decisions, and for this reason, is able to find the answers she’d sought by visiting Agartha. This is in complete contrast with Sayuri, who falls into a coma and serves as Hiroki’s reason to fly up to the tower, or Akari, whose feelings for Takaki remain unanswered when she and her parents end up moving. Giving Asuna agency changes how Children Who Chase Lost Voices feels compared to its predecessors, and indeed, Shinkai would apply these lessons into the future: The Garden of Words‘ Yukari, Your Name‘s Mitsuha and Weathering With You‘s Hina each demonstrate the same autonomy and seize on a chance to change their situation, and even though circumstance steers them towards trouble, everyone winds up finding their own path anew. This creates more variety in Shinkai’s films, and indeed, having a female lead capable of making her own decisions and judgement would leave Shinkai’s works stronger than before. They’re no longer about separation and distance, but instead, depict the incredible lengths people go to make the most of things. While Children Who Chase Lost Voices might be among Shinkai’s lesser known works, especially when it stands in the shadows of The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You, this film remains highly significant and opened Shinkai up for more uplifting, optimistic stories about how people can take charge even when a situation appears to prohibit any sort of agency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Today marks the ten year anniversary to when Children Who Chase Lost Voices released to BD: back then, I was an undergraduate student, and I remember that term particularly well. After a brutal semester the year before, I came into the new year filled with resolve. Children Who Chase Lost Voices would’ve come late in the semester, just a few weeks before exams were set to begin, and I still remember writing about it at my old site, as well as sharing a handful of screenshots showcasing the incredible landscapes in what was then Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie.

  • Whereas most of Shinkai’s works are set in an urban area, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely rural; the movie opens with a day in Asuna Watase’s life, and although her days are quite lonely, she definitely has her game together, looking after the housework while her mother is at work. Par the course for a Shinkai movie, the visuals in this film are stunning, and ten years later, the artwork hasn’t aged a day. There’s a sense of coziness in the Watase residence as Asuna collects the laundry by evening; I’ve always had a fondness for this aesthetic, and there’s a certain romance about sleeping with an open window.

  • My area only allows for this about three months of the year, although when it does get that nice, it is downright pleasant. It’s now been ten days since I took possession of my new home, and during the past weekend, I spent both afternoons cleaning out every square inch of the place. It’ll be a while yet before we can move in, since there’s the matter of buying the furniture; it’s been remarkably fun to browse through catalogues and see what’s available. After the move, one thing I am looking forwards to will be spending more time honing my craft in cooking: I can cook well enough to get by, but it will be exciting to try out recipes I see in anime and films (the pan-fried fish and Japanese rolled omelettes Asuna is enjoying here look quite good, for instance).

  • Having tried out some outrageous recipes on occasion (my favourite being a double burger topped with caramelised onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg), I am getting old enough to feel that an afternoon doing housework or spent making something tasty is much more relaxing than trying to unlock weapons and attachments in hacker-filled multiplayer servers. A decade earlier, I had the reflexes to keep up with gamers, but nowadays, single player games are the only games I’ll seriously consider; they allow me to play at my own pace, and I can put the brakes on at any time to go anything else, whether it’s housework or go get some exercise.

  • Asuna’s days of solitude come to a quick end when she encounters a beast on the bridge leading to her hideout. Fortunately, a young man, Shun, shows up and saves her. Although Shun has no intention of harming this beast, it turns out that said beast is in pain, so Shun shifts gears and decides to put it out of its misery. In the aftermath, Shun and Asuna become fast friends, with Shun being especially interested in the radio that Asuna is rocking. It turns out that, since Asuna’s radio uses a special crystal, it picks up broadcasts from another world, one that Shun is familiar with.

  • Being able to appreciate the music means that a connection forms between Asuna and Shun. The events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, in a bit of irony, mirror that year: I met the person I’d come to fall in love with in Japanese class, and things began in a similarly unexpected manner, when I showed up in Japanese class wearing a full suit after giving a presentation at the university’s undergraduate symposium. We subsequently paired up on a project, and while rehearsing for the presentation, some of my classmates from health science wondered if I’d met someone special because they’d spotted us on break, and watching this movie together on my iPad.

  • At the time, I replied ‘no’ to my health science classmates; we’d been a great team and did well enough on the project, but we were merely classmates in Japanese at the time. Thus, we parted ways after term ended. However, as fate would have it, after the year ended, and I began studying for the MCAT, that this individual came back to my life – she’d started several summer courses, and I was wrapped up in studying for an exam far tougher than any I’d previously faced, so we supported one another through those busy times, getting to know one another better in the process. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna’s time with Shun ends up being even shorter; he came up to the surface to seek out something, but falls off the cliff edge and dies in the process.

  • The encounter with Shun might’ve been short, but the ‘blessing’ he provides for Asuna causes her heart to flutter. Timing is irrelevant in a romance, and people can indeed fall in love very quickly. At the opposite end of the spectrum, falling in love can sometimes occur only after a lengthy period of rediscovery and patience. Naturally, there’s no right or wrong approach; here, Asuna’s mother has returned home from her shift and is curious to know why Asuna appears to be preparing two servings of lunch. Asuna’s conversation with her mother suggests that despite spending little time together, the two remain quite close.

  • Because she’s unaware of Shun’s death, Asuna ends up waiting for him, to no avail. Mirroring Asuna’s uncertainty, it is raining quite hard; from The Place Promised In Our Early Days onwards, Shinkai begins making extensive use of lighting and weather to convey a certain atmosphere and aesthetic. This is most apparent in Five Centimetres per Second, where snowfall comes to denote longing and separation. By The Garden of Words, however, Shinkai suggests that there is a romance surrounding light rain; it is only on rainy days where Takao meets Yukari at Shunjuku Koen. Being set before The Garden of Words, the rainfall in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is used in a more conventional manner.

  • I remember seeing this scene in an early trailer for the film in late 2010, and altogether, the trailer had been remarkably captivating. Back then, Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had just become available, and I was still a complete novice to anime movies. Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had actually been the exception to the rule in that, while the anime movie had premièred in Japan in September, the home release became available just three months later, in December. Children Who Chase Lost Voices followed a much more conventional pattern: the film was premièred in May 2011 and hit the shelves a mere six months later.

  • The length between a theatrical première and home release has steadily increased over the past decade, going from an average of six months to eight months. More popular movies, such as Shinkai’s more recent movies, Violet Evergarden, Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleHai-Furi and SaeKano: Fine, had waits exceeding eleven months. Beyond being a bit of an annoyance, and something I’m fond of vociferously griping about, the gap actually has no bearing on my excitement about a given film; I’ve found that being able to watch a film at my own pace is really all that matters.

  • As it turns out, Asuna’s father had died when she’d been young. Back then, she hadn’t quite been able to grasp the enormity of such an event, beyond the fact that her father wasn’t going to return. Shinkai chooses to set things during the winter, both to provide a vivid contrast to the warm weather of the present, as well as to show the extent of despair and sorrow in the moment. When Asuna’s mother explains that Shun had died, denial immediately sets in; Asuna’s certain that Shun is fine even though there’d been reports of a corpse found earlier.

  • With Asuna’s original instructor preparing to head off on maternity leave, her class receives a substitute teacher in the form of Ryūji Morisaki, who provides a lesson about the world of the dead in Japanese folklore. Folklore and literature becomes an integral part of each of Shinkai’s subsequent works: after Children Who Chase Lost VoicesThe Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You each incorporate elements of classical Japanese mythology into details of his own creation. This creates a much more intricate, immersive world, and suggests that for Shinkai, his belief is that while things are always advancing, there are some traditions and values that shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

  • The topic of an underworld from which the dead can be revived intrigues Asuna, who begins to believe there might be a way to see Shun again. She heads over to the library in pursuit of more knowledge, and although today, the consensus is that the planet’s interior is solid, composed of a rocky mantle and metallic core rather than being hollow, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a story; fiction represents a space to explore what could happen if our wishes were realised, and more often than not, it turns out that having the power to do things like returning the dead to the world of the living often exacts a terrible cost.

  • After classes end, Ryūji speaks with Asuna’s instructor and learns that Asuna is a focused, well-behaved student. Meanwhile, Asuna’s classmate suggests that Ryūji’s wife had died long ago when Asuna remarks that she has a few questions for Ryūji surrounding the day’s lessons. Although the conversation is incomplete to viewers, it solidifies the idea that Asuna’s life is a lonely one; Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an excellent example of a film where things are slowly laid out for viewers to follow, providing enough depth to be compelling, but at the same time, does not demand that the viewer have a solid background in Japanese folklore and beliefs.

  • The precedence that Children Who Chase Lost Voices set carry forwards into Shinkai’s later works – Ryūji has been chasing the myth of Agartha since his wife had died. Delving through countless scrolls, tomes and commonplace books, he learnt that there were patterns throughout history to suggest Agartha was indeed real – originally, ancient beings known as Quetzalcoatl guided humanity, but humanity eventually reached a point where it could fend for itself, so the remaining Quetzalcoatl retreated underground and a few humans accompanied them.

  • Ryūji deduces that Asuna had been the one who encountered Shun, and believes that Asuna’s interest in Agartha similarly stems from a desire to bring someone back from the dead. The visual clutter in Ryūji’s apartment shows the extent of his interest in the underworld; the interior is filled with books, maps and charts. Of note is a confidential report whose contents are rendered entirely in English. After his radio lights up, Ryūji sends Asuna home and asks her to not take any detours, but on her way back, Mimi appears, and Asuna heads off in pursuit. She spots a glint from her hideout and rushes up here, where she encounters a young man no older than herself.

  • As it turns out, this is Shin, Shun’s younger brother. Their encounter is interrupted when an AH-1 Cobra shows up. The extent of Ryūji’s obsession with Agartha is such that he leads a paramilitary outfit known as Archangel to search for its entrance, and the fact that they possess a Cobra speaks to the extent of their resources – one could suppose that Archangel has investors who are curious about the wealth that Agartha possesses. When I first watched Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I initially thought that this was an AH-64 Apache, but the Cobra lacks the Apache’s distinct T700 turboshaft engines and single-barrel M230 30mm chain gun. Instead, one can spot the AH-1’s chin-mounted M197 20mm electric cannon.

  • Members of Archangel corner Asuna and Shin at the cliff’s edge: two soldiers accompanying Ryūji are armed with the Uzi. Even now, I can’t readily identify the sidearm that Ryūji himself is carrying, but I remain impressed with the acrobatics Shin is capable of: surprising the soldiers, he carries Asuna and leaps down into the forests below in an attempt to shake Archangel and return to Agartha’s entrance. However, his actions also lead Archangel straight to said entrance: the AH-1 Cobra follows in pursuit and quickly determines where the pair ended up.

  • The Clavis allows Agartha’s residents to carry out feats of superhuman strength and agility; with its magical properties, Shin moves a massive boulder to block off the entrance, before squaring off against a Quetzalcoatl he refers to as the Gatekeeper. This Quetzalcoatl was originally a guardian meant to keep outsiders from entering Agartha, but the Gatekeeper’s age means its senses are no longer as acute as they once were – it attacks Shin, forcing Shin to defend himself. However, using the Cobra’s 20 mm rounds, Archangel destroys the boulder with ease and enter the cave. Ryūji’s two soldiers then execute the Gatekeeper, and Ryūji identifies himself for Shin and Asuna’s benefit.

  • While Shin had been intending to fight Ryūji and his soldiers, once Ryūji explains that he’s here to seek out the Gate of Life and Death to resurrect his wife, Shin relents and lets Ryūji and Asuna be – outsiders had previously came to Agartha to plunder its treasures, but Ryūji’s wish is something for Agartha’s gods to pass judgement on. Moreover, Shin’s original assignment had simply been to retrieve Shun’s Clavis fragment. After Shin leaves, Ryūji gives Asuna the choice to turn back or accompany him. Having come this far, Asuna makes the choice to follow Ryūji, yearning to bring Shun back to life and see what lies beyond.

  • Ryūji leads Asuna onwards into the barrier separating the surface from Agartha: the Interstitial Sea. According to the legends, Agartha lies beneath this sea, which is composed of a fluid called aquavita, which is curious because aquavitae is the name for distilled spirits in reality. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, this fluid possesses properties that allow for liquid breathing, and once Asuna adjusts to the unusual sensation, she and Ryūji follow a path that leads deep into the planet. The sheer scale of the constructs underground far surpass anything that modern humans have the capacity to construct, suggesting that ancient humans and the Quetzalcoatl would’ve worked together to make their underground realm.

  • Asuna reawakens and is surprised that Mimi had accompanied them through the Interstitial Sea to Agartha. They find a Quetzalcoatl guarding the front entrance into Agartha, and Ryūji prepares to shoot it, but Mimi manages to convince the Quetzalcoatl that they’re visitors. As Ryūji and Asuna gaze upon Agartha’s landscape, the music crescendos majestically. The incidental music in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is composed by Atsushi Shirakawa (better known as Tenmon), who had previously worked with Shinkai on all of his films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices marks the last time Tenmon scores the music to Shinkai’s films, and to match the scope and scale of this film, the music has a much richer sound.

  • Although Agartha is doubtlessly wonderous, the choice to have the entrance set in the open plains also serves to emphasise how vast and empty the underworld is. This disconnect creates a sense of melancholy: while Asuna and Ryūji might’ve arrived in Agartha, this land might not hold the answers to the questions they possess. In the skies above, the Shakuna Vimana passes by. These vessels originate from Hindu texts, and as Ryūji notes, they’re the chariot of the Gods. The fact that Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below draws from so much mythology would suggest that the world’s myths, at least in this universe, have a common origin in Agartha.

  • While Shinkai’s previous films had been gorgeously animated, and his latest films surpass all expectations when it comes to visual detail, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is unique because it marks the first film set in a completely different world. This allows Shinkai and his animators to really explore landscapes and scenery from a fantastical world. In this regard, I do wish that Shinkai and his team would take a chance on settings beyond Tokyo: The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You feature Tokyo as its main setting, and as intricate as Tokyo appears, it would be interesting to see how Shinkai and his team’s advancing craft might portray other parts of the world, or other worlds.

  • After reaching some stone ruins, Ryūji sets down and consults his notes to determine their next destination, while Asuna ends up going exploring and finds Agarthan potatoes that end up being surprisingly tasty; it turns out that Asuna was able to find some salt in the stone ruins. Surprised with Asuna’s high spirits, Ryūji asks about how she’s feeling, and she replies that she’d been feeling amped since their arrival because there’s something she’s seeking out. Viewers can conclude that a part of Asuna still yearns to reunite with Shun, and the excitement she’s feeling comes from this possibility.

  • Back in a temple, Shin is debriefed by the elders; his original assignment had been to retrieve the Clavis that Shun had brought to the surface with him, and although he’d been successful here, the fact that is that Asuna and Ryūji have entered their world with another Clavis fragment in hand is worrying, suggesting that outsiders may yet interfere with things in Agartha and bring more troubles with them. To this end, the elders set Shin with recovering the Clavis fragment that Ryūji and Asuna possess. It turns out that Shun always been the preferred sibling for his powers, but possessed a desire to see the surface, which is what led him to Asuna. While Shin lacks the same power, he attempts to carry out his duties as best as he can.

  • While Shin had been set the goal of recovering the Clavis in Ryūji and Asuna’s possession by any means necessary, and remarks to another girl in the village, Seri, that if required, he’d consider lethal force, the reality is that Shin is torn between doing his duties, and doing what’s right. Their conversation supposes that exposure to the surface accelerates any illnesses one may have, and that both Shun and Shin are orphans who were raised by the village. His loyalty to them is a result of wishing to pay back the village’s kindness, although these loyalties do begin shifting.

  • Meanwhile, Ryūji and Asuna have taken refuge underneath a boulder to escape a rainfall. When Asuna makes an offhand comment about how Ryūji has come to be a father figure, Ryūji later dreams about the events that led them to Agartha. It turns out that his wife had died before he returned from his tour of duty during a war, and despite his efforts otherwise, Ryūji never moved on from his loss. The exact war is not known: while it would appear that Ryūji is fighting in the European Theatre during World War Two, he’s armed with an M4 Carbine with a Close Quarter Barrel Receiver. The M4 entered service in 1994, which complicates identifying which war Ryūji would’ve fought in, although since this is a dream, the smaller details would be secondary to the idea that Ryūji greatly misses his late wife.

  • When Asuna falls asleep, she ends up being taken by the Izoku, enigmatic monsters who can only travel through solid surfaces in the shadows while there is light (but when it is dark, they can roam freely). These beings are a part of the natural order in Agartha, although for the purposes of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, they exist to act as a reminder that life in Agartha has its own challenges. When Asuna comes to in the stone ruins, she finds another girl, Manna, here. The pair attempt to escape, but to no avail; the area is sealed off, and the nearest exit is too high to reach.

