Recommendation: Not as whimsical as some the Ghibli exports but Weathering is still a beautifully rendered story of love and found family. 8.5/10.

IMDB Synopsis: A high-school boy who has run away to Tokyo befriends a girl who appears to be able to manipulate the weather.

The latest film from heralded director Makoto Shinkai Weathering With You follows the saga of runaway teen Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), and Hina (Nana Mori), an orphaned girl who can control the weather. Partly a coming of age, YA love story and partly a tale of found family, with a smidge of ecological messaging, Weathering is slightly uneven but incredibly touching. Additionally, Weathering is one of the most breathtakingly visualized animated films created, full stop. Using a mixture of hand painted scenes and CGI, Weathering presents a modern day Tokyo that’s both true to life and dreamlike at once; juxtaposing an indifferent and grey metropolis with lived in and vibrant spaces.

The film opens to a rainy Tokyo, and never lets up. Unending downpour greets Hodaka, a 16-year-old runaway who yearns for a more than quiet island life. The rain mirrors Hodaka’s city experience: suffocating, relentless and bland. He’s soon given a live in job—cooking, cleaning, errands and light “journalism”—by Suga (Shun Oguri), an entrepreneur with a soft spot for Hodaka. Joining him is Suga’s niece Natsumi (Tsubasa Honda), an energetic yet flighty young writer. But a chance encounter with Hina, who can clear up the rain/storms with her prayers, alters their—and Tokyo’s—history forever.

The duo—along with Hina’s charismatic little brother Nagisa (Sakura Kiryu)—monetize Hina’s ability to clear the skies, bringing joy to those who need it. Offering a sun-filled respite to an otherwise rain-drenched Tokyo populace. Of course, it becomes clear that Hina’s gift is more of a curse, ultimately requiring her sacrifice to restore balance to Tokyo’s weather. And as the film chugs toward its climactic peak, Shinkai does a wonderful job counteracting the seriousness with a bit of humor, albeit a little clumsily, but Weathering ever feels over-serious or underwhelming.

The only issue the film suffers from is a lack of focus, not quite committing to a couple ideas wholly—apparent upon viewing. However, Weathering balances it’s small flaws with gorgeous visuals that breathe life into this tale. Whether or not the young-adult love story connects and regardless if the audience buys in to the magic of the tale, Weathering With You is worth the price of admission. This optimistic, frequently funny, and touching film will soon be counted amongst the great Japanese animated exports, and further cements Shinkai’s status as a premiere filmmaker.

MVP: The voice work done by Natsumi oscillates between excited, self serious, determined, defeated, and sisterly, and totally makes her the MVP.

Highlights: Every frame of this film is incredible to look at.

Director: Makato Shinkai

Studio: GKIDS // Original release date: January 17, 2020