Makoto Shinkai confirmed himself as a relevant commercial and hugely creative film director with Your Name (2016), an animated film that broke all the box-office records and for good reasons, although even if it appears to be stating the obvious, he will be held aloft as the natural heir to Hayao Miyazaki. Your Name was the most successful anime in Japan since Spirited Away, and on the world stage, it currently occupies fourth position for a Japanese cartoon film, although it goes without saying that it doesn’t reach the levels of the Disney collection or a Pixar production. That said, taking scale into account, it punches way above its weight.
Shinkai’s career dates back to the beginning of the century, when he began completely independent production of his first short films, although it wasn’t until Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011), a fantasy with an ecological background akin to Princess Mononoke that reinvented the myth of Orpheus and the trip to the underground world of the dead, when he began to shine with the aura of an original creator, deserving of the highest praise. There’s no doubt that since then, he has become the most solid and relevant Japanese animation director of his generation, running head to head with Mamoru Hosoda, and Your Name – the intricate story of two teenagers separated in time and space who exchange lives while they sleep – was nothing more than the realization of his one sweet moment.
Weathering With You – (Tenki no ko), is his fourth feature film – if we don’t count 5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) and The Garden of Words (2013), short stories of less under an hour’s length and further confirmation that Shinkai progresses steadily on his upward path, the path towards the Olympus of anime classics. Weathering With You once again affects the decisive aspects of Shinkai cinema, such as the superimposition of realism and fantasy in the same urban setting – in the background, we have a faithful representation of Tokyo, its streets, transport, skyscrapers and parks; compared with the incredible story of a magical girl capable of making the sun rise on a rainy day – as well as in the traditional finishing of the film, animated in the traditional way and without the support of CGI technology.
As in each new title, Shinkai introduces nuances that assign an individual personality to each film, each with its own particular slant. In Your Name, for example, it was the contrast between country and city, whereas in Weathering With You it would be the setting in Tokyo’s underworld and in the sordid residential neighborhoods where criminal activity and sex peddling are commonplace. But what continues to add value to his work is the treatment of the emergence of fantasy into reality, and how through that gap, highly-charged emotions are filtered; In the end, Weathering With You is another story – typical of Shinkai – about adolescent love, the difficulties of staying together and the heroic effort of the characters to overcome distances and meet, despite all the adversities. As if by magic, Shinkai has hit the perfect key once again and, with all that said, we are not just dealing with another animated film. This is an indisputable example of some of the best cinema of our time.