  • Fortunately, Shin arrives at the last possible second to save both Asuna and Manna. They manage to escape the ruins, but with the Izoku closing rapidly, Shin orders Asuna to jump into the river below; the Izoku have an aversion to water and will not traverse where water flows. The determined and plucky traits seen in Asuna bring to mind the likes of female leads from Studio Ghibli’s movies, marking a welcome new direction for Shinkai’s movies. Until now, I’d found that in his earlier films, the female leads were more passive, and lacked agency.

  • Conversely, in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna is driven and takes the initiative to make her own decisions. These traits carry over to The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You; a part of why these films are so successful is because female leads are impacting the story to a greater extent. Here, Asuna attempts to prevent Shin from being swept away in the river’s fierce currents, but Shin ends up taking an Izoku’s claw to the back and is swept off. Asuna leaps off after them in an attempt to rescue the pair, but the currents end up overcoming her, too.

  • The currents end up washing everyone downstream, where Ryūji finds them. Ryūji is relieved that Asuna is okay, but when Shin comes to and confronts Ryūji for the Clavis, he gets pistol-whipped. Disappointed with how Ryūji treats Shin, Asuna declares that they’ll bring Shin with them. Ryūji does not object, and upon arrival, their presence is almost immediately noted. The presence of outsiders prompt the local armed forces to appear; Agartha’s residents are deeply mistrustful of people from the surface, and here, a little more information is also provided regarding Manna: she’s mute as a result of having witnessed her mother’s death.

  • The commanding soldier initially turns Ryūji and Asuna back; the outsiders are treated as an ill omen in Agartha, and despite Asuna’s requests to get Shin looked at, the soldiers stand firm. Ryūji has no quarrel with the people of Agartha and makes to comply, but the village’s master, who also happens to be Manna’s grandfather, requests that the group be allowed to rest for one evening as recompense for having saved his granddaughter. The soldiers leave, and the elderly man bring them back to his home, where Shin is looked over and allowed to rest. As it turns out, Manna’s mother was from Agartha, and her father was from the surface; this is why the soldiers refer to Manna as “defiled”.

  • Speaking with the village’s master provides vital exposition that fills in remaining gaps about Agartha, and he explains that the antipathy for outsiders stems from a history where outsiders had arrived in Agartha to pillage and burn. Amongst historical figures who have done this include Julius Caeser, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin; it is implied that it was through the wealth of treasure and knowledge from Agartha that they were able to amass the resources to rule the world, but their expeditions also caused a great deal of harm and suffering to Agartha’s people. To prevent outsiders from returning, Agartha’s remaining residents sealed the gates that were once opened.

  • The fact that people from the surface brought death and destruction with them, enough to annihilate Agartha’s once-great civilisation, explains why there is so much hostility towards outsiders, and why ruins litter Agartha. With their birthrate declining, Agartha’s once-mighty people are now scattered in a vast, empty land. The village Master is surprised that Mimi (technically a Yadoriko rather than a cat), is so friendly with Asuna. These beings are said to accompany humans while they live, and then return to the Quetzalcoatl in death. This revelation does seem to reinforce the idea that Asuna’s father had a connection with Agartha. Here, Asuna is surprised to be offered a bath, and the sharp-eyed viewer will have noted that Asuna’s not really had the comforts of home since arriving in Agartha.

  • Being able to immerse herself in warm water and rest would seem like an unbelievable luxury after the trek she’d been on. Floral baths aren’t unique to Agartha, nor are the flowers present just for show. It turns out that taking a floral bath has some health benefits, and depending on the flowers used, different effects can be enjoyed, from improving circulation and skin hydration. Such a setup does look remarkably comfortable, although I’ve always been more of a shower person owing to the fact that a quick shower conserves water. After finishing up, Asuna gets dressed in an Agarthan-style outfit, and runs into Ryūji, who says the clothes don’t suit her, causing Asuna to pout.

  • Agartha’s cuisine appears to have an East Asian influence: Asuna had been seen peeling a daikon earlier, and they use chopsticks. Dinner proves delicious, and Asuna spends it savouring every bite. Over their meal, Ryūji asks the Master about his desire to resurrect the dead; he reasons that while this act is verboten in Agartha, that it is prohibited must imply there is a way to do so. The Master’s attempts to turn Ryūji from his desires to no avail, and is unable to convince Ryūji that life and death are a part of the natural world. I imagine that Ryūji does end up getting some answers, but this is not shown: the Master asks Asuna to look after Shin, who’s awake now and becomes worked up after Asuna mentions Shun.

  • The Master rightly notes that people who come to Agartha do so because of a great loss, and that a great many misunderstandings could have been avoided if said people had someone to talk to. This is true of Ryūji, and certainly true of Asuna. Through Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai aims to show how “adventure” is really just another way to say that after sustaining a loss, people wander. Without guidance and support, people can become lost in their own thoughts and venture down a path they might come to regret. As such, it becomes important to be compassionate and empathetic towards those who do suffer loss in their lives, while at the same time, giving them the space they need to recover.

  • The next morning, Ryūji and Asuna prepare to head off by boat, but to Asuna’s surprise, Mimi stays behind. This is shocking because Mimi had remained faithfully by Asuna’s side all this time, and as such, the unexpected change in behaviour is a result of Mimi preparing for death. For Asuna, being able to say goodbye to Mimi and part ways is a turning point in her character; she’s able to make peace with the fact that she won’t be with Mimi forever, and this sets the precedence for letting go of Shun, as well. Ryūji and Asuna travel under a gorgeous sunrise, and this moment captures the peaceful atmosphere within Agartha, as well as the fact that it is a world in decline: a massive ruin can be seen in this distance.

  • Mimi passes away, and after the Master reassures Manna it’ll be okay, the Master takes Manna out to a vast field, where Mimi’s remains are offered to a Quetzalcoatl. The one that arrives is an ancient one; one of its arms are blown off, although it accepts the offering and consumes Mimi. The Master notes that this is how Mimi returns to the world, and given the way things work in Agartha, one can suppose that here, the secret to immortality is simple enough: life is still finite, but what lingers after death, is what confers immortality.

  • The vastness of the field where Manna returns Mimi to the world is a visual metaphor for life and death itself; Shinkai indicates that the openness of such a space allows one to see great distances, and in this way, being out here corresponds to one accepting that what lies beyond life is not something to be feared. While Manna cries for the loss of Mimi’s life, Shin speaks with the Master and wonders if Asuna is able to accept life and death as two halves of a whole. The idea that death is not something to be tampered with is a theme that has long permeated fiction, and authors generally agree that those who attempt to raise new life from the dead or cheat death itself will face inevitable punishment.

  • The stakes increase when the village soldiers set off at full tilt for the same destination that Ryūji and Asuna are headed towards. The Master feels that their intention is to stop Ryūji and Asuna from reaching the Gate of Life and Death at all costs, even if it means killing them: Shin has spotted that the soldiers are carrying firearms, a sign that they mean business. When Ryūji spots them, he opens fire with his Uzi, but Shin uses his own dagger to knock the submachine gun from Ryūji’s hands before he can land any shots.

  • Noting that he’s acting to save Ryūji and Asuna, freeing himself from the debt he’d owed them, Shun now faces off against the soldiers in combat. Going from the single-shot weapons the soldiers are carrying, they would be easily bested by anyone carrying repeating firearms; repeaters first appeared in 1630 with the development of the Kalthoff repeater, and by the 1800s, revolvers and lever-action rifles had become commonplace. Since reloading presumably takes a while, the soldiers switch over to their swords and duel Shin one-to-one. Shin’s prowess impresses the commander, but he is ultimately beaten back.

  • The opening Shin creates allows Ryūji and Asuna to reach Finis Terra, a massive pit housing the Gate of Life and Death at its bottom. When Asuna glances over the ledge, the pit’s depth is such that the bottom cannot even be seen. This location likely was what inspired Your Name‘s scenery, when Taki and Mitsuha were finally able to meet one another during evening. However, Finis Terra (literally “end of the land”) possesses none of the warmth: it is raining here, and the skies are rapidly darkening as the sun sets. Tenmon uses an unearthly choir to convey the otherworldly feeling at this spot, which is easily the most unsettling place in the whole of Agartha.

  • As Asuna attempts to climb down what is a vertical cliff shear, a current rushes upwards and threatens to dislodge her; the effort proves too much, and Asuna decides to turn around and return to the village at Ryūji’s suggestion. The moment had been quite unnerving, and viewers get the sense that whatever lies at the bottom of the cliff does not want any surface-dwellers present. Even ten years later, this part of Children Who Chase Lost Voices remains quite tense, speaking to the incredible effort that went into the aesthetics for this film. While many things in my world have changed in the past decade, that anime films can still elicit the same response speaks to their staying power.

  • The extent of the changes to my world became clear earlier today, when I participated in a virtual panel to discuss career paths for alumni of my major. Joining me were my old program head, programme coordinator and two other panelists. While answering questions the students posed, I was sent down memory lane, recalling iconic health science moments, such as joining the lab that ended up being the basis for my graduate work, the various research symposiums I attended (and their free pizza), and the exams I studied for with my classmates. I was surprised to learn that there had been a question directed at me specifically, inquiring how I ended up as a mobile developer despite having started in health science.

  • The answer I gave was simple enough: while health sciences is about medical science and health policy, the inquiry and analytical skills students cultivate are versatile enough to be utilised in other disciplines, and health science has always encouraged the multidisciplinary approach towards problem solving. Coupled with the fact that I already had basic understanding of programming and software development, the transition wasn’t as abrupt as one might imagine. It did come as a bit of a surprise to me that the other panelists had a similar career progression, but as the department head stated, it’s okay not to know of one’s destination early in the game.

  • For Asuna, she set out for Agartha with a similar lack of destination in mind, and only vaguely knew that she wanted to speak with Shun once more. However, when the final leg of her journey becomes too much, she isn’t able to continue and turns back around. While this decision nearly costs Asuna her life, it also shows that Asuna is able to spot when things aren’t working. This is something that, during the panel, I mentioned as being an important thing to know – forcing ahead with something, as Ryūji does, can prove to be detrimental. However, Asuna’s journey is not meaningless, and her time in Agartha does prove instrumental in shaping her thoughts on life and death. Similarly, it is the case that one’s experiences, both good and bad, shape one’s current self, so if and when I’m asked, I do not regret taking a more crooked, uncertain path to the present, either.

  • Unfortunately for Asuna, the creek she’s traversing runs dry, and this allows the Izoku to finally capture her. In desperation, Asuna trains the sidearm Ryūji had given her, but unaccustomed to its recoil, she misses her shot. The aurora borealis here are especially visible: the night skies in Agartha are aglow with the ghostly dance of the northern lights. In reality, aurora result from the interaction of solar wind with oxygen and nitrogen atoms (which cause electrons to jump orbitals and release photons when they return to their ground state). Under ground, one would suppose that, since the skies of Agartha are blocked off by Earth’s crust, solar wind would never interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms down here. However, since the sun is visible down here, one must suppose that there are other forces at work, too.

  • I’m not here to break down the series for its faithfulness to reality because it is a meaningless exercise: just when Asuna is about to succumb to the Izoku’s grip, Shin shows up and kills the Izoku attacking her. The sun rises shortly after, forcing the remaining Izoku to retreat. With the morning here, both Shin and Asuna do feel as though there is new hope, now that the sun has risen. While the Izoku are a terrifying foe, Shin is able to kill one with a knife, leaving me to wonder if firearms would’ve been useful against them. The Izuko only show up in certain areas after night has fallen, and since the villages are safe, one must imagine that Agartha’s inhabitants have simply adjusted to their presence and placed their settlements away from the Izoku’s turf, rather than wage a campaign of extermination as contemporary humans are wont to doing.

  • After Shin and Asuna share their memories of Shun, they allow one another the time to cry themselves out. Asuna had been holding back her feelings, but here, she finally lets her emotions out. While society has reservations about tears, crying is an effective means of flushing out sorrow and grief: the process releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, which are hormones that create a feeling of calm. In the aftermath, both Shin and Asuna determine that they need to get Ryūji back – while he’s kept calm by his single-minded focus, this stubbornness has left him blind to the costs of resurrecting the dead.

  • After finally reaching the bottom of Finis Terra, Ryūji locates the Gate of Life and Death and ventures inside. The Shakuna Vimana feels the presence of a Clavis crystal and makes its way over to hear whatever wish Ryūji has in mind. Thanks to numerous warnings, both from the village Master, and common knowledge about the costs of raising the dead back into the world of the living, viewers will immediately gain a sense of unease at what Ryūji is trying to accomplish. What follows is then simple enough; Shin and Asuna must get back down and reach the Gate of Life and Death to stop Ryūji.

  • The same Quetzalcoatl that had accepted Mimi’s corpse has come here to Finis Terra to pass on, as well. Spotting Asuna and Shin, it offers them a ride down to the bottom, allowing the pair to bypass the treacherous descent that Ryūji would’ve had to had made. Coupled with Shin’s Clavis, the pair float down safely after the Quetzalcoatl vanishes from this world. I would imagine that the gap between Ryūji’s enormously difficult descent and the comparatively straightforward one Asuna takes is meant to be a metaphor for how sometimes, the things that are meant to be present much less resistance compared to the things we were not meant to have.

  • Once inside the portal, Shin and Asuna spot a faint glow coming from Ryūji: he’s managed to contact the gods’ vessel, which transforms into a monstrous, multi-eyed being. After regarding Ryūji, it prepares to grant his wish. However, recalling someone from death is not an easy feat, and the gods must first use a vessel in order to carry out the process. Asuna is immediately seized, and she slowly begins taking on the appearance of Ryūji’s late wife. Even Asuna’s sacrifice isn’t enough: the energy involved draws out Ryūji’s life force, and he becomes scarred in the process.

  • It is here that Shin chooses to act; to Ryūji, Asuna was expendable, and to grant Ryūji’s wish, Asuna would have to give up her life in order to allow Ryūji’s wife to come back. The question of sacrificing the young for the old is a very difficult topic, one that I’m certainly not qualified to discuss, but in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai suggests that this isn’t up for debate: the outcomes of this film indicates that Shinkai hedges his bets on youth and giving them a shot at the future. To this end, Shin attempts to shatter the Clavis and stop the process, but Ryūji overpowers him, allowing the process to reach completion.

  • Ryūji thus reunites with Lisa, and Asuna’s spirit is sent onwards, although Lisa appears to retain Asuna’s memories: she feels Shin to be familiar. Asuna’s spirit ends up meeting both Mimi and Shun; having found the strength to do so, Asuna manages to properly bid Shun farewell, and in this moment, Shin also shatters the Clavis. In her remaining moments, Lisa apologises for having lacked the strength to protect Ryūji and prepares to depart once more, leaving Ryūji to suffer the loss of death anew. By toying with forces beyond human comprehension, Ryūji ends up losing Lisa twice – this time would’ve hit even harder because Ryūji had, until now, been working towards this one moment, so to see everything taken away again would’ve been particularly devastating.

  • Although Ryūji desires death to escape the pain of loss and asks Shin to kill him here nad now, Shin implores Ryūji to live on instead. Asuna soon comes to, and unlike Ryūji, who’d come to Agartha with a very clear goal in mind and was unwilling to listen to those who tried to turn him away from his path, Asuna’s lack of preconceptions and singular objective in Agartha means that she was able to venture into this realm and gain something invaluable: knowledge and wisdom. Having now had the chance to properly say goodbye to Shun and Mimi, Asuna is finally ready to take a step forward and leave the deceased to rest.

  • The three prepare to make their way back to Agartha’s gateway: Ryūji elects to stay behind and learn from the Agarthans in order to find peace and come to terms with his wife’s death. Here, they make use of a ramp that leads back to Agartha’s surface – it is not lost on me that, had Ryūji been more patient and bothered to research this detail, his descent would’ve been less difficult, but then again, had Ryūji appreciated something like this, he might have never made the journey to Agartha at all. As Children Who Chase Lost Voices draws to a close, Anri Kumaki’s Hello, Goodbye and Hello begins to play. This song brought a solitary tear to my eye when I first watched this movie, being both upbeat and melancholy at the same time.

