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Sometimes there are movie blockbusters that American audiences barely hear about. A Japanese animated film called "Your Name," for instance, was a minor arthouse hit in the U.S. but made a fortune overseas. The makers of that blockbuster now have a new film called "Weathering With You." Critic Bob Mondello says there are similarities.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Tokyo has been swamped by years of rainfall as a runaway named Hodaka arrives in the city. Under weeping skies, he's alone, homeless, looking for work. To stay dry, he hangs out at a burger joint and listens to his stomach growl. A girl behind the counter takes pity on him and treats him to a free Big Mac, a kindness he will repay by protecting her from some ne'er-do-wells.
Soon, they're hanging out, and she's taking him to a rooftop where sometimes it's not raining. Why? Well, there's a shrine up there, and by passing under its arch, she gains the power to stop the rain in small areas and for limited periods. She is what the locals call a sunshine girl with a talent Hodaka figures out how to monetize for people throwing birthday parties, weddings, flea markets. Alas, there's a cost.
Having been a big fan of Makoto Shinkai's "Your Name," about body-switching teens and a plummeting meteor, I was intrigued that his new anime features teens and meteorology, a climate change parable for young audiences centered on an environmental catastrophe - typhoons, flooded subways, snow in August. And if romance and weather power were its only plot threads, "Weathering With You" would blaze like a ray of cinematic sunshine, almost photographic imagery, skies that look like Maxfield Parrish paintings, an exuberant pop score...
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UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in Japanese).
MONDELLO: Romance and weather power are not the only plot threads, though. Director Shinkai insists on gilding his lovely lily with secondary characters, suspense subplots, and after a while, it all feels sort of watered down - gorgeous to look at, though, with raindrops plunking into puddles, ferryboats sailing into tempests and the central couple splashing through that rooftop shrine to cling to each other in waterlogged flights of fancy, weathering with each other and with you.
I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.