Warm ray of light peeking through

The animation in Weathering With You depicts Tokyo as grey and wet or bathed in the glow of longed-for sunshine.
The animation in Weathering With You depicts Tokyo as grey and wet or bathed in the glow of longed-for sunshine.PHOTO: ENCORE FILMS

Makoto Shinkai's new anime film explores young love and fantasy, and has a surprising ending

REVIEW / FANTASY-ROMANCE

WEATHERING WITH YOU (PG)

112 minutes/Opens today/ 3.5 stars

The story: Hodaka (voiced by Kotaro Daigo), 16, runs away to Tokyo and ends up working at a small-time publisher. Given the unending spate of rain, he is tasked with finding a "sunshine girl". He meets Hina (voiced by Nana Mori), a teenager who can control the weather, and they come up with a money-making scheme by offering sunny skies. But there is a price to pay for wielding magic.

This is the much-awaited new film from Japanese writer-director Makoto Shinkai after his acclaimed anime hit Your Name (2016), which put a fresh spin on the tired device of body-swopping.

It might seem at first that he is revisiting in Weathering With You some of the themes that made his last film so popular.

But he has explored young love and fantasy before in his films, including 2002's Voices Of A Distant Star and 2011's Children Who Chase Lost Voices.

So to be fair, it does not feel like Shinkai is merely cashing in here.

He draws inspiration from the crazy weather of recent times and imagines Tokyo under a constant deluge of rain.

The animation is lovely, depicting the familiar Japanese city as grey and wet or bathed in the glow of longed-for sunshine.

Hodaka is a little naive as he tries to survive in Tokyo, while Hina puts on a brave front as she tries to take care of her younger brother after their mother dies.

The film does not ignore the darker side of life in a big city as Hina almost ends up working as a hostess and Hodaka has to sleep on the streets at one point.

Shinkai crafts plucky, memorable protagonists one cares about and surrounds them with a cast of strong supporting characters, including the older but not quite wiser Keisuke Suga (Shun Oguri), who gives Hodaka the job at his tiny publishing outfit; and Nagi, Hina's younger brother who is quite the ladies' man, well, boy.

It has to be said though that Your Name felt more magical. The arc is more predictable here, with a character intoning early on that interfering with the natural order of things exacts a price.

But Shinkai still manages to make the ending satisfying and surprising, like a warm ray of light peeking through dark storm clouds.

• Watch the trailer at youtu.be/b7UHJGT1FFM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2019, with the headline 'Warm ray of light peeking through'. Print Edition | Subscribe