  • Some time later, Asuna returns to her old life on the surface, and having fully accepted that death is a natural part of life, is able to move on – she smiles before heading out the door for school, bringing the film to a close. While the themes in Children Who Chase Lost Voices are easily discerned, the me of ten years ago struggled to write about this film. I still had considerable difficulty with this post a decade later, but looking back, I would contend that, having ten more years of life experience and knowledge of Shinkai’s latest works together, is what allowed me to better convey how I feel about what is one of Makoto Shinkai’s lesser-known films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely overshadowed by Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You, but relative to its successors, is no less enjoyable and compelling, being an indispensable Makoto Shinkai experience. With this ten-year anniversary post in the books, I’ll return to wrap the month up with a talk on The Aquatope on White Sand after twenty-one, and remark that the MG Kyrios I ordered arrived today. I am looking forwards to building it once I confirm the status of the vacation time I’d requested a few weeks earlier.

Altogether, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents Makoto Shinkai’s boldest, most daring film to date. New themes and new character traits come together in a fantastical story portraying a setting none of his works have ever portrayed. Whereas Shinkai focuses on Tokyo in his films, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is set in rural Japan and the legendary world of Agartha, a place of rolling hills, ancient ruins, endless plains and a treacherous crater housing the Gate of Life and Death. Each setting is rendered in stunning detail, whether it be the interior of Asuna’s house and classroom, to the village and landscapes of Agartha. The end result of this level of detail is that Agartha is brought to life, becoming as convincing as any real-world location Shinkai traditionally sets his stories in. Bringing out the best in Agartha makes it clear to viewers that this world is as real as the one we’re familiar with, and consequently, the learnings that Asuna picks up here are certainly applicable in the real world, as well. In an interview, Shinkai states that he wanted to create a more optimistic messages about parting ways, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a film that completely succeeds in this regard. It is unsurprising that after its release, the film was universally acclaimed; in fact, some people even began comparing Shinkai to the works of Hayato Miyazaki (although Shinkai himself dislikes this comparison, feeling it to be an overestimation of his own abilities). While Children Who Chase Lost Voices is overshadowed by its successors’ success, as well as the fact that in 2019, Sentai Filmworks lost the license to the film, the film remains a worthwhile watch owing to its trailblazing elements that would become commonplace in his newer films, as well as for its wonderful depiction of Agartha and a moving story that shows how, distance or not, people can persevere, overcome and learn. This film might no longer be as accessible as it was a few years earlier, but its contributions are nontrivial, and as such, fans of Makoto Shinkai’s works will greatly enjoy this journey to Agartha, one journey that should not be forgotten.

Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You): A Review and Reflection on Makoto Shinkai’s 2019 Film

“I always say: in survival, I’m either dealing with bad weather, or preparing for it.” –Les Stroud, Suvivorman

Tenki no Ko (天気の子, literally “Children of the Weather” and English name Weathering With You) is Makoto Shinkai’s sixth feature-length film that premièred in Japan on July 19, 2019. Shinkai is described to have seen a towering cumulonimbus cloud over Tokyo in late August, shortly after Your Name‘s screenings began in 2016, and began wondering to himself, “what if the cloud tops were an island?”. This materialised into the inspiration for Weathering With You, a film that ultimately grossed 226.16 million CAD internationally and won several awards, including Anime of the Year at the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize, as well as being nominated for several other awards. At its core, Weathering With You follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who runs away from home and finds himself in Tokyo. During a freak down-burst on a ferry that threatens to wash him overboard, he is saved by Keisuke Suga, who gives him a business card. After arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka struggles to find work and support himself. Amidst the seedier parts of Tokyo, he finds a discarded Makarov PM pistol, and one day, encounters Hina Amano at a McDonald’s, who pities him and gives him a meal on the house. With his funds dwindling, he decides to take up Keisuke’s offer and arrives at the address on the business card. After meeting Natsumi, Keisuke’s niece, he is offered a job and explores urban legends as a part of his job to write magazines articles. One excursion has Natsumi and Hodaka learn of the weather maiden, an individual blessed with the power to manipulate the skies. Settling into life as an assistant, Hodaka encounters Hina in the company and attempts to rescue her, eventually discharging the side-arm he found to scare them off. He and Hina escape, and here, Hina reveals an unusual ability to clear the skies of rain that came after she crossed a torii on the rooftop of an abandoned high-rise. Realising that Tokyo’s been raining non-stop, he proposes starting a business to utilise Hina’s powers to help those around them, and they become an overnight success, participating in events from weddings and sports meets to creating a miracle for Tokyo’s Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival.

However, after spotting footage of Hodaka on a pole-mounted CCTV, the Tokyo police become interested in the pistol that Hodaka found and begin searching for him. Keisuke distances himself from Hodaka and fires him, but not without telling him to look after himself. After evading beat cops, Hodaka, Hina and her younger brother, Nagi, overnight in a hotel, where Hina reveals use of her power comes at a cost, and that she must sacrifice herself entirely to restore balance to Tokyo’s unusual weather. Despite Hodaka’s promise to protect her, Hina disappears the next morning, and Hodaka is arrested. He manages to escape custody, and with Natsumi’s help, arrives at the derelict building and attempts to reach the torii, but runs into Keisuke. While he had intended to talk sense into Hodaka, he realises the strength of Hodaka’s feelings for Hina and helps him to escape the police. Upon reaching the torii, he is whisked into the skies and manages to save Hina, convincing her to live for her own happiness. In the aftermath, he is arrested and sent back home. Over Tokyo, the skies continue to rain, flooding the city and forcing its inhabitants to move. Three years later, Hodaka returns to Tokyo after graduating and his probation ends. He meets with Keisuke, who is now running a more reputable publishing firm and encourages him to follow his heart. On a bridge overlooking the submerged Tokyo, Hodaka reunites with Hina and promises that things will be okay from here on out. With a run-time of one hour and fifty-two minutes (six minutes more than Your Name), Weathering With You had found itself in the shadows of its predecessor and ultimately, continues in dealing with Shinkai’s themes of love, separation and reunion, as well as the forces of nature that bring people together and drive them apart. Whereas Your Name utilised catastrophe as its motivator, Weathering With You, true to its title, employs the phenomenon of weather to present new themes alongside familiar ones.

Major Themes in the movie

While Weathering with You has a distinct weather motif, the notion of taking responsibility for one’s actions lies at the heart of the film; in the beginning, overwhelmed by his circumstances, Hodaka decides to run away from home and is bound for Tokyo. In his situation, he feels unable to take control and therefore, responds in the only way he can. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Hodaka initially expresses an unwillingness to take responsibility for anything because he seems to be on the back-foot all of the time. When his funds run out and it seems as though there’s no other way, however, after Hodaka meets Hina for the first time, her warmth and kindness instigates a change in him. He begins to take the initiative, and seeks out Keisuke to better his situation. In shouldering more responsibility, Hodaka begins to mature, although he remains brash, impulsive and hot-headed: this is how he formally meets Hina. The journey that Hodaka and Hina take together is one of ups and downs, giving the two great happiness as well as challenges. Over time, Hodaka’s feelings towards Hina manifests as love, and from here, Hodaka’s actions begin shifting; he starts acting in her interests, and while he might initially be seen as shirking responsibility for his actions, such as when he runs away from the police station after his capture, he is actually acting for another reason. Once he recovers Hina from the heavens, Hodaka stops running away: he is ultimately arrested, tried and returned home, but promises to uphold his promise to Hina. After his graduation, he ends up keeping true to his word, and taking responsibility for the consequences of his action, returns to Tokyo to find Hina and fulfil his promise of being with her. Weathering with You presents a tale of responsibility and how one may uphold their word, as well as what sacrifices are necessary; in this film, Makoto Shinkai suggests that if one’s word is worth keeping, then one should keep it even if there is another cost incurred. Hodaka’s time in Tokyo pushes him to learn the meaning of responsibility, and it turns out that love is a powerful instructor; in order for Hodaka to have found happiness with Hina, he would’ve necessarily needed to stop running from his problems and face them. In returning to Tokyo, speaking with Keisuke and finding Hina, audiences are assured that Hodaka has evidently matured, understands what it means to own his actions, and ultimately, is better prepared to support and love Hina than he was when they had first met, no matter what the weather might be.

Les Stroud describes the weather as being the single most dangerous factor in survival, with extremities negatively affecting one’s survival and drastically introducing challenges. In Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai presents the weather as a natural phenomenon whose impact is less tangible; rainy skies are associated with separation, melancholy and lethargy, seen when Keisuke laments being unable to see his daughter owing to rainy weather, as well as causing the interruption or fouling of events as varied as weddings, sports meets and fireworks events. By comparison, clear weather is a time of happiness, togetherness and adventure. Under good weather, people spend more time together and create more memories together. Hina’s power, then, is a symbol of hope for Tokyo’s residents, who are inundated with rainy weather, wherein the dampness appears to seep into one’s very bones and saps people of their happiness. However, Hina’s power comes with a terrible cost, consuming her own life energy and rendering her increasingly transparent. As she strives for the happiness of others, this comes at great expense to herself. This is the primary conflict in Weathering With You that Hina must deal with; having lived a life without clear purpose or direction, when she is given a chance to impact the lives of others in a meaningful way at a personal cost, which decision she should take becomes muddled. On one hand, meeting Hodaka and spreading happiness through her power has made her happy, but on the other hand, having begun to fall in love with him, Hina appreciates that being with him means not interfering with the weather further. In creating this conundrum for Hina, Shinkai suggests in natural systems like the weather, interference usually carries a cost. Shinkai indicates that things like the weather are immensely complex, in comparing the weather patterns to the work of deities, and for humans to impose their will on these systems only ever yields a short term result. The sunshine that Hina brings is not long-lived, and the rain inevitably returns, stronger than before. The devastation wrought on Tokyo, then, as a result of Hina’s actions, shows that even if it were possible to intervene in natural phenomenon, to do so extracts a toll on those who do not fully understand the nuances of the system they intend to alter.

However, while Shinkai indicates that the weather is phenomenon that humanity must learn to live with, he also suggests that as a species, we are remarkably resilient, constantly striving to better a situation. This is what Hodaka represents in Weathering With You; the deck is constantly stacked against him, but he survives and always seeks a way to better his circumstances. After arriving in Tokyo, he transitions from one spot to another in search of opportunity, bringing him to his fateful meeting with Hina. When he accepts a job with Keisuke’s publishing company, his situation improve enough to where he is able to meet Hina again. Captivated by Hina, Hodaka ends up moving heaven and earth to be with her: his devotion borders on foolishness, and so strong are his feelings that he is willing to run afoul of the law and systems far beyond his comprehension to be with her, whether they be natural or man-made. Driven by his unwavering desire to be with Hina, Hodaka’s determination and persistence is a representation of how powerful love is: he comes to personify the human spirit and how far people are willing to go for one another and their own survival. The film scales this up towards its ending; even as Tokyo begins flooding from ceaseless rain, the citizens’ own resilience leads them to continue living even as a familiar livelihood is disrupted and submerged by unfeeling flood waters. Although people may go through trials and tribulation, their innate desires to survive win out: necessity has driven some of humanity’s greatest innovation and stories of courage, resilience. Altogether, through Weathering with You, Shinkai suggests to the viewer that even when confronted with the unknown, the bonds that connect people are stronger still, and in the end, people will find a way to make it, whatever it takes. As Weathering with You draws to a close, Hodaka and Hina’s reunion marks the beginnings of a new path, one where each will have the other to support and be supported by as the walk their future together.

Personal thoughts on the movie

With its conclusive ending, Weathering with You is a satisfying film to watch, featuring a combination of heartfelt moments, portrayals of everyday life and enthralling action sequences that come together for a big finish. However, it becomes clear that Weathering with You has also inherited much from its predecessor; a star-crossed love story backed by supernatural phenomenon also was at the core of 2016’s Your Name, and both movies utilise the extraordinary to demonstrate the strength of love. Your Name was a powerhouse performance because every action Taki and Mitsuha took in the film served to help them come together during the climax. By comparison, Weathering with You is missing that same coherence in a few areas: the movie is very busy in places as Hodaka struggles to make ends meet, winds up in the seedier parts of Tokyo and comes across a Makarov pistol. This pistol ends up setting in motion events that, while conferring an opportunity for Shinkai to incorporate a vehicle chase, also added nothing substantial to the film’s central message. The presence of social workers and police officers seeking a runaway after Hodaka’s parents reported their child missing would have provided enough of a motivator for Hodaka’s actions towards Weathering with You‘s climax; giving Hodaka a pistol did very little to make his feelings more apparent than it had already been. Similarly, folklore in Your Name ended up giving viewers a unifying element towards understanding how Mitsuha and Taki could transcend the laws of space and time to meet, but in Weathering with You, the inclusion of folklore merely creates a rudimentary mechanism to bolster Hodaka’s urgency in finding Hina after she vanishes. The sum of Weathering with You‘s plot appears to have been Makoto Shinkai’s effort to create a new story without venturing outside of the design choices that had made Your Name immensely successful, treading on very familiar territory. These are ultimately trifling complaints: while perhaps not the powerhouse experience that Your name might be, Weathering with You remains a highly enjoyable movie, standing of its own merits for the strength of its execution.

In every successive film, Makoto Shinkai manages to raise the bar higher for what sort of visuals are seen, and with weather at its core, Weathering with You is a visual spectacle surpassing any of his earlier films. Rain is rendered even more vividly than in Garden of Words, with the motion of individual raindrops being animated. Interiors are intricately depicted, cluttered with everyday items that convey a lived-in sense. Landscape shots and camera effects are more ambitious than before, making use of 3D rendering to present Tokyo in ways the previous films had not: the fireworks festival brought Weathering with You‘s Tokyo to life in a way that earlier films did not, even featuring real-time reflections of the fireworks on the skyscraper windows, and the dynamics of the vehicular chase similarly shows refinement in Shinkai’s craft. In short, Weathering with You represents a progression of the animation and artwork seen in Your Name, and Shinkai’s new story allows the film to portray a side of Tokyo that is lesser seen: the seedy and derelict side of Tokyo is shown, mirroring on how in Japan’s rapid growth and development, some areas were left behind, to be washed away by rain waters. There is a melancholy in seeing the abandoned building that houses the torii Hina found, and throughout Weathering with You, the use of moody, grey lighting suggests that Tokyo is not the destination that it appears to be on an ordinary day. However, when light breaks through the clouds and illuminates the world’s largest city in a wash of warm, golden light, the magic of Tokyo becomes more apparent. The shifting portrayal of Tokyo in Makoto Shinkai’s films show the city as a monolith of activity, a place of great contrasts, of excesses and decay, as well as of beauty and meaning, all of which lie in its people, rather than its buildings: having honed his craft in his previous films, Weathering with You represents further into insight into how Shinkai feels about Tokyo. When Tokyo is flooded by ceaseless rain, its citizens endure, and continue finding ways of making things work; Shinkai therefore indicates, through Weathering with You, that buildings can be rebuilt, and livelihoods restored so as long as people are together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Weathering with You opens with Hina finding the mysterious torii gate after noticing a beam of sun illuminating it while with her mother at the hospital. When she walks through the gate, she finds herself whisked into the skies above. Unlike my post for Your Name, I’ve decided to host my images in a typical fashion owing to storage constraints. However, the screenshots should still be quite sharp and capture all of the details in the movie nicely: this time around, I’ve got eighty screenshots (down from Your Name‘s one hundred even), curated from a total of three hundred and sixty, making this first and only proper collection of screenshots around on the internet.

  • Weathering with You begins formally with Hodaka on board a ferry bound for Tokyo. The film does not disclose much about his background, beyond the fact that he was dissatisfied with his old life to the point where he felt running away from home was his best bet. The bandages on his face, in conjunction with his unhappiness about his home, suggest that he suffered from physical abuse. However, Hodaka cannot help but marvel at the gathering storm while riding the ferry: a massive rainfall suddenly inundates him, and an unexpected downburst threatens to wash him overboard.

  • The storm disappears as quickly as it appeared, and Hodaka finds himself being saved by one Keisuke Suga. In gratitude, Hodaka treats Keisuke to lunch, and is coerced into buying Keisuke a beer, as well. Keisuke appears to be a bit of a shady character – his eyes lack the detail and dimensions that are typical to trustworthy characters, and so, viewers cannot help but be a little mistrusting of him when he is first introduced. Before we delve further into Weathering with You, it’s appropriate to explain the page quote: I normally reserve Survivorman quotes for Yuru Camp△, but owing to how Les Stroud describes the weather, I figured his remarks on weather are well-suited for opening a talk about a movie with a substantial weather motif.

  • After the ferry pulls into Tokyo harbour and docks, Keisuke and Hodaka part ways, but not before Keisuke leaves him with a business card. In this post, I’ve avoided recycling images that I used for my post about my plans to write aboutWeathering with You, drafted shortly after the film’s announcement: my expectations back then were to see how well the film utilised Hina’s powers and tie that in with an overarching theme. Beyond that, I had no other knowledge of the film, and when it released to Japanese theatres on July 19, 2019, I hadn’t even made any remarks about missing out on things.

