When Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) a Japanese animated film became a worldwide phenomenon in 2016, little did I know I’d be sitting in a movie hall in Chennai watching Makoto Shinkai’s next film with a room full of fans, three years later. Because the only way one could watch Your Name back then in India was through torrents (guilty as charged). Though the torrents and the incredible buzz around the film led me to the wonderful world of Shinkai on Netflix India — the beguiling and beautiful The Garden of Words, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Five Centimetres Per Second, among others. It was legal, hurrah. Alas, this too was shortlived for Netflix India stopped streaming Shinkai soon after.
Cut to October 2019, and there I was in Express Avenue, digging into my peri-peri fries (highly recommended), watching a cameo from the leads of Kimi no Na Wa in Shinkai’s new film Weathering With You (Tenki no Ko). Fans went berserk and there were cries of approval when Mitsuha and Taki made a brief comeback. It was surreal.
I’ve come to love Shinkai’s work for many reasons — the visuals he crafts, the beautiful food he brings to life and most importantly, for the way he showcases Tokyo. In Garden of Words (2013) Shinkai’s animation rain-drenched Tokyo looks utterly stunning and romantic. In Weathering With You though the rain is relentless but also scary. It does not herald romance the way it does in Garden of Words. Instead, it is clear blue skies and the sun that make everyone happy. Shinkai has said that two things were on his mind while making this new movie. The first, of course is the question of climate change and the second a contrast between a young boy’s whims and the wishes of the larger community.
“Before, rain was beautiful, and the seasons felt like they would change very slowly, the color of the leaves and such. In The Garden of Words, rain was something that brought people together. But in recent years, these seasonal changes feel like they’ve been attacking us. So I really wanted to have the rain be more violent and aggressive in this movie,” Shinkai said in an interview to Polygon’s Kambole Campbell.
This interview and this movie felt a lot like deja vu to me, personally, for several reasons. Of course, it is partly because the universe of Weathering With You feels intimately connected to that of Your Name. But there are other reasons. Weathering With You is about a ‘100% Sunshine Girl’ who can stop the rains with her prayers and a runaway boy who’s grown fond of her. As Tokyo sinks under relentless rain, in this movie, I could see the stark, stunning resemblance between the animated city and our own Chennai back in 2015 as it drowned under pouring rain. As research for my book on the floods, Rivers Remember, I spoke to several people who expressed the same kind of apprehension Shinkai expressed in his interview with Polygon. One of my interviewees who was stuck in the floods in the Ekkaduthangal area said that the rains still make him nervous, years after the flood, and that when people post on their social media accounts about rains in the city, he does not know how to react.
When Taki’s grandmother, in the film, says the place she used to live in used to be under the ocean 200 years ago, and that human beings and weather changed that to the downtown area she lived in, and perhaps it went underwater because the water wanted to claim it back, it too felt familiar. It was with a similar notion about the rivers mankind had usurped that I named my book Rivers Remember, where they ‘came back’ to their old homes to claim them in 2015.
Weathering With You has an intimate relationship with nature and plays out like magic realism; everyday Tokyo where extraordinary things are afoot. The film has music by RADWIMPS and is Japan’s official entry to the Oscars.
The movie is playing in theatres in India thanks to a fan-led initiative. “An online campaign called the Indian Anime Movement took shape in April this year to bring the anime movie culture to India,” according to a piece in WION. A petition on change.org that has over 56,000 fans requesting that this movie be brought to India managed to reach Shinkai himself. “Weathering with you, or tenki no ko is a new Makoto Shinkai film, that will have a worldwide release. Makoto Shinkai beat the “most grossing anime film” and it’s clear that his works are beautiful. There is a handful of community in India that enjoy watching anime films and shows and with that comes the question of piracy. We all want to be patriots and stop this by legally watching the film. I understand that most Indian audience have different taste but we must be open and accept other different ideals and opinions. Get this petition to the distributor’s attention as I want to join a screening and so do people who appreciate art. I hope people who are in international film releasing understand this concern (sic),” the petition read.
Shinkai responded: “Ever since the petition has occurred in India, I have kept receiving a lot of messages from Indian fans who are eager to watch the film in movie theatres. I have been overwhelmed by their pureness and passion. Thus, I replied to them that “I would be very happy if I could release “Tenki no ko” in India. I’m gonna talk to our Japanese distribution company”. Now, I feel I could carry out the promise with the fans in India. I am very much looking forward to the film will be well received by the fans who live in the country of movie and mythology.” Bookmyshow and PVR-backed Vkaao have brought the movie to 20 cities in India. The movie opens with a message of thanks to Indian “otakus” for helping bring the movie to the country.
Shinkai conquered Chinese hearts and box office with Your Name, where it was a massive hit. With Weathering With You, he’s found a niche for his cinema in the other huge market in Asia, India. It will be interesting to see the ripples this creates in both pop culture and the movie business.
Just finished the premiere in India. Thank you so so much my fans in India! It was one of the greatest time in my life. So sorry I couldn’t do autograph session because of my schedule. I love you all!
— 新海誠 (@shinkaimakoto) September 27, 2019
Following Your Name‘s popularity in China, CoMix Wave Films, the studio behind the film, set their next project, an anthology Shikiokiri (Flavours of Youth) in China’s three big cities — Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The film is now streaming on Netflix. Will Shinkai’s trip to India (he was here last month for a special screening of the film), lead to something similar?