Just saw it today with my wife and 5 best pals from our high school days.
What a treat!
While the J.D. Salinger “Catcher in the Rye” allusion(the book is sitting on the table as the MC is in his super small rented manga cafe cubicle) was a bit on the head… it set the tone and was a unique interpretation of that book in a different part of the world, at a different time, under some different circumstances… but still, the scariness of growing up rings true for our MC and heroine.
The camera pans out as thousands of busy Japanese folks are hustling this way and that, surrounded by sky scrapers, stretched up into the sky where beautifully drawn clouds and rain wreak havoc on everyone’s plans for soaking up sun and enjoying leisure outdoor activities.
Adults for the most part are either indifferent to the struggles of our young teenage MC and heroine or actively predatory, attempting to exploit their good nature and ignorance. Our MC has runaway from home, suffocated by circumstances. But with the freedom of being able to go where ever one wants to go, and do whatever one wants to do… there exists the pitfalls of not having any support. Isolation, loneliness, and strife become the fast friends of our MC. It is a part of growing up, becoming independent, and figuring out how we want to spend our time and, more importantly, WHY we want to spend that time in the first place. And as is the nature of the human condition, the WHO we spend our time with defines the “what” and the “why” we do it. Specifically, our MC meets another wayward teen who has been abandoned by the safety net that was their mother, but unlike the MC who is struggling by choice, our heroine is a victim of tragic happenstance.
Both are decidedly surviving, certainly not thriving, and our heroine senses this shared struggle with the MC and commiserates, offering him a burger, a simple enough gesture on its face, but life saving for our neglected MC. It sets up the foundation for their bond that develops throughout the rest of the movie into a young, romantic adoration that serves to propel the two of them past that awkward transitionary boundary on the precipice of adult hood.
The oppressive weather, a persistent backdrop throughout the film, is the catalyst that coaxes our cast of characters into difficult situations and compels them to face their inner storm(often paralleled by the weather itself) and requires them to make profound life decisions. But all of this encourages growth, for our younger cast who are being challenged by genuine adversity for the first time in their lives and are struggling to cope with it, and for our older cast members who by necessity become mentors for the castaway teens and are able to confront the scars from their own battles with adversity, allowing for a kind of catharsis. All of the cast members persevere through their own lingering trauma which is inherent with existence(from the main cast to the side characters, and even our visitors from “Your Name” who make brief, albeit interesting appearances in the film).
At the core, this is a coming of age story, just like the allusion to “Catcher in the Rye” suggests, but it is also an existential commentary on human fallibility. We, for all of our bluster about being smart and important and the center of the universe, are of no consequence to the planet, little more than an uncaring celestial body spinning through space with some lucky life forms that are hitching a ride for as long as we can muster.
The film seems to spiritually touch on global warming, with Tokyo once more becoming a bay filled with water. This is a consequence of our heroine not sacrificing herself but also, as I posit, because she tried to control it in the first place, with the weather becoming more severe as it becomes chronically altered through the heroine’s prayers. But even with the heroine not sacrificing herself, and Tokyo being mostly lost, everything seems to pan out, and worrying about it wouldn’t have done any good. Generally, any comparisons to global warming were superficial and parsing out a strong, definitive message of how events in the film draw causal links between it all aren’t apparent, or rewarding lol. But that isn’t what this is all about, and I much prefer the storm for how it influences the human drama which is where the film stands on strong, firm, hairy, legs. Makoto likes to put a lot in for his films and because this one was a bit grander in scale with harrowing storms affecting all of Japan, the focus is less keen than with other films and all the messages and themes are not AS effectively blended into one coherent whole.
Which is not to say I dislike it for that, I really enjoyed the trade off for this “larger” movie, that still has expertly crafted characters and subverts viewer expectation quite a few times(NOT a mistress, NOT 18, NOT her bra, NOT fired for poor job performance, which in retrospect everyone’s behavior and reactions make sense). The police were incompetent as all hell, and knowing how harsh the criminal justice system is in Japan, where one is guilty until proven innocent, it was too far fetched when our MC only received probation through high school for aiming a gun at police officers(which I immediately recognized as the Russian 9mm Makarov… so well drawn I even saw the little star in the handle lol).
There was some great comedy, best of all was the Space Dandy turned police detective who was HAULING ASS… the animation was both awesome and hilarious. One thought I had, which had all of us laughing in the theater, was the ridiculous notion of our MC running to a vertical stack of clouds off on the horizon where our heroine may have been spirited away. It could have been 10 miles plus and he was just running and running and running…would have made Forest Gump blush..
All in all, it was a great way to spend the afternoon, in a theater with loved ones and a bunch of other nerds all sharing a great film together. It scratched that disaster, storm, rain, the people trying to figure out what is happening, itch for me. It was all about humans helping humans in a world where most humans don’t care because they are all trying to keep their own heads above the proverbial water.
After all, when we help others, we help ourselves, and we become the support that we needed from others, need for ourselves, and that others need from us..
Welp, Until next time!
P.S. do yourself a favor and enjoy this movie before it is gone from the theaters!!!!! You really do deserve it! It was a hoot and a half! Makoto always manages to capture that… BIGGER THAN US vibe and the essence of the human spirit. The movie captures the melancholy of the rainy city as neon lights reflect off the wet surfaces, the loneliness that shouldn’t be possible in a giant city full of people, the confusion of the world and where we fit in it… and it proposes some great answers. See for yourself!