  • Because Hodaka was able to survive for a short while before his funds dwindled, it stands to reason that he comes from a moderately wealthy background, enough for him to have withdrawn enough of his personal funds to buy time and attempt to find a job. Hodaka’s journey takes him to a seedier side of Tokyo that Shinkai had hitherto not explored in his movies, and in this side of Tokyo, questionable nightclubs and gambling parlours are portrayed. It reminds me of the side of Tokyo that Natasha Romanoff found Clint Barton in during the events of The Avengers: Endgame, although unlike Barton, Hodaka is no fighter, and can only escape from confrontations.

  • After taking refuge from the rain in front of one such night club, the establishment’s owner notices Hodaka and roughs him up. While beautifully rendered from a distance, close-up, Shinkai also chooses to portray a grittier, rougher side of Tokyo in Weathering with You to show the idea of resilience, a recurring theme in this movie. Hodaka ends up being knocked onto the streets along side a recycling container, and in it, he finds a Makarov PM. Feeling it to be a toy, he takes it with him and winds up at a McDonald’s, but having run his funds dry, can only order a drink.

  • At the McDonald’s, one of the staff takes pity on Hodaka and makes him a Big Mac on the house. Hodaka describes it as the best dinner he had since arriving in Tokyo, and while the moment conveys a combination of despair and hopelessness, it also foreshadows subsequent events: the staff is none other than Hina Amano, and upon their fateful meeting, he feels the warmth in her actions, which extends into the burger itself. In Five Centimetres per Second, Makoto Shinkai had used a stand-in for McDonald’s, but of late, having seen international recognition, Shinkai’s been able to use some real world brands openly in Weathering with You. Details paid to the Big Mac and its box are remarkable, and the box looks identical to the ones at the local McDonald’s.

  • I’m certain that, with a bit of patience and generous use of Wander in the Oculus Quest, I’d be able to find all of the locations shown in Weathering with You – for Your Name, I ended up using a bit of photogrammetry techniques to locate Taki’s apartment in an exercise that proved immensely enjoyable. The locations of Weathering with You are a bit more inconspicuous, and on first glance, would be trickier to find. However, knowing that Shinkai incorporates great amounts of details into his film, using the address on Keisuke’s business card and the Google Maps app on Hodaka’s phone means that one could find Keisuke’s home/office reasonably effortlessly.

  • Of course, doing so is not advised, as it is impolite to hassle a private residence. Regaining his energy and spirits from the Big Mac and Hina’s kindness, Hodaka decides to follow his lead and visit Keisuke. Ever since he arrived in Tokyo, it’s been raining nonstop: much as how previous films used weather as a metaphor for feelings within the protagonists’ hearts, Weathering with You‘s use of rain shows that at this point, Hodaka is very much in a melancholy and despairing. However, a simple gesture from Hina is enough to send Hodaka down a different path, and he decides to take a look at Keisuke’s offer.

  • Upon arriving at the address on Keisuke’s business card and entering, he finds himself face to face to a sleeping woman in her twenties. Being a teen, Hodaka cannot help but stare at her chest as she sleeps, and when she awakens to find him there, the woman’s first act is to tease Hodaka about it. It’s curious to see Shinkai incorporate more of these aspects into his movies (Your Name had Taki feeling up Mitsuha when he’d inhabited her body). Shinkai’s earliest films had female protagonists as pure as driven snow, perfect abstractions of what romance and love entailed, but over the years, females in his works became more human, with their own flaws and unique features.

  • It turns out that the sleeping woman is Natsumi, and while she’s not the female lead of Weathering with You, she’s certainly not one-dimensional, as this screenshot can attest. After Natsumi introduces herself, Keisuke finally arrives and lays out the terms of the job he has in mind for Hodaka. While Hodaka is initially reluctant, Keisuke notes that Hodaka’s job will also cover lodging and meals, prompting him to reconsider. As it turns out, the job Keisuke has in mind is akin to that of an intern: his job description entails organising meetings, proofreading, writing and helping out with housework.

  • Interior clutter has always been a major feature in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, giving a very lived-in sense: in Weathering with You, details in Keisuke’s home/office, from scattered papers and unwashed cups, give insight to Keisuke’s life. Looking at the placement and organisation of everyday objects in a scene brings interiors to life, and in most anime, this detail is eschewed for ease of animation: looking after that many assets would be immensely difficult, and it speaks the technical skill of Comix Wave Films that they are able to render this. The only other studios that place such effort into interiors are Studio Ghibli, Kyoto Animation and P.A. Works.

  • Hodaka’s first test is to accompany Natsumi to speak with a fortune teller, who presents the story of so-called “Sunshine Girls”, alongside “Rain Girls” whose presence can impact the weather, and this early into Weathering with You, the fortune teller already gives viewers one of the film’s main themes: if you mess with nature, it tends to mess back. My main goal in consuming any work of fiction is to see what I can learn from it (and by extension, the author’s intentions), so if I walk away from something with a quantum of an idea of what the author wanted to convey, I end up satisfied.

  • Once Hodaka begins settling into his new routine, Radwimps’ Kaze-tachi no Koe (“Voices of the Wind”) begins playing. Repraising their role from Your Name as Weathering with You‘s composers, Radwimps delivers an aural experience that elicits memories of Your Name. Voices of the Wind is an upbeat piece whose rhythm mirrors the newfound routine in Hodaka’s life, and their remaining vocal pieces are well-adjusted. The instrumental pieces of Weathering with You create a sense of melancholy and longing that fits well with Shinkai’s themes of separation and distance, as well as the supernatural feeling that arises at critical moments in the story.

  • Besides McDonald’s, Tenki no Ko also showcases Apple products in prominence: Hodaka is seen using an iPhone 8 and a 2017 MacBook Pro, and Natsumi runs an iPad. That Weathering with You is able to use real-world products is a sign of how far Makoto Shinkai has come in terms of recognition, for large companies like Yahoo!, Apple and McDonald’s to allow their products to be rendered in such detail. Since Your Name, Apple has reached iOS 13 from iOS 10, and their Flat UI has been around since 2013’s iOS 7. Since then, iOS has not changed too much in appearance, and I remark that I’m very fond of the Flat UI, which replaces the Skeuomorphism aesthetic that iOS 6 and earlier used.

  • Weathering with You‘s use of supernatural differs from that of Your Name‘s in that whereas the latter employed it purely as a study of regional folklore, Weathering with You mixes it with urban legends that high school girls are familiar with. Old and new collide in Weathering with You in a way that Shinkai’s previous films do not depict, and this hints at Shinkai’s thoughts on advancing technologies and beliefs: the interweaving of old and new suggest in Weathering with You indicates that while Shinkai respects the old ways and uses them when appropriate, he also believes that if the new offers a tangible benefit to something, then it should be tested and utilised, as well.

  • Aside from high school students attuned to rumours and urban legends, as well as practitioners of the occult, Natsumi and Hodaka also speak with meteorologists and experts. While some turn them away, seeing the supernatural as a waste of time, others eagerly speak with them, as they’ve also spotted the unusual phenomenon manifesting in Weathering with You: raindrops occasionally flop about and swim as fish do, and there have been several instances of large bodies of water taking the form of whales. Unfortunately, my understanding of the symbolism here is not terribly extensive, and I can’t offer more on what the cloud fish and whales mean beyond the suggestion that the clouds are supposed to represent a world that has not been extensively studied.

  • One subtle detail that I really enjoyed was watching Hodaka slowly become better as an article writer: Keisuke had been satisfied with his initial writing but counts him as a slow writer, and while he reviewers Hodaka’s work here, he critiques one of Hodaka’s passages before noting that Hodaka’s done well in another section. While seemingly minor, this moment shows that despite his gruff appearance and the occult focus of his publishing business, Keisuke is someone that Hodaka can look to as a mentor figure. For the audiences, this is reassuring, reminding viewers that Keisuke can be trusted.

  • While out one day, Hodaka runs into Hina again, who is trying to discuss terms of some job with two shady-looking characters. Without really thinking things through, he pulls Hina away and they run off, but the two catch up to Hodaka and begin kicking his face in. Hodaka ends up drawing the Makarov and fires it, scaring the two off, but also earning himself admonishment from Hina. The Makarov pistol is named after designer Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, who designed it to be a compact pistol with low recoil without compromising stopping power. It entered service in 1951, and anime fans will know it for being the gun that Shino “Sinon” Asada fears during Sword Art Online‘s Phantom Bullet arc. Owing to its Soviet origins and use by the Eastern Bloc, the weapon does seem to exude an aura of menace and well-chosen to be the antagonist’s firearm in anime.

  • Hodaka discards the gun and ends up having a proper conversation with Hina to know her better, after both have a chance to clear their heads. They head to the roof where the torii is, and Hina demonstrates her power to clear the skies. It turns out that this power is strictly for clearing the skies, and unlike The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s “Clear Skies” shout, cannot make aurora borealis manifest. In Weathering with You, the first bit of sun is a magic moment for Hodaka. Most promotional images for the film feature the clearing skies by the torii on the rooftop and the cloud-top islands, and while Weathering with You does not have an iconic element as did Your Name in terms of imagery, the imagery associated with Weathering with You remains distinct.

  • While the phenomenon of a Sunshine Girl had been relegated to the realm of myth and rumour, Hodaka’s encounter with Hina changes his world permanently. Here on the rooftops, Hina and Hodaka are removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, as well as the world’s worries. The tranquility and peace that Hodaka shares with Hina here marks a turning point in Weathering with You, being the first time that sunshine is properly seen in the movie, and with it, the first time that Hodaka sees a reason for being here in Tokyo.

  • Reports of animals manifesting in the water begin making their way across social media platforms like Instagram, and Hodaka’s mind is on capitalising the excitement to publish a few more articles that could draw in readers, and with them, the coin. Natsumi’s exact relationship to Keisuke is never explored early on, and this leaves a bit of a mystery to her from Hodaka’s perspective; he is shocked to learn that she’s more of a part-timer with Keisuke’s company, and prior to heading out for a day’s worth of interviews, she looks through some of the phenomenon with Hodaka, but ends up disappointed that Hodaka’s thinking more about the increased profits from increased readership.

  • Keisuke, meanwhile, has other troubles of his own; after his wife died, their daughter went to live with her grandparents, and Keisuke finds it difficult to spend time with her daughter. At Minori Cafe in Ginza’s Mitsukoshi Department Store, he meets with his mother-in-law, who is adamant about keeping Keisuke from seeing his daughter owing to the fact that he smokes and the poor weather makes it difficult to be outside, which would alleviate her asthma. Keisuke’s mother-in-law recalls a time when the weather was more agreeable and laments that contemporary children are less inclined to explore the outdoors owing to extremities of weather, although the reality is that kids of this age are glued to their tablets and phones.

  • When I was in Japan three years earlier, I passed by the famous Wako Department Store in Ginza: I best remember its distinct Seiko Watch Face from the movie King Kong vs. Godzilla. After spending the morning at the Imperial gardens and a shrine, I’d arrived in Ginza for a delicious beef nabe lunch at a restaurant whose location I can’t remember, and subsequently browsed around the shops in the area before heading off for the banks of the Sumida River to check out the Tokyo Skytree and Sugamo Jizodori Shopping Street a ways over. The day ended at Heritage Resort in Saitama, where I sat down to a magnificent dinner of Kobe beef and sashimi before soaking at the hotel’s onsen.

  • There is a lot of exploration in Tokyo, and while I’d only spent a day there during my trip, I appreciate that one could spend a few months there and still not see everything worth seeing (although I note I’ve been in Calgary since time immemorial and there are things back home I don’t know about). Back in Weathering with You, upon seeing Hina’s power to clear the skies with his own eyes, Hodaka begins to develop an idea – aside from a few minutes of good weather, Weathering with You has been very rainy insofar, and Hodaka begins to feel that the mood of people is invariably tied to the weather, with rain signifying depression, melancholy and lack of energy. Sunshine occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, filling people with motivation, determination and joy. He contemplates the idea of using Hina’s powers to deliver hope for cash, and decides to float the idea to Hina.

  • Hina invites Hodaka over, who suddenly realises that this is the first time he’s ever been over to a girl’s house on his own. Hodaka hesitates briefly, but Hina has no qualms about having him over. As it turns out, Hina’s been living with her younger brother, Nagi. Ever since their mother passed away about a year ago, Hina’s been working to support the two, and this was roughly when Hina discovered the torii on top of the abandoned building. Hina’s situation is a tragic one, and despite the challenges she’s faced, she does her best to be optimistic about things, even going to extraordinary lengths like working at a night club despite being under-aged in order to make ends meet.

  • Because of her situation, Hina’s developed a rather unusual sense of cooking, incorporating instant ramen and potato chips into her recipe for fried rice. I am strongly reminded of a similar moment in The Garden of Words when Yukari cooks for Takai after the two retreat to her apartment during a sudden downpour. Both The Garden of Words and Weathering with You feature rain at its centrepiece, and while Hodoka and Takai have different thoughts on the rain, in both movies, the rain plays an instrumental role in bringing people together. When I first watched The Garden of Words, a major flood shut down my area, and now, watching a similar scene in Weathering with You, I am reminded of working from home some seven years ago in a similar fashion.

  • While Hina and Hodaka share a lunch of fried rice and a fried chicken salad, I look back on some meals that’ve put a smile on my face. With restaurants slowly beginning to re-open, I’ve been able to enjoy a combination of restaurant food and home cooking: over the past weekend, I’ve had herb-and-spice fried chicken and fries with southern-style gravy and a delicious sirloin burger topped with onion crisps with a side of crinkle-cut fries. Looking forwards to a good meal is a massive morale booster, and unlike seven years ago, where the Great Flood caused me to fall into a melancholy, I’ve been more proactive in keeping my spirits up. Being able to enjoy a meal is high on my list of things to do during times like these, and the warmth and normalcy of such moments in Makoto Shinkai’s films suggests that he believe something similar.

  • After a day’s effort, Hodaka and Hina spin up a website that allows visitors to make requests for good weather. When Nagi arrives home, he’s unimpressed with Hodaka’s presence, and Hodaka recognises Nagi as the elementary school student who seemed to be rather popular with the ladies. I’m guessing that Hodaka and Hina are using a cloud service to run their website and are rocking a noSQL database to hold their requests, which would be simple entities containing a date, requestor name, email and description of the task, easily retrieved by date of request. Then it’s up to Hodaka and Hina to travel to the customer and fulfil their request for good weather. Nagi is initially skeptical, and even more so when he’s made to wear a teru teru bozū costume.

  • Hina, Hodaka and Nagi’s first assignment comes at a flea market, whose organisers worry that attendance and business will be poor on account of the rain dissuading customers from visiting. Initially, the organisers are skeptical that anything could happen: being able to control the weather is something that only exists in the realm of fiction, involving powerful technologies like those the Forerunners employed on Halo, or through extraordinary means like the Infinity Stones. However, when Hina wishes for it, a break appears in the clouds, bathing the land with sunlight. The flee market’s organisers are absolutely thrilled, and Nagi realises that Hodaka and Hina are onto something, no longer reluctant to head out as a teru teru bozū.

  • As the clouds give way to blue sky, the music swells to a crescendo of joy and optimism. While I had been a little skeptical of Radwimps upon hearing their role as the composers for Your Name‘s soundtrack, I ate my words after seeing the movie, and by Weathering with You, I was thoroughly impressed with their musical performance. The music of Weathering with You is memorable in its own right, creating a different aural aesthetic than that of Your Name‘s; Your Name‘s music was deliberately hesitant in places to mirror the confusion in Mitsuha and Taki surrounding both their scenario and their feelings for one another, but in Weathering with You, the sound is bolder and more purposeful, showing Hodaka and Hina both as being strong-willed.

  • After their success at the flea market, word begins to spread: Hina and Hodaka find themselves busy, fulfilling requests from those who’ve placed them on their website. Tōko Miura’s “Festival” accompanies the montage depicting the various venues Hina and Hodaka are asked to bring sunshine to: this highly upbeat, energetic song offers a break from Radwimps’ own performances, creating a refreshing break in the movie that creates an aural representation of what sunshine sounds like. The spirit and pacing in “Festival” sounds like a song that speaks to the halcyon days of high school, a time for youth to partake in exploration and discovery without the obligations of adulthood.

