Whether if it’s culture clash, genre intrigue, or strictly coordinated production management, Anime for better for worse has translated rapidly onto an international scale in the past decade. While films produced by Studio Ghibli have been premiering since the early festival days of the 1990’s, the television and theatrical movement of more globally distributed content has forever changed the landscape of how we view entertainment. In recent memory, one of the most critically acclaimed emerging artists from this wave, is the now infamously applauded Makoto Shinkai. Since his financial hit Your Name is 2016, his films have captured the hearts and minds of numerous anime enthusiasts across the globe. At one point, his film surpassed Spirited Away as the highest grossing anime motion picture of all time.
Economics aside, the one true element that rings true in every Shinkai production are his lavish supernatural tales of adventurous youth. From 5 Centimeters Per Second to his mid-length feature The Garden of Words, his work consistently surrounds around contemporary themes of adolescence and coming of age in a technologically warping Japan. Several of his stories are set in the landscape of Metropolitan chaos. These fables most notably target on primary concepts of love, compassion, and most importantly self-revelation. His intents are sound of paper, with relatively complex and nuanced ideas of today’s current generation; though his direction couldn’t be farther from this very emotional truth.
Makoto Shinkai is an excellent story writer, but a terrible story teller. His imaginative concepts fail to land in execution, largely due to his lack of self-awareness. All of his films are bombastically convoluted; explosively bloated and dead on arrival. His films can be best described as an anthology of anime cliches. Whatever nuance was left from his original final draft, is unfortunately stripped away with expositional screaming, rapid montages, unintentionally hilarious J-Pop needle drops, crass horny teen humor, repetitive finales, and aesthetically appealing animation water porn. When used subtly, these cliche’s often times pay off and complement the central crux of a film. Miyazaki may be an offender of these tropes, with his most arduous attempt being his work on Howl’s Moving Castle; though the execution of these very cliches come from a place of deep understanding for his characters, creating a fine dish of perfectly rounded chemistry and a satisfyingly reflective conclusion that doesn’t rely on a predictable formula.
With his latest feature Weathering With You, Shinkai challenges climate change and rebellious teens in another ambitious take on transcendent love. For the opening half of the film, Shinkai had me engaged. There’s no denying that his overly cutesy melodramatic introduction is a gigantic turn-off. Though when the chemistry between Hodoka and Hina eventually came into play, that was the precise moment when the film’s momentum felt consistently fun, energetic, and pure. His writing can be often times be lenient on Manic-Pixie dream girl tropes, but his warmly welcomed mumble-core esque situational comedy of everyday life is enchanting, and oftentimes more mystical than some of his more obscure supernatural plot threads.
A ray of sunshine can only last for so long. Just like in Weathering With You, the film is shrouded by a cumulonimbus cloud of thunderous cliches and motifs, which can oftentimes be found only in a Shinkai joint. Weathering With You goes from wondrously edited and atmospheric, to unnecessarily loud and patronizing in a matter of minutes. A sub-plot which involved an illegally smuggled handgun is a particular offender of this redundant crime; where it adds more unneeded drama and filler to a film that’s already jam-packed with relatively pensive concepts and a clear pre-developed story arc.
What else is there to say? Shinkai is a director, whose appeal and flare all depends on one’s personal engagement with his quirks. Personally, I can’t stand his artistic platform and the majority of his messages he spreads. From his skeptical views on climate change in Weathering With You to endorsement of pedophilia in The Garden of Words, his unclear overly saturated perspective of society creepily sinks into the backdrop of every film he produces. Separating the art from the artist is a difficult task, which solely depends on a reliable point of view and situation. With Shinkai, his oddly childish view of our world is one of pure neglect and misinformation. Even as a 40 year old, it seems as though his reliving an adolescent teen fantasy. His films are a reflection of a teenagehood he once desired. Just like his dreams, his films are outdated, corny, though bittersweet; told through a lens of absurdist realist denial.
Weathering With You is now playing in select cinemas