Troubled teenage runaway Hodaka Morishima (voiced by Kotaro Daigo) struggles living rough and alone on the streets of Tokyo. Only a pretty girl named Hina (Nana Mori) shows Hodaka any kindness by letting him eat a free meal at the fast-food restaurant where she works part-time. Eventually Hodaka lands himself a job working for a small occult magazine run by the affable Suga (Shun Oguri) and his sexy niece, Natsumi (Tsubasa Honda). They task Hodaka with researching an urban legend about the so-called "Sunshine Girl", a young woman seemingly gifted with the power to magically manipulate the weather. That girl turns out to be Hina. When Hodaka discovers Hina and her kid brother, preteen ladies' man Nagi (Kiryu Sakura), are struggling in poverty after their mother died he proposes they start an online business. For a small fee Hina works her meteorological magic to make sure those in need enjoy sunny days. It is not long before the weather business is a great success and Hodaka and Hina are falling in love. Until they discover Hina's miraculous powers come at a price.
Makoto Shinkai follows up his international blockbuster Your Name (2016) with another teen fantasy romance anime. Weathering with You sees Shinkai expand his scope, already vast within the deceptively small-scale premise behind Your Name, to an even grander metaphysical level. Given Japan is a country somewhat infamous for being plagued by some of the world's most extreme weather it is tempting to interpret this story as an ecological and socio-political fable. Here Hina the sunshine girl bears the brunt of a whole nation's angst, a burden that proves too much and is much the same as that borne by future generations thanks to their elders' reckless mistreatment of the environment. To its credit the anime never beats viewers over the head with its messages. Rather it intertwines its subtext seamlessly with a wholly beguiling teen romance. Here the tumultuous nature of young love literally affects the elements and determines the stability of a nation.
Visually Weathering with You is routinely stunning. Shinkai and his team of animators paint on their broadest canvas yet, weaving moments of transcendent and fittingly meteorological wonder. Rain has never looked more epic. Yet for all the film's grandiosities and painterly flourishes, its real merits lie with Shinkai's ability to establish engaging characters then develop them in offbeat and unexpectedly poignant ways. In Hina and Hodaka he presents two complex characters leading messy and surprisingly tragic lives. While the former ran away from a seemingly abusive family (the film proves rather vague on specific details which is a minor flaw), she has been forced to grow old before her time supporting herself and little brother via a variety of exhausting (and occasionally life-threatening) jobs. Neither finds any support from Japan's social system. This ties into one of the film's central themes, namely the marginalization of vulnerable young people by a society that seemingly has no place for them. Throughout the story we repeatedly see our teenage heroes cast out, turned away or pursued by authorities with seemingly no compassion for their dire situation beyond the need to have them quietly silenced. In the stifling economic and bureaucratically driven climate of modern Japan, Hodaka and Hina have only each other to rely on.
Despite a relatively lengthy run-time Weathering with You races by. This is due in large part to Shinkai's remarkable use of multiple quickfire montages as a means to squeeze in a tone of character detail. Often through pointed and frequently hilarious vignettes. The downside is that the plotting sometimes feels strangely rushed, obfuscating certain background details that would benefit from expansion. The finale that leaps forward three years is also somewhat jarring. Yet these remain minor flaws in an anime that enriches its fantastical premise with real emotional depth alongside its mind-bending metaphysical ambitions.