  • In Weathering with You, Hodaka provides a narration over the montage: as he, Hina and Nagi brighten up weddings, Comiket, and school activities with Hina’s power, he contemplates how happy the sun makes people, washing the land in light and warmth that signifies hope and possibility. Hodaka is at his happiest up to this point in the film: having a purpose to work for and being with Hina, who can be seen as a personification of sunlight, Hodaka believes that sunny weather even helps people to fall in love with those around them more quickly, foreshadowing his own feelings for Hina.

  • Hodaka’s monologue captures the general feeling people have regarding good weather: love for good weather is universal, and there’s a scientific reason as to why this is the case. It turns out that exposure to sunshine triggers the production of serotonin in the brain, as well as catalysing the production of vitamin D. Serotonin is a chemical that is involved in a range of processes and contributes to regulation of sleep, digestion and mood, while Vitamin D is involved in calcium absorption, cell proliferation and regulating the immune response. In helping the body to produce these chemicals, sunlight is a critical part of well-being – there is a physiological piece in why sunshine and well-being are correlated.

  • For me, my mood fouls the quickest at the sight of an overcast sky or snowfall, but rainfall doesn’t bother me at all. There’s a scientific reason for this, as well: the sound of rainfall is a consistent sound that helps the mind to relax, stimulating enough of the auditory cortex to promote some activity without excessive stimulation that we perceive as noise. While research has found that extensive periods of bad or good weather cannot be positively correlated with changes in mood, the fact is that weather patterns do have a tangible impact on people; these might be subtle on their own, but can add up to create a noticeable impact on one’s health and well-being.

  • Eventually, Hina and Hodaka become renowned enough to be called in for their biggest assignment yet: ceaseless rainfall threatens the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival, one of the biggest fireworks events in central Tokyo. Centred around the Yoyogi area, the festival has its origins in the 1980s, and each year in August, up to twelve thousand individual fireworks are used during the event. Most shows begin at 7:30 PM: unlike somewhere like Calgary, where the high latitude means that the skies don’t darken until 11:00 PM local time, Tokyo’s got a much more consistent day/night cycle, allowing for earlier performances.

  • Hodaka appears as a VIP, alongside the event’s organisers: they briefly catch a glimpse of Hina looking rather sharp in a yukata before heading off to the rooftops of the Roppongi Hills tower, a mixed-use high-rise with a maximum height of 238 metres that was built in 2003. It’s a tense moment, as the event’s organisers wait in anticipation of Hina using her magic to clear the skies. Hina begins her prayer, and moments later, the clouds dissipate, bathing the land in an orange glow from the day’s last light.

  • This moment was a truly magical one, and the music swells into a chorus as the details of Tokyo are thrown into sharp relief. From the northwest corner of Roppongi Hills, the skyscrapers of Shinjuku, some 4.5 kilometres away, can be seen, and the Meiji Jingu Gaien park where the fireworks event is hosted, is somewhere below on the right hand side of the image. Makoto Shinkai’s portrayals of Tokyo have always been spectacular, but the sunset in Weathering with You really hits home as to just how far the techniques have improved.

  • I had originally been planning on doing my first hike of the year this past weekend. This excursion would’ve likely entailed of a simpler trail that cuts through a beautiful canyon, followed by lunch at my favourite poutine restaurant on this side of the world. With the current world health crisis contained for now, it would have been tempting to go do a day trip to the mountains, but in the interest of safety, I’ve elected to shelve such an excursion until a later date, and instead, with the recent bit of spring weather we’ve finally had, I decided to walk the local parks instead. While it may not be a mountain trail, the parks in my area are beautiful and most certainly enjoyable to walk in: I was lucky enough to see cherry trees in full blossom.

  • Short of visiting Japan and watching the Jingu-Gaien Fireworks Festival in person, it is no joke when I say that watching Weathering with You‘s presentation of it is the next best thing. The movie makes use of CGI to present a flyover of the area while the fireworks show is on, sending viewers through the fireworks itself, and it is here that the observant viewer will notice real-time reflections of the fireworks appearing on the windows of the buildings below. The entire scene, from the buildings to the fireworks, is rendered in 3D, and this is probably the most impressive application of CG in any anime movie to date.

  • The festival’s attendees are thrilled to be enjoying the fireworks on a clear night, with spectators watching at the Meiji-Jingu park, and Nagi hanging out with one of his lady friends at a festival. Up on Roppongi’s rooftops, Hina and Hodaka share a private moment together, marveling the fireworks together. Hina finally feels that she’s found a purpose to life beyond just surviving, and it is here that Hodaka begins to realise he’s falling in love with Hina, driven both by the magical atmosphere conferred by the fireworks and Hina’s dazzling personality.

  • The Obon Festival brings Hina and Hodaka to the Tachibana family, who’s made a request: Fumi Tachibana, figures that sunnier weather will help her husband’s spirit to navigate back properly. Obon has been a Japanese custom for at least half a millennium, and is a means of honouring the spirits of the deceased: offerings are laid out for them, as they are said to return during the time of the festival. Taki makes a cameo appearance here, watching as Hina and Hodaka help with rites. Cameos only began with Your Name, which featured the return of Yukari Yukino from The Garden of Words, and it stands to reason that Makoto Shinkai’s next film will likely feature Hina and Hodaka in some way.

  • Whereas folklore and regional beliefs feel more tangential to Weathering with You, they were a central part of Your Name: Shinkai crafted an entire set of local rituals and myths for the film based on Japanese folklore to bring Mitsuha’s world to life and create credibility for the extraordinary experiences she shared with Taki. This ended up being a point of contention when one “Verso Sciolto” argued that one needed at least his level of understanding to properly enjoy every detail in Your Name. Verso Sciolto’s presence reached Anime News Network, MyAnimeList and even AnimeSuki, where he wrote pedantic, purple-prose filled paragraphs explaining why his interpretations of Your NameLiz and the Blue Bird and Chihayafuru were the only ones worth considering even though his interpretations all missed their mark entirely.

  • Verso Sciolto fancied himself a lecturer, but eventually ended up being banned from each and every anime forum of note, for being uncommonly persistent in pushing views of anime that were egregiously wrong. This is by no means a loss, and I admit that it is nice to be able to discuss Weathering with You without being told that my lack of background in Japanese literature and folklore leaves me ill-equipped to talk about the film. Back in Weathering with You, Keisuke and Natsumi visit an elderly man familiar with the myth of the Sunshine Maidens. He explains that their power comes at a cost, and that eventually, must be sacrificed to the gods to maintain the natural order of things.

  • It turns out that the police are interested in Hodaka’s whereabouts after he illegally discharged the Makarov, and two officers end up catching up to the fellow that had come into contact with Hodaka. He initially attempts to escape, under the impression they’re here to bust him for attempting to hire Hina, but it turns out they’re looking for information. Firearms in Japan are tightly regulated: aside from air rifles and shotguns, firearms are strictly prohibited in Japan. A law passed in 1958 simply states that no citizen may possess firearms or swords, and individuals who decide to have a shotgun or air rifle consent to random police checks, as well as undergo a series of stringent exams and inspections. As such, Hodaka’s possession of a Makarov is a crime, and it is unsurprising that the police are so intent on finding him before anything serious happens.

  • With Hina’s birthday coming up, Hodaka decides to get her something, but struggles to find a proper answer. Hodaka is frequently seen posting to Yahoo! Answers for suggestions, and while other services have largely displaced Yahoo!, in Japan, they still remain quite popular. Eventually, he decides to ask Nagi, who replies that, since Hina’s been doing her best to look after him, he’d be happy to have Hina live more like an ordinary teenage girl would; a ring seems suitable for this, Nagi concludes, having deduced that Hodaka’s in love with Hina. Despite his age, Nagi is very well-versed in what the ladies like, prompting Hodaka to refer to him as senpai.

  • Hodaka ends up checking out a Lumine Store and picks up a ring for Hina from MocA. These department stores are located near major train stations in Japan, capitalising on the large crowd volumes of these transport hubs to provide commuters and visitors with shopping and dining options. The ring costs 3400 Yen, about 43 CAD at the time of writing, and Hodaka wonders if it will be something Hina likes: the clerk replies that his feelings will reach her, as it is evident in how dedicated he is. Here, Miki Okudera, Taki’s senior from his old part-time job, can be seen in the background.

  • Weathering with You is filled with cameo appearances, and the clerk is none other than Your Name‘s very own Mitsuha Miyamizu. It is great to see Mitsuha doing well: she’s now working in Tokyo and, assuming that she’s the same Mitsuha of Your Name, finally able to live somewhere brimming with activity and excitement as she’d yearned for as a teen. Wearing a warm smile, she reassures that Hodaka’s feelings will reach his recipients, and she suggests that she would be very happy if someone had spent that effort for her. Besides Taki, Mitsuha and Miki, Tesshi and Sayaka also make an appearance in Weathering with You, along with an older Yotsuha and some of her classmates.

  • Hina and Hodaka have one final assignment: Keisuke’s requested their services to create a beautiful day during which he can spend time with his daughter: Keisuke’s mother-in-law would only permit him to spend time with his daughter if it’s outdoors, but owing to the frequent rain, this has not been possible until now. Even though it’s only for an afternoon, this means the world to Keisuke. Nagi gets along with Keisuke’s daughter well, and Keisuke is content in watching this peaceful scene unfold at Shiba Park: Zojoji Temple is visible here a ways past the field where Nagi and Keisuke’s daughter are hanging out.

  • Both Hina and Natsumi wear identical looks of disgust on their faces when word gets out that Hodaka had assumed Keisuke and Natsumi were a couple, when they are in fact, uncle and niece. This scene of normalcy underlies what each of Keisuke, Hina and Hodaka have been longing for – spending time with people they care about. While Makoto Shinkai has explored themes of romantic love in his movies, Weathering with You also begins to touch upon family, as well, showing how the connection between families pushes people towards actions, both great and dubious, to preserve and defend what is important to them.

  • I’ve chosen to render Tenki no Ko with its official title, Weathering with You, simply for the ease of searching. The English translation of Tenki no Ko is often given as “Child of the weather”, which I would only give partial credit for: while it is true that Japanese does not always give an indicator of singular or plural, and the child in Weathering with You is Hina owing to her connection with the skies, I argue that “Children of the Weather” is more appropriate for the film since it’s about children in plural (Hodaka, as well as Hina). The English title is not a 1:1 translation, but is a very clever play on words, addressing both the film’s weather motif and the idea that “weathering” can be interpreted as “making it together with” that speaks to the movie’s themes of resilience.

  • Hodaka decides to accompany Hina back, feeling that the time has come for him to give her the ring ahead of her birthday. Both she and Hodaka have feelings they wish to convey, but before they can speak, Hina seemingly vanishes after a gust of wind whips through the area; she’s light enough to be carried into the air now, and while she’s unharmed, it turns out that as a result of wielding her power, Hina’s given up much of her life force and begins losing her physical form.

  • In a flashback, Hina reveals that she developed the power to clear the skies with a prayer about a year ago. How this came to be is never specified, and viewers are meant to take this as a part of the supernatural piece of Weathering with You: in Makoto Shinkai’s movies involving the supernatural, the reason behind why something happens is always secondary to the consequences of a phenomenon to remind viewers that sometimes, how people handle adversity and the unknown matters more than what caused it to begin with.

  • At Hina’s place, the police come calling and ask if she’s come into contact with Hodaka. She denies knowing anything and the police leave; Hodaka prepares to head back over to Keisuke’s place, but it turns out the police have also spoken to him. Keisuke reveals that he intends to file for full custody of his daughter: like Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, family causes Keisuke to realise what’s important to him, and unfortunately for Hodaka, it means that Keisuke will distance himself from him now that it’s known Hodaka is wanted for unlawful possession of a firearm. In Endgame, family is what initially dissuades Stark from seriously investigating Scott Lang’s plan for a time heist.

  • With Keisuke firing him, Hodaka returns to Hina, who intends on running away and disappearing: she’s learnt that social services will be taking custody of Nagi, and unwilling to entertain the notion of being separated from her only family, the three decide to head off. This isn’t an easy task: the weather’s taken a turn for the worse, and the typhoon that’s passed into the area has now chilled the area sufficiently for it to start snowing, an unprecedented occurrence. From orbit, the size of the typhoon is apparent: it rivals 1979’s super-typhoon Tip, which is known for being the largest typhoon recorded (2220 kilomatres across) and having the lowest recorded pressure on Earth (87.0 kPA, against an average pressure of 101.3 kPA).

  • With police on the streets to keep order as the incoming typhoon prompts an evacuation order, Hodaka, Hina and Nagi run into trouble when officers suspect them of being runaways, and attempt to ask for their identification. One aspect of Hodaka’s character that I found curious was his tendency to try an escape every unfavourable situation he’s in: it speaks volumes about his own background and how his story in Weathering with You started with him running away from home.

  • When it looks like Hodaka’s options run out, Hina uses Force lightning a prayer to summon lightning that destroys a nearby truck, starting a fire that prompts the police to look after. In the chaos, Hodaka and the others escape. Lacking any identification, most hotels turn the trio away even though Hodaka has the cash to pay for the night: most hotels require that individuals provide proof of identification (e.g. a passport or operator’s license) before accepting a transaction. However, Hodaka eventually does manage to find a hotel that will allow them to stay for the night.

  • Concern gives way to relief, and after taking a bath, everyone sets about preparing a meal with the food from the in-room bar. After dinner, Hodaka and Nagi partake in some karaoke. With the bliss the three share together, Hodaka feels that as long as they have one another, they’ll somehow find a way to make things work. There’s a desperation in his inner monologue, praying with all of his resolve that things can work out; in his heart, Hodaka probably knows that things won’t last forever.

  • Once Nagi is asleep, the time has finally come for Hodaka to give Hina her birthday gift. By this point in Weathering with You, Hina’s become increasingly incorporeal, but her sense of humour remains: she gently teases Hodaka for staring at her, even as he dissolves into tears, worried that their time together will be cut short. Makoto Shinkai’s older films were well-known for presenting separation without resolution, mirroring how people part ways and never reunite owing to circumstances in their lives under ordinary conditions, creating a highly poignant outcome that left viewers wondering if his characters would find happiness.

  • The ring that Hodaka gifts to Hina can be seen as a promise ring, signifying his intent to commit and also to keep his word about keeping everyone together. However, the next morning, Hina has vanished, and moreover, the police have arrived to take custody of Nagi, as well as arrest Hodaka for possession of a weapon and illegally discharging a firearm. The storm has ceased entirely, and the entire landscape is covered in a washed-out light that seems unnatural.

  • Lighting plays a major role in Makoto Shinkai’s films, playing on universal emotions and feelings to convey a particular idea. The bright light washes out detail in the cityscape to create the sense that with Hina’s disappearance, Hodaka is stupefied and unable to think of anything else; his surroundings lose their colour in the process, and his world takes a further blow when he overhears that Hina had lied about her age, being in fact, younger than he is. After arriving at the police station, Hodaka manages to escape again before he can be interrogated. Unlawful as Hodaka’s actions are, one cannot help but admire his tenacity.

  • Natsumi comes soaring to the rescue on her moped, whisking Hodaka away before the police can catch up to him. The world takes on a renewed colour as Hodaka regains his determination to seek out Hina, and he believes that torii on the abandoned building must be a gateway into the heavens where Hina is held. Natsumi demonstrates an uncommon degree of skill in outmanoeuvring her pursuers, weaving between traffic and narrow spaces to throw off police cruisers.

  • Natsumi is plainly enjoying the thrill of the chase: she even remarks that she might be born to ride. In escaping the police station, Hodaka might be seen as running away again, but it is at this point in Weathering with You that things begin flipping around: while Hodaka is escaping the police, he’s also simultaneously trying to reach Hina and fulfil his word, a form of taking responsibility. The blurring of boundaries at the film’s climax shows that the gap between right and wrong is not always apparent, and it is the case that the world is not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

  • Natsumi’s ride comes to an end when she drives her moped into waist-deep water. Her Honda Cub ceases to work, with its main engine filled with water: it’s up to Hodaka to get to Hina. His heart tells him that she’s somewhere in the skies, and recalling her story about the torii being a portal of sorts, deduces that this is his destination. Shinkai’s especially fond of portraying the Honda Cub line of mopeds in his films owing to their reliability and track record: Takaki and Kanae both rode these mopeds in Five Centimeters per Second, and similarly, Katsuhiko Teshigawara uses one in Your Name. Unlike Yamaha’s Tricity, the Honda Cub is a venerable bike with a long history dating back to 1958, when it was first produced.

  • As Hodaka runs off towards the derelict building and its gateway to another world across the unused rail tracks, he draws the attention of both the crews working to bring Tokyo’s trains back online, as well as bemused spectators on the streets below. Trains figure prominently as symbols in Makoto Shinkai’s movies, being used as the means of connecting distant people together. Having Hodaka run on the inactive rail lines, then, is to signify that the limitations of a system notwithstanding, he intends to reach Hina at all costs.

  • A cumulonimbus is visible over the abandoned building: we’re now on the first day of June, and summer is a mere twenty-one days away, but during the weekend a few nights earlier, we had our first thunderstorm of the year: an smaller but still severe storm had passed just north of the city, and I watched as cloud-to-cloud lightning silently lit up the evening sky. Unbeknownst to me, some three hundred kilometres to the west was a band of thunderstorms that were moving eastward. By 3 AM, these storms reached my city and began pounding us with lightning and thunder. I was awakened by the thunder, glanced outside and decided to fall back asleep, recalling a time when I’d been younger and said thunderstorms would keep me up all night in excitement.

  • Upon arriving at the derelict building, Hodaka finds many of its floors have collapsed from the storm; reaching the torii is going to be a challenge, further complicated by Keisuke’s arrival. Keisuke implores Hodaka to take responsibility for his actions and turn himself in, failing to realise the reason why Hodaka is so determined to keep going is for Hina. Hodaka recovers the Makarov and points it at Keisuke: he discharges it into the air, and the police finally close in on the building, surrounding Hodaka. The Tokyo police are seen using the New Nambu M60, a revolver chambered for the .380 round that’s been in production since 1961 by Shin-Chuō Industries. When Keisuke realises that Hodaka’s love for Hina parallels that of his for his wife, Asuka Mamiya, he tackles the nearest officer, creating enough space for Hodaka to escape.

  • Hodaka reaches the rooftop torii and finds himself whisked to the upper edge of the troposphere: the average cumulonimbus reaches twelve kilometres up, flattening out at their upper extremities thanks to wind shear. The turbulent winds create a separation of charge, resulting in an electric field that is favourable for cloud-to-cloud lightning. Owing to the instability that creates them, thunderstorms typically result from these clouds, although in Weathering with You, the flattened cumulonimbus top resembles an island in the sky. Besides the rooftop torii, this unusual sight forms the bulk of the marketing materials for Weathering with You.

  • It is in the grassy tops of the cumulonimbus that Hodaka manages to find the sleeping Hina. He calls out to Hina, who awakens: as the currents up here increase, it becomes trickier to reach her. At the last second, Hina leaps into the air and takes a hold of Hodaka’s hand. The two are plunged into the interior of the cumulonimbus cloud, where the turbulence separates the two briefly. Here, Hodaka declares that he doesn’t care if the weather’s foul; a world without Hina is meaningless to him. It’s a touching gesture, and when the two fall from the lower reaches of the cumulonimbus cloud, Hodaka manages to grab onto Hina once more.

  • Shortly after the BD for Weathering with You released, Makoto Shinkai posted a Tweet comparing the theatrical version to the BD version, and it turns out there’s an error in the former: the low-level clouds and their shadows are completely absent. Shinkai remarked that this would make the theatrical cut more “valuable”, unique: the difference doesn’t negatively affect those who saw the theatre version in any way, and reminds me of a similar situation where the home release of Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer made some changes to the scenes, most noticeably, how the 00 Raiser launches en route towards intercepting a supposedly destroyed object that’s reappeared.

  • Hodaka wishes that Hina will now begin to live for herself; having spent so much of her life living for others’ happiness, Hina’s neglected to consider what she wants for herself. Hodaka acts as the agent of change here, prompting Hina to stay. The two plummet to the surface together, hand-in-hand, and moments later, find themselves lying at the foot of the torii still holding hands. The sunny weather has disappeared, replaced by a torrential rain.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Makoto Shinkai’s novelisation of Weathering with You is probably a valuable companion to the film, as it would be able to explore the inner thoughts that the characters have to a greater extent than in the movie itself. I found this to be true for Five Centimetres per Second, where the companion side-stories offered a considerable amount of insight into what Takaki had been feeling, and provided a decisive answer for the decade-old question of whether or not Takaki found happiness (he does). Similarly, Your Name‘s side story provides great detail into explaining the body-switching phenomenon from Taki’s perspective and also helps to flesh out the Miyamizu family’s history, making Toshiki a more sympathetic character than he had appeared in the film. I’ve not read Weathering with You‘s novelisation yet, but I imagine that it would help to clear out the handful of questions that I have exiting Weathering with You.

  • After his arrest, Hodaka is put on probation and sent back home to Kozushima, a small island some 172 kilometres from Tokyo. Here, he graduates from high school. Two of his classmates are curious to know what happened, and Hodaka initially misinterprets this as a kokuhaku. In the aftermath, Hodaka ends up returning to Tokyo, finding the city flooded from three straight years of non-stop rain. Its impacts on Tokyo are dramatic, and writers with a far broader audience than myself have asserted that Weathering with You‘s central theme lies in the topic of climate change, how the film is a call to action and a grim warning to what awaits humanity if we should continue down our current path. However, in Fujinkōron’s interview with Makoto Shinkai, Shinkai states that:

People say that humans are destroying nature for the sake of their own conveniences, and I agree with that. And yet, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t hesitate to turn on the air conditioning in my room when it’s hot. Climate change is a large-scale phenomenon with an unimaginable scope, but there’s not much a person can do about it on an individual level. Even so, my actions as a single person have a definite effect on the environment. It may feel like something that’s out of your realm of responsibility, but it absolutely isn’t. I made the film while thinking about how to deal with that problem through the framework of entertainment.

  • While weather patterns to the tune of what’s seen in Weathering with You seem a little outlandish, the fact is that the world has been trending towards greater extremities of late, and given the delicate balance of many ecosystems, shifting climate patterns will have massive knock-on effects around the globe. With this in mind, it is erroneous to declare that Weathering with You is an Aesop on climate change, or was intended to be a political statement. The persistent belief that all art is intrinsically political is a flawed belief; in the case of Weathering with You, imposing this viewpoints onto the movie is to be disingenuous towards Shinkai’s intentions for the film to speak of more human themes; even against adversity, people are resilient and will find ways to adapt and improve their situation. Just as Hina and Hodaka had done against the unforgiving backdrop of Tokyo, Tokyo’s citizens find ways to survive even as rain hammers the flood-beleaguered city.

  • Writing the post for Weathering with You was not an easy task: besides coming late to a field saturated with reviews having a distinct political slant, there were also the assertions, at the usual places, that the film’s direction and execution should be considered a “let down” when compared to Your Name. I counter-argue that Weathering with You has its own merits in creating a compelling story of responsibility and resilience, two themes that I’ve noticed are absent from all discussion. The themes in Weathering with You are rooted in optimism, that the belief humanity can adapt, improve and thrive, and speak positively of Shinkai’s world-view – he indicates through the film that people can learn to take responsibility for their actions at the individual level, and at a society level, people will find ways to survive.

  • I’ve long felt the contemporary attitudes towards climate change to be misguided, being motivated by politics and appearances rather than legitimate improvement for all of humanity: society’s propensity to divert funding and media coverage to activists, from researchers and experts who are developing greener technologies and systems, speaks volumes to the current society’s lack of sensibility and adversity towards hard work. It takes genuine effort and passion to learn about how complex systems function and then cultivate the expertise needed for synthesising novel solutions, but it takes no skill to make angry speeches and rally people to support extreme, but ineffectual actions with potentially devastating consequences.

  • While politicians waste taxpayer money towards propping up activist figures over supporting legitimate experts and professionals, I’ll continue to pay no mind to the activists and do my own part in keeping the planet healthier. Doing things like walking and using mass transit, recycling and composting, buying less stuff, turning the lights off in unoccupied rooms and other actions that might be small, but within my ability to carry out – these small actions are how I commit to ecological responsibility, and I count them as being considerably more valuable than telling others how they ought to live their lives.

  • In having Hodaka return to Tokyo and doing his best to make things right, Weathering with You demonstrates that the older Hodaka has come to understand what taking responsibility for his actions means. This is an overarching theme in Weathering with You that, while only visible once Hodaka speaks with Keisuke, is one that nonetheless is an important message to walk away with. These messages are conveniently skated over by those who purport to support ecological responsibility, but whose words are ultimately empty, and whose actions more detrimental to the world than those they seek to lecture.

  • When Hodaka encounters Hina, she’s seen making a prayer for fair weather. Hodaka calls out to her, and the sun appears. Thrilled, Hina warmly embraces Hodaka, and he promises that from now on, things are going to be okay. Indeed, Hodaka ends up entering post-secondary and subsequently takes a new job at Keisuke’s company. With the maturity and stability of someone who’s clearly learned from his experiences, audiences can conclude that Hodaka is able to keep his word to Hina, and that their happy ending is a deserved one. This post and its twelve thousand two hundred and fifty-four words is now very nearly in the books, kicking June off in style, but I admit that this much writing in the past while has been a bit wearing. I would like to take the first bit of June to unwind and take it easy.

  • Overall, Weathering with You succeeds in capturing the magic that is Makoto Shinkai, presenting a captivating story of resilience and determination that concludes decisively. While Weathering with You can come across as a bit busy in some areas, the movie ultimately succeeds in telling a cohesive and compelling coming-of-age story, accelerated by the presence of the supernatural. As such, Weathering with You earns an A (4.0 of 4.0, or 9 of 10): whatever flaws there are in the film are overshadowed by characters with an engaging story and Makoto Shinkai’s continued commitment to technical excellence within the film’s visuals and aural components. Like Your NameWeathering with You is a film I hope that all of my readers will have the chance to check out for themselves.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

On the whole, Weathering with You is a solid film, a fine addition to Makoto Shinkai’s filmography that combines his unique sense of aesthetics with a warm (if somewhat busy) story. While Weathering with You will continue to exist in the shadows of its predecessor, the film also has enough unique elements to indicate that Shinkai’s continuing to push the boundaries for excellence in animation. Viewers will find the film will to be tread upon well-worn paths that Your Name had trail-blazed, from the journey Hodaka and Hina take, to design choices like placement of music, but in spite of this, Weathering with You still hits all of its high points to create an immersive, engaging experience during its run. With this in mind, there is a limit to how well a reiteration of familiar plot points and story mechanics will be received, and so, in the future, Makoto Shinkai will need to focus on his own visions for his work: Weathering with You is a technically superb film that managed to keep things engaging, but revisiting the same themes in a future film could prove wearing on viewers. Besides exploring different themes, one other aspect that would yield a memorable movie is to keep the narrative consistently focused on one main goal; Your Name and The Garden of Words both excelled in this area, making use of a very straightforward story to drive a considerable amount of character development. By comparison, Weathering with You was busier, and left a few plot points unresolved; these elements were actually not strictly necessary to the story and could’ve been removed without negatively impacting the themes or progression in the movie. A back-to-the-basics approach in Shinkai’s next film would therefore be especially welcome: Shinkai has always shown that he is able to do a great deal using very little as the starting point, and this is where the magic of his movies lie. For the time being, however, Weathering with You remains a film worth watching for its unparalleled visuals, another perspective on the sense that human emotions are comparable to supernatural forces for the miracles and tragedies they create, and features excellent music from Radwimps: while perhaps not appealing to as broad of a viewer-base as Your Name, folks looking for a proper Makoto Shinkai experience in Weathering with You will not be left disappointed.

Finding Takaki’s Answers in Five Centimeters per Second: One More Side, or, Insights From a New Perspective

“Reality is brimming over with beautiful things, brilliant feelings. How many of them have I been missing?” –Takaki Tohno

Until now, the final act of Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimeters per Second remained a bit of an enigma, leaving viewers with questions about Takaki Tohno and his ultimate fate. The animated film, which premièred in 2007, had three acts that detail a different stage of Takaki’s life, from the moment that he met Akari Shinohara and their falling in love, to when he moves back to Tokyo as an adult. The existing misconception is that since meeting Akari, Takaki had never been able to truly let go of her when they separated, and this in turn negatively impacted his ability to connect with those around him in the present, whether it be the athletic and cheerful Kanae Sumida, or Risa Mizuno, a lady he meets through work. The claim that “Takaki still longs for Akari to the detriment of his lifestyle” and that he is “unable to cope with his feelings for Akari” persist even after a decade has passed since its premièred. Five Centimeters per Second‘s third act does indeed show Takaki as being downcast and depressed, but one spring day, when he decides to take a walk under the morning sun to clear his mind from his tasks, he has a seemingly chance encounter with Akari. As he turns around to look back, a train passes through; once the train passes, Akari has gone, but Takaki merely smiles and continues with his walk. This dramatic contrast appears to contradict the gloom and misery that Takaki had experienced earlier, leaving viewers to wonder why a glimpse of Akari would be enough to undo the loneliness Takaki was suffering. While the film left many aspects ambiguous, creating a highly poignant message amongst viewers who incorrectly counted the film where “that actually resolving things was never the point”, supplementary materials, taking the form of two novels and one manga, provided an answer to these otherwise forgotten questions, where analysts and reviewers had originally been forced to conclude that the story’s outcome was “ambiguous”.

In particular, the novel One More Side is of great worth in helping to determine what Five Centimeters per Second sought to accomplish with its story. Originally published in 2011, and receiving an English language publication only in 2019, One More Side presents the Five Centimeters per Second story from different perspectives. The first act is told from Akari’s point of view, painting her as being quite shy and finding solace in Takaki’s kind and reliable company. The second act shows that Takaki was actually quite directionless during his time as a high school student and, while the film may not have shown it, he found himself wishing to be closer to Kanae. The third act shows how his past regrets only occasionally haunt him, and his inability to connect with others stems more from his personality of wanting to push forwards no matter the cost. At work, Takaki thus suffered through difficult deadlines and unyielding product managers who were unsympathetic to what his suggestions were. This placed a great deal of stress on Takaki, and ultimately led him to break up with Risa. Reading through these new perspectives, it becomes clear that Takaki is not pining for Akari per se, but rather, the melancholy he has stems from being unable to properly find his footing at work. These are subtle details that the film conveys through its use of colour: by the time Takaki becomes a freelance developer, the blues and grays dominating the palette are replaced with the brighter hues of spring, indicating his improved well-being. This comes with him finding the freedom to work at his own pacing and take control of life; Takaki hints throughout One More Side that he dislikes losing control of his situation, stemming from the fact that he’d moved numerous times as a child. His dissatisfaction with his old job thus came from lacking the control to make decisions for the better, and by becoming a freelance developer, being able to set his own hours, pacing and clients afford him with the control that he sought from life.

Additional Remarks

  • I vaguely remember one reader asking me if I had read One More Side a ways back, but at the time, I did not have access to this. So, when I’d learnt that One More Side was actually available at a local bookstore, I hastened to pick my copy up. The book, classified as a light novel, offers insight into Five Centimeters per Second that even the novel adaptation of the movie and manga do not possess: it is an essential read for anyone who wishes to get more out of their experience with Five Centimeters per Second. Spanning 240 pages, I bought One More Side a few days before midsummer’s eve along with the first two volumes of Harukana Receive‘s manga, and read through it over the past few months.

  • The biggest takeaway from One More Side‘s first act is that Akari was very much drawn to Takaki for his kindness and fondness for books. As a transfer student, Akari found herself unable to fit in with other students, and found solace with Takaki, who similarly found it tricky to relate to others. Their common interest in the sciences brought them together, and both had envisioned spending their time as middle school students together, although this was cut short, and Akari felt as badly as Takaki did about their helplessness in the situation. With the newfound information, I hope that folks looking for something like “5 Centimeters Per Second ending explained” or similar will find this post useful.

  • Besides the myths that Anime News Network perpetuates about Five Centimeters per Second that have made their way to Wikipedia and other tertiary sources, speculation at places like Tango-victor-tango can leave folks with conflicting, contradictory information. For instance, some fans at tango-victor-tango speculate that Akari’s parents were completely disapproving of Takaki. One More Side gives no indicator to suggest that this is true whatsoever, and instead, the reason for their lack of contact once Takaki moved to Tanegashima was simply because their lives were becoming busier to the point where sending mail no longer was practical.

  • In One More Side‘s second act, Takaki’s perspective is given in great detail; while the film presented him as seemingly in control of his life, which impresses Kanae, it turns out he’s about as lost as she is, but has a different way of showing it. The novel also confirms that the girl in his dreams is not Akari, but rather, an abstraction of someone he wants to be with; Takaki entertains thoughts that it would be nice if this were Kanae. With this, a long-standing question is addressed, and there’s one fewer ambiguity for folks to deal with. Takaki’s thoughts on Kanae are also provided in greater detail, and it suggests that he was actually hoping to get to know her better.

  • With everything said and done, One More Side is an indispensable read for anyone who enjoyed Five Centimeters per Second but felt shafted by the ending. The fact that there’s an official English translation now means that the story is more accessible overall. It’s taken twelve years for all of the pieces to fit into place, and One More Side provides the insights that fans deserve. This short post is now in the books, and I expect the next time I will be writing about Makoto Shinkai will be for Tenki no Ko, which released in July and for which the home release still remains unknown.

While Five Centimeters per Second is largely counted as a love story, it is more appropriate to approach it as a drama about life in general, and specifically, about control (or lack thereof) of one’s situation. The speed at which cherry blossoms fall, then, becomes not merely a metaphor about falling in love and falling out of love, but about how people’s fates are as transient and fragile as the cherry blossom, whose downward trajectories are stochastic and dependent on things like wind, which the cherry blossom petal itself is powerless to influence, much less control. Makoto Shinkai mentions this in other materials, adding credence to the idea that Five Centimeters per Second‘s theme is more broad than that of a love story. The ending scene where Takaki reaches reaches the train crossing on that spring day and encounters Akari, has a simple and profound explanation: Takaki smiles because he feels contentment at being able to fulfil his original promise to Akari. Their original promise, to see the cherry blossoms together again, is to be taken in a literal sense; viewers analysing the scene have over-scrutinised everything in Five Centimeters per Second and somehow ended up with the conclusion that seeing the cherry blossoms together was a poetic metaphor for getting married and spending their futures together. However, One More Side shows that Takaki’s memory is quite keen, and his smile comes from having satisfied their original promise, whereupon Takaki realises that he’d always had the initiative to take charge of his situation. The additional insights offered by One More Side allows audiences of Five Centimeters per Second to gain closure regarding Takaki, who unambiguously leaves the novel feeling happier, more content and ready to take on the future. In other words, after more than twelve years since Five Centimeters per Second premièred in Japanese cinema, the answer to whether or not Takaki got a happy ending is a resounding, decisive and well-deserved yes.

Tenki no Ko: Remarks on the new Makoto Shinkai Film announced for July 2019

“This is a story about a secret world only she and I know. That day, we changed the shape of the world forever.” –Movie Tagline

Amidst the runaway success of Kimi no Na Wa, Makoto Shinkai found himself staring at a towering white cumulonimbus, standing out against the vivid blue of a summer’s sky on a hot August day. The massive thunderhead’s flattened top resembled an island, and Shinkai thought, what if this was a world of its own? This is how Tenki no Ko (天気の子, Weathering With You in English, literally “Children of the Weather”) came into being: Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, Tenki no Ko follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who moves to Tokyo and finds that his finances are quickly consumed. He eventually takes up a position as a writer for an obscure and objectionable occult magazine. However, shortly after accepting this job, the weather in Tokyo becomes monotonously rainy. Amidst the endless activity in Tokyo, Hodaka encounters Hina Amano, an optimistic and dependable girl who lives with her brother. Beyond her cheerful manner lies her ability to clear the skies. At least, this is what the synopsis for Tenki no Ko is, and recently, a trailer was released, detailing the animation and artwork viewers can expect from Tenki no Ko. Standing in contrast with Shinkai’s previous works, which have colourful, vividly detailed and cheerful backgrounds, Tenki no Ko features much drearier, dilapidated settings in its trailer that resemble Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City. Greys dominate the setting, which is covered with haphazard wiring, overgrowth and crumbling structures. Compared to the cleaner, cared-for settings of Kotonoha no Niwa and Kimi no Na Wa, Tenki no Ko conveys a more desolate setting, communicating ruin forgotten amongst a city’s endless drive for progress. However, shaft of golden light, breaking through gaps in the cloud, suggest an oasis of happiness surrounded by a sea of monotony, and so, in this trailer, Tenki no Ko hints that it is much more than being a mere film about youthful romance and fateful meetings.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote a preview for a Makoto Shinkai movie, it was three years ago, and I was entering the final term of my graduate studies. Kimi no Na Wa came out eight months later, and subsequently, it was an eleven month journey to the other side where I could finally watch and write about it. By comparison, Tenki no Ko‘s first trailer released precisely 100 days before its première date. It opens with closeups of details such as rain falling onto an umbrella, immediately setting the stage for what is to follow.

  • The choice of lighting, with greys, browns and tans dominating the Tokyo landscape, which is focused on older parts of the megalopolis, suggests that Tenki no Ko might be going in a slightly different direction. Each of Makoto Shinkai’s films stand out from one another despite being characterised by themes of distance, fateful encounters and the like; one possibility from the trailer is that themes of urban decay, abandonment and finding joy even among desolation come into play in Tenki no Ko. However, this scene also features a single shaft of light from the sun breaking through the clouds, suggesting that optimism and hope, also exist.

  • Hina maintains a small shrine on the roof of her building, which is evidently aging and overgrown with weeds. The scene feels more like something out of Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a book that longtime readers of this blog will have doubtlessly heard me reference multiple times. I am admittedly curious to see where the film will go with its direction, and the trailer does seem to set the tone for what kind of settings the movie will cover. However, I imagine that as we press further into the movie, more majestic and beautiful locations will also be seen.

  • The chaotic mass of pipes and wiring here remind me greatly of the Kowloon Walled City that existed in Hong Kong: after World War Two, there was a parcel of land in Hong Kong that officially belonged to China, but seeing as how the British and China would not accept administrative responsibility of the area, what was once a walled city and yamen turned into a site for the destitute. Since neither British nor Chinese law applied here, people escaped to the Walled City and constructed their own apartments and utilities. By 1990, the site was the most densely populated site in the world, with some 1.2 million inhabitants per square kilometre, and despite its fearsome reputation as a hotbed of crime, most of the residents lived their lives peacefully.

  • The short synopsis presently provides next to nothing in the way of what’s going to happen in Tenki no Ko, rather like how the body switching of Kimi no Na Wa was only a primer for the movie’s main story – this leaves the film quite free to explore most anything, and for this, I am very excited to see where Tenki no Ko will head. Here, we have a closer look at Hina; she bears little resemblance to Shinkai’s earlier characters, and is voiced by Nana Mori. One of the chief drawbacks about Shinkai’s older works were that his female leads seemed to be ethereal, angelic beings of perfection; by the events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, his female characters become more nuanced and human, giving viewers more incentive to root for them.

  • Vegetable animals are a part of the Obon Festival: they usually take the form of a a horse made from cucumber and an ox made out of eggplant. These animals symbolise transport for ancestral spirits that return them to the realm of spirits, and traditionally, were put outside one’s door on the first day of Obon with incense. The last time I saw Obon vegetable animals was in Sora no Woto‘s seventh episode, where Kanata explains customs from her area. Emphasis on this suggests that life and death might also be a component of Tenki no Ko.

  • I’ve long expressed my displeasure that there are some out there who view Makoto Shinkai’s films as a justification for pressing the idea that extensive knowledge of the Man’yōshū and other aspects of Classical Japanese literature and folklore is required to fully appreciate his films. During Kimi no Na Wa‘s run, one unscrupulous fellow continued to peddle this idea, all the while putting down others for not “getting” the film to the same level as they did. While it is true that Shinkai incorporates classical elements into his works, these merely serve as analogies and allegories that enhance the story if noticed; the story is in no way diminished if one chooses not to account for these elements.

  • Tenki no Ko remains early in its reveal, and I’ve not seen discussions go in this direction as of yet: personally, I am confident that this film will be quite enjoyable, irrespective of one’s prior knowledge in Classical Japanese literature and folklore. It suddenly strikes me that the trailer’s release is much closer to the film’s actual release than was Kimi no Na Wa‘s, and a part of me wishes that Tenki no Ko will be similarly structured and released as Kotonoha no Niwa: with a shorter runtime of 45 minutes, Kotonoha no Niwa released in May 31, 2013 and became available for home release on June 21, 2013. This made the film exceptionally accessible.

  • The trailer depicts Hina flying through the skies, far above the tops of the thunderheads, which are tinged with green to evoke imagery of islands in the skies: the scenery here is used in the promotional artwork for Tenki no Ko and, while not as iconic as Comet Tiamat’s trail in Kimi no Na Wa, remains quite distinct and grand in scale. The film’s soundtrack will be performed by RADWIMPS, who make a triumphant return after composing and performing the excellent soundtrack for Kimi no Na Wa: the theme song for Tenki no Ko is Ai ni Dekiru koto wa Mada Arukai (“Is there still anything that love can do?”).

  • I am certain I will enjoy this movie, and hope that it’ll see a shorter delay in the gap between the theatrical première. With this being said, I am certain that certain review sites, like Anime News Network. will unnecessarily waste resources to see this movie for the singular purpose of pushing out a review first. Until the rest of the world gets to see the movie, I suggest that reviews appearing at Anime News Network, and anywhere else, should not be regarded as a credible assessment of the film. I realise that I’ve been writing considerably less as of late, as well: real life obligations has meant that I’ve less time to write in general these days. Having said this, I am definitely going to be offering my thoughts on Tenki no Ko once it is available, and in the near future, I am also doing a talk on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, a solid film whose home release became available earlier this month.

Entering Tenki no Ko, expectations are high for a visually stunning film – the trailer and Shinkai’s past works set the precedence for what audiences can expect. From the glint of light on raindrops to flaking paint, dense, unkempt vegetation on a building’s rooftop and the enigmatic world above the clouds, Tenki no Ko will undoubtedly impress with Shinkai’s signature artwork and animation. The story remains unknown right now, and here, I will enter with an open mind – I recall that with Kimi no Na Wa, I expressed a want to see reduced romance in favour of exploring growth. The film delivered this, in a manner of speaking, but with the benefit of hindsight, I ended up eating my words. Tenki no Ko represents a familiar setup for Shinkai, but with a different premise, I look forwards to seeing what new directions the film can explore, especially with rain and its associated themes making a return in conjunction with a bit of magic that manifests in Hina’s ability to stop the rain. While perhaps nowhere nearly as potent as the Infinity Gauntlet, I look forwards to seeing how this ability will impact her and Hodaka’s growth. Aside from a more open mind, I also enter the long wait for Tenki no Ko with the understanding that this film could take a similarly long time to become available for English-speakers: with a release date of July 19, Tenki no Ko will likely see a home release in June 2020, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if it sees a strong box office performance. This wait is going to be a tricky one, although now that I am entering with the preparedness to endure a long wait, I can pursue other things while spoilers for Tenki no Ko become more commonplace – the Halo: Master Chief Collection looks to be more than acceptable a means of enjoying myself while we wait for the film to become available, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be vociferously griping about my inability to watch this film while I melt through the Covenant, Flood and Forerunner Prometheans alike.

MythBusters meets Makoto Shinkai: Addressing Myths Surrounding Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name)

“This is the show. It’s like four minutes of science and then ten minutes of me hurting myself.” –Adam Savage, MythBusters

It has been two years to the day that Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name premièred in Japanese theatres – the film was counted a veritable masterpiece by some and saw overwhelmingly positive reception in the days following its launch, for its exceptional visuals and a coherent, moving story that ended up being very satisfying to take in. Your Name was screened internationally to acclaim, and around the world, the film was lauded as being one of Shinkai’s strongest. However, as is the norm for anime dealing with such a broad range of topics and themes, numerous assertions, and the occasional untruth, sometimes arise. In this post, the central aim will be to deal with some of the more persuasive, and occasionally blatantly false, claims surrounding the movie. There are four that particularly stand out, and I will, as Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have done for MythBusters, I will be methodically going through each of the five claims and determine whether or not each holds any merit. As with MythBusters, each claim will end up in one of three categories: something that is “confirmed” holds weight and is backed by substantial evidence, oftentimes, from the authors, producers or staff themselves. A claim that is “plausible” is one that may hold true given observations seen in the work itself, and “busted” claims are those that either lack substantial evidence to indicate they are true, or else stand in contradiction with observations seen within the work itself. Below, I explore each of the four myths surrounding Your Name, and with my particular brand of exploration, offer insight as to what I found the outcome of each assertion should be.

Taki and Mitsuha’s meeting is undeserved

From a certain perspective, the happy ending that Taki and Mitsuha ended up receiving in Your Name came across as contrived and unearned, and that a superior ending would have been for the two to walk by one another without anything else occurring. For these individuals, their fateful meeting at the film’s end diminished their experience, who feel that neither Taki or Mitsuha have genuinely earned their ending:

My big problem with the happy ending in Your Name.[sic] is that it felt too contrived. I felt that neither Mitsuha nor Taki earned their happy ending, which relied heavily on an implausible deux ex machina. I felt cheated, because the Shinkai went for a cliched conclusion, and that cheapened the impact of the drama for me.

I dislike happy endings in my choice of fiction, in general. I think happy endings are a lie that people actively seek because they can’t accept the shitty mess that is real life. I think good endings are the ones which realistically portray the cost of all their characters’ actions and why, in the end, the choices were worth it, despite what they gave up in exchange.

Individuals further argue that reality is not about giving people happy endings and in some cases, have even gone so far as to say that Makoto Shinkai had intended to write a distance-themed ending similar to that of Five Centimeters per Second. However, throughout Your Name, the image of the red ribbon is very prevalent. This red ribbon of fate, as it is commonly known, is meant to symbolise being bound together by some force beyond our comprehension. In conjunction with the persistent and forward use of braided cords, as well as notions of musubi, or, a coming together of, it is clear that Your Name aims to speak to notions of connection. Something has brought Taki and Mitsuha together, and for better or worse, causes their lives to be intertwined in ways that they had thought impossible. Using extraordinary circumstances to speak about love, Shinkai’s use of symbolism is meant to suggest that love works in enigmatic ways.

  • Before I go further into this discussion, I address the page quote: it’s meant to set the stage for the tone of this post, where a few sentences of it show what the reality behind some claims are, and the rest of it is me making wisecracks about some of the beliefs. Now, we formally begin, and I open by mentioning that all of the happy couples that I know state that their meeting was happenstance, and that once they’d met, something convinced them that this was what they were looking for. This is the fate, 緣份 in my tongue, 運命 in Japanese, that my parents say drive relationships. The complexity of love is such that it is likened to the supernatural, and Your Name definitely strove to convey that there is a degree of magic in love and relationships, as well as how some people meet.

  • Thus, to say that it was deus ex machina that brings Taki and Mitsuha together, and that neither of them “earned” their happy ending is indicative of someone who lacks understanding of what love is. Your Name‘s ending is by no means clichéd because the film was setting up the possibility of a reunion with its symbolism, and the ending audiences got shows that some occurrences in life, though beyond our ability to fully comprehend, can work out in peoples’ favour. Optimistic, open-minded individuals accept things as they occur, making the most of their moment, while pessimists tend to leave their heads in the sand, oblivious of the world progressing around them.

  • The payoff at the end of Your Name comes as a stroke of fate precisely of the sort that bring people together: had Your Name aimed to set up an ending similar to Five Centimeters per Second, Shinkai would have dispensed with the focus on cords, braiding and the red string imagery that is so prevalent in the movie. Willfully ignoring the symbols in a film and attempting to force one’s own opinions into them, contrary to Shinkai’s application of the symbols, is to suggest that Shinkai’s intentions are irrelevant. In this case, the quoted individual asserts that the theme of Your Name is that the “vague yet aching sense of clinging to memory underpins the entire point of the movie”.

  • This is wrong: Shinkai had previously covered the dangers of clinging onto memories and a shadow of one’s desire through Five Centimeters per Second. Takaki falls into a depression and breaks up with a girlfriend because he was not able to live in the present and appreciate where he was, longing after an idealised fantasy. By comparison, while Mitsuha and Taki continue to feel as though they are forgetting something, both continue moving ahead with their lives, graduating from school and transitioning into their occupations. Besides suggesting the individual quoted misunderstood Five Centimeters per Second (which does not romanticise waiting for the impossible), it is clear that the individual in question missed the point of Your Name, as well.

  • I’ll close off by remarking that to be so dismissive of happy endings is to hold a pessimistic outlook of humanity and the world – while there are plenty of reasons why people might be pessimists, I am of the mind that online, most people hold a pessimistic, or even nihilistic worldview for the sake of attention. As such, folks who make broad, sweeping statements about their lives in response to one film are doing so without any concrete basis; perhaps they simply cannot accept that their life lacks colour and purpose, and so, are quick to write off any happy endings as being inconsistent with their worldview, rather than making a conscious effort to change themselves and their outlook.

That the two come together in the end, then, is the culmination of these signs and their experiences. Had Taki and Mitsuha missed one another, it would completely contradict what Shinkai had intended to go for – this would show that no amount of effort, natural or supernatural, could accommodate love. Aside from yielding a highly unsatisfactory ending, having the two pass by another would defeat the sum of the symbolism, betraying the audience’s expectations. Five Centimeters per Second had Takaki consciously choose not to worry about whether or not the woman at the train crossing was indeed Akari, precisely because it indicated Takaki’s willingness to move on, to let go of his past. No indicator of divine intervention was given in Five Centimeters per Second, and distance was meant to illustrate that Takaki had lost sight of why he was in love to begin with. The same cannot be said for Your Name, where conscious decision to act on a feeling and pursue it, coupled with a bit of supernatural influence, allows Taki and Mitsuha to come together. As a result, Your Name could not have been successful with any other ending.

Verdict: Busted

The film is an allegory for the March 2011 Tohoku Earthquake

March 2011 saw one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike modern Japan: this earthquake was followed by a devastating tsunami that ravaged the Tohoku region, and also resulted in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which is second only to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 in terms of severity. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster wiped entire rural towns out and created an exclusion zone around the now-derelict power plant; the impact on Japanese communities, both rural and urban, was strongly felt. Being located along the Ring of Fire, and being in the path of typhoons means that the Japanese are no strangers to natural disasters. Stoically accepting their fate and making the most of their circumstance, forces of nature are the focus of many Japanese films: people always wind up rising to the occasion and surviving. Because of these elements were quite obvious, many news outlets assert that this film was meant to be an allegory for the response to and aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake; the imagery is very strong, with scenes of wreckage surrounding Itormori as great in scale as the destruction wrecked by the tsunami, and the eerie silence of the twin-craters captures the subdued, almost supernatural feeling in an exclusion area. However, it would seem quite far-fetched to say that the events of the Tohoku Earthquake directly influenced Your Name – after all, Your Name is ostensibly a love story.

  • When the Tohoku Earthquake occurred, I was in the middle of the second undergraduate year, and news of the disaster was all over the news: I was waiting for organic chemistry lecture to begin and was reading about the events as they were unfolding. The scale and scope of the disaster were unknown at the time, and it was only later that the reach of the devastation became known. I donated to relief efforts, and time passed; the earthquake faded to the back of my mind as I busied myself with summer research.

  • Two years later, the Great Flood of 2013 hit Southern Alberta, bringing the disasters to my doorstep. The Bow overflowed its banks in the evening of June 20, and forced an evacuation of the entire downtown core, as well as communities surrounding the city. I saw for myself the power of rising waters and donated to relief efforts: the recovery was astounding as people came together to overcome challenges. The fact is that natural disasters are a part of our world, and for better or worse, people will find ways to recover and continue living.

  • As heartbreaking as natural disasters are, they can also bring out the best in people. In the case of Your Name, Makoto Shinkai likely utilised the impact event to show the resilience of the human spirit, specifically, that even when people are separated, powerful positive emotions can prevail over this. As a result, the inclusion of Tiamat’s collision with the surface is likely meant to reinforce this notion, and the film is unlikely to have reached the hearts of so many viewers had it chosen to focus on a strictly comedic or realistic approach.

  • The Itomori disaster is ultimately a central aspect of Your Name, although it is the human aspects that are ultimately the most important to consider: Your Name shows both an effort to make a difference in the presence of existing knowledge and also, how people endure and move on following disasters. I did not cover the topic to any extent in my original review beyond a short blurb about it, as I felt the disaster to be less critical at the time, but looking back, with the knowledge of why Shinkai added it, in retrospect, it is clear that my original review is missing the mention of the strength of human resilience and spirit that being aware of the disaster piece brings out.

  • Beyond this, however, the general themes and messages of my original Your Name discussion remain quite unchanged. I wrap up this section’s screenshots with the remark that there’s an eerie beauty about the destruction surrounding Itomori. The exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl and Fukushima are similarly places of contrast, although they differ from the fictional Itomori impact crater in that the presence of radioactive particles and emissions make them much more dangerous places to be in.

As it turns out, Makoto Shinkai himself stated in an interview that the earthquake had a profound impact on him. In the days following, he travelled to Natori in Miyagi, and saw there a scene of total juxtaposition: above was a beautiful blue sky, peaceful and serene, and below, the ruins of towns, farms and roads. Realising the scale of the destruction, and that it just so happened that this area was made to bear the full brunt of the tsunami, Shinkai felt that natural disasters could happen anywhere, at any time. This was the raw strength and beauty of nature, and so, Shinkai wondered, if one could be given the power of foresight against a disaster, what would one do? What could one do? As time passed, and Shinkai returned to Natori, he saw the town rebuilt. The same ocean that had shattered the city years before was now back to being a part of the background, beautiful and majestic. This contrast in nature inspired Shinkai, and into his love story, he weaves powerful disaster imagery to show that nature is beautiful, terrible and above all, fair. In his story, Shinkai hopes to remind audiences that disasters are forgotten with time, but people should nonetheless be more mindful of the awesome strength that is nature. In doing so, just as news outlets have found, Your Name is indeed an allegory to the Tohoku Earthquake. Using stunning visuals and a central human element, Shinkai subtly informs viewers to never forget about the duality of nature, but also, the strength of the human spirit to make a difference.

Verdict: Confirmed

Your Name and The Garden of Words are set in the same universe

Yukari Yukino was one of the protagonists of The Garden of Words, where she had fallen into a depression as a consequence from stresses of her work and became increasingly isolated until Takai entered her life. Metaphorically helping her walk again, Taki’s influence on Yukari is a positive one, and Yukari resumes teaching in her hometown on Shikoku Island. Yukari is seen again in Your Name, this time, as a teacher in Itomori. Kana Hanazawa provides the voice to both incarnations of Yukari, and so, with this overlap, viewers have been compelled to try and show that The Garden of Words and Your Name are set in the same universe, using Yukari’s presence to indicate that this is indeed the case. However, Yukari’s presence in Your Name is only because Makoto Shinkai was interested in reusing her character for the film as a bit of a call-back to his earlier film, and partially in jest, so he could work with Hanazawa again. In addition, Shinkai carefully includes dates to indicate that the Yukari of Your Name and the Yukari of The Garden of Words are not the one and the same, which is to say that The Garden of Words and Your Name are set in different universes.

  • If this blog post were to be done in a MythBusters episode, this particular claim would occupy the fewest number of minutes in that episode and be the one myth that could be tested entirely in the M5 Industries warehouse. Further, if Jamie and Adam were to replace me, then they would probably say that this is one of the myths that can be tried at home. The basis for the notion that Your Name and The Garden of Words are in the same realm stem from the fact that Yukari is present in both worlds.

  • Using the calendars on Taki and Mitshua’s smartphones is the quickest and easiest way to determine that the universes are quite different. September 10 fell on a Saturday in 2016, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss it moment, Mitsuha is seen writing a journal entry dated Thursday, September 12. A glance shows that September 2013 has this occurrence, which also lines up with frequent mention of “three years ago” in Your Name. Yukari did not leave Tokyo until September 2013 in The Garden of Words, but in Your Name, is a teaching in Itomori in 2013.

  • There is one more subtle detail that should be sufficient to convince the reader that Yukari of The Garden of Words and Yukari of Your Name do not exist in the same universe. The first is that Shinkai had strictly adhered to realism in both Five Centimeters per Second and The Garden of Words. In Your Name, however, Itomori is a fictional town, and magic is at play in Your Name.

  • So, short of the Space and Time Stones being present in Your Name (and there most certainly are not), it is not the case that Yukari of The Garden of Words and Yukari of Your Name are the same Yukari, and moreover, these two realities are completely different. The details seen in Your Name, so deliberately chosen to reinforce this, are present to remove this ambiguity, and small details like these merit rewatching Your Name.

  • I remember that shortly after the film became available in North America, some wondered why Mitsuha did not feel something was off about their timelines based on what version of iOS they were using. Short of looking at the system settings, I argue that there aren’t enough differences between iOS 7 and iOS 9 for the average user to differentiate. iOS 7 saw the introduction of Apple’s Flat UI, which gives iOS a more modern, streamlined form, and it was a dramatic departure from iOS 6 and earlier versions, which had skeuomorphism in its design.

Looking through the calendars of The Garden of Words, Yukari writes a letter to Takao dated February, 2014, indicating that when she mentions returning to her hometown for September, she is referring to September 2013. The time that Yukari and Takao spend together, then, is between June and August of 2013. In Your Name, there are numerous stills of Taki and Mitsuha leaving daily journal entries on their mobile devices. From Taki’s perspective, he sees everything from 2016: September 10 was a Tuesday in 2016. However, inspection of the frames when Mitsuha leaves a journal entry behind show that it is 2013 – September 12 was a Thursday in 2013. Consequently, it is reasonable to suppose that Mitsuha first begins switching consciousnesses with Taki in the summer of 2013 from her perspective. During the phenomenon, Yukari is clearly seen teaching classes in Itomori. There is a direct overlap in Yukari’s teaching Mitsuha’s classes in Itomori and teaching Takao’s classes in Tokyo. Since it is impossible for an individual to have omnipresence in the absence of additional elements, practical evidence in Your Name and The Garden of Words, coupled with Shinkai’s remarks about Yukari, indicate that both movies have a different instance of Yukari, and so, could not be set within the same realm.

Verdict: Busted

Understanding and a profound familiarity of the Man’yōshū is mandatory to enjoyment of the film

Your Name covers a myriad of themes, from the ethereal and powerful nature of love to the juxtaposition of beauty and indifference in natural phenomenon. The film’s broad appeal comes as a consequence of the narrative’s breadth – a diverse audience enjoys it because there’s something in this film for everyone, including linguists and cultural anthropologists, who would find the references to the Man’yōshū highly enjoyable. The Man’yōshū, literally “Ten Thousand Pages Collection”, is renowned as being a comprehensive collection of Japanese poetry dating largely between 600 and 759 AD. In particular, the Man’yōshū is counted as being a very extensive collection of poetry containing traditional Shinto values, as well as aspects of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Written in a sentimental tone, the Man’yōshū‘s contents are further important from a cultural perspective, offering insight into an older Japanese written system, known as the man’yōgana. This system, though cumbersome, utilised Chinese characters in both phonetic and symbolic roles, and is counted as the forerunner of the modern kana systems. It is therefore unsurprising that there is a romantic appeal surrounding the Man’yōshū; it is quite fitting to draw on these well-known elements for a work of fiction. However, there are some who suggest that there are hidden thematic elements in the film, and that it requires a specialised mindset for one to truly appreciate Your Name. These individuals posit that Yukari’s references to Man’yōshū provide insight into Makoto Shinkai’s intentions more succinctly than do imagery and overarching themes elsewhere in the movie, and that further to this, one must adopt a strictly academic perspective towards the film before they can begin appreciating all of the nuances within the film:

“Kimi no na wa” is one of those films, like “Kotonoha no Niwa” -and a TV series like “Kuzu no Honkai” is as well- which can continue to provide entertainment for years. Not everyone will appreciate the connection but they have the same seeds for a lot of their symbolism. The benefits of tracking those down can be sown for an even better understanding of so many stories. Grounded with the same roots. Never ending homework but of the fun variety. While throwing me miles out of my depth, “Man’yōshū” also continues to provide foundational knowledge which in turn inspires further exploration and the formation of a never complete but ever expanding baseline for understanding. Someone who followed the hints provided by the creators of “Kuzu no Honkai” on a weekly basis and stuck with delving into them to the end will walk into a “Kimi no Na wa” screening better prepared for the emotions and symbolism they’re about to witness on screen. I came here, in part, to say that I think they have a lot in common.

  • I expect that this myth would be the one that generates the least amount of resistance by the time I reached my conclusion: the vast majority of viewers will not be watching Your Name with the intention of writing a graduate thesis about it. Your Name is intended to entertain, not instruct, and as such, one should not need a serious background in Classical Japanese to get Your Name any more than one needs an understanding of British folklore and medieval witchcraft of Europe to enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

  • If, we supposed that Shinkai had intended Your Name to be a movie requiring a background in Classical Japanese literature to appreciate, then the film would’ve spent more time going over the blackboard. Instead, the blackboard is shown very briefly: aside from acting as foreshadowing for viewers who do have the background in Classical Japanese literature, the film does not directly go into details line-by-line. Instead, there are numerous landscape and cityscape shots: the time lapses are impressive and show how far animation has come since Shinkai’s early days. The presence of jaw-dropping visuals, however, are unlikely to be sufficient to convince those who are dead-set on forcing an academic approach to this film.

  • Quite frankly, it is no business of mine if people want to do a graduate thesis on Your Name – they’d have a helluva time finding a graduate supervisor willing to do such a project, and encounter similar difficulties in securing the requisite, for starters. With this being said, I do not wish for people to read through piles of meaningless purple prose online and then come away feeling as though they’re missing something from Your Name: often, people will do this to satisfy their own egos and intimidate others, rather than present novel ideas for a discussion amongst peers. Those with the most convoluted thoughts are those who have the least meaningful things to add, as the quoted individual for this section illustrates.

  • There were two other myths that I would have liked to bust. The first is that that a power line dividing the moon in two has symbolic meaning (allegedly, “heartbreak or broken fate”). However, with the art-book “A Sky Longing For Memories” never mentioning this, and the fact that this image actually has no meaning, this myth would not be a satisfactory one to bust, being quite short. These shots are intended to be establishing shots only, bringing to life an environment, and beyond this, does not hold any relevance to the narrative. The second is that couples will get more out of Your Name than single folk, but this is also obviously false, and would make for some uninteresting discussion.

  • My original Your Name post was quite lengthy and featured an even hundred screenshots, but even this was insufficient to cover all of the moments in Your Name. With this being said, in the two years that have passed since the film began screening in Japan, I think that all of the conversation that can be had about Your Name is exhausted. There will be screenshots I do not imagine I will have a chance to use, but things are what they are. I note the goal of this exercise is to take a closer look at existing beliefs about the movie, rather than a revisitation, and so, the screenshots were chosen to be (somewhat) relevant to what was being discussed.

A film is not intended to, and should never, force its viewers to do “homework”. It should be evident that any film demanding its audience to possess a degree in Classical Japanese, folklore, linguistics or culture would not be particularly enjoyable to watch. Doubtless that there might be interesting aspects in Your Name drawn from the Man’yōshū, they do not form the focus of the film: had Shinkai chosen to conceal his themes behind aspects requiring uncommon knowledge, audiences would not have found the film enjoyable. The reason why Your Name was so successful was that it broadly touched on a range of topics, packaging things up in a film with stunning sound and visuals, and finally, concluding in an immensely satisfying manner. As such, it is evident that without having the requisite “foundational knowledge” and a preparedness to seek out the symbols in the film, one can nonetheless enjoy the film to a considerable extent. In fact, it should be clear that while Shinkai may have drawn from the Man’yōshū for his films, the stories and themes in Your Name (and The Garden of Words) are his own – Shinkai draws from his own experiences to create a story, and it is disingenuous to suppose that there is enough of an overlap between his works and the Man’yōshū such that the latter becomes required reading to understand Shinkai’s intentions. One does not need to “[follow] the hints provided and [stick] with delving into them to the end” ahead of watching Your name to be “better prepared for the emotions and symbolism they’re about to witness on screen”; this is a load of bullshit. Numerous viewers have enjoyed the film without the requisite knowledge that is supposedly mandatory to enjoy the movie; as the large, diverse audience have decisively shown, there is no wrong way to enjoy Your Name except for one: the belief that declares academic perspectives as being necessary and sufficient to experience the film properly. With this myth being firmly busted, it is my hope that people do not accept those verbose, purple prose-filled passages as resembling anything even remotely relevant to Your Name.

Verdict: Busted

Closing Remarks

The broad themes and messages in Your Name means that discussion on the film’s subtler aspects are only natural, but there are occasions where conversation strays away from the realm of facts and towards speculation. This post was intended to take a look at some of the assertions surrounding Your Name. In this round of myth busting, I cover four widely-known queries that are invariably raised after watching Your Name, and through a bit of discussion, find that three of the four claims are “busted”. That is to say, there is evidence to show that the claims made about Your Name are merely thus. One of the claims turned out to have merit, and this revelation gives additional weight and meaning to Your Name. I’ve found that appreciation for a film usually comes from hearing insight into what motivated the creators to create the film in the manner that they did, and also from being able to relate to the film in a manner. While post-modernist thought supposes that the audience’s interpretation should be held to at least the same weight as the author’s intent, deviating from this may leave an individual with an inaccurate understanding of the same film, or even a diminished experience. While we are on the matter of a diminished experience, I note that this post lacks the same excitement as a conventional MythBusters episode. Instead, I’ve addressed a few long-standing queries about Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, and ultimately find that, regardless of whether one might agree or disagree with my verdicts, the fact is that Your Name is a worthwhile film to watch.