‘Weathering with You’ and Word Play ☆☆☆☆

When I was in Japan the summer rains sometimes hindered plans and someone commented that another friend was an “ame onna” (雨女) or “rain woman,” a person whose plans were always plagued by rain. To be fair, there were also “ame otoko” (雨男). The Japanese anime “Weathering with Me” takes the every day concept and builds a relationship between two teenagers yet to fully understand this film you need a little knowledge of Japan and its culture.

Ame onna originally referred to a yōkai, a supernatural spirit, specifically one who can summon rain. The opposite of ame onna/otoko is hare onna 晴れ女 or hare otoko (晴れ男). “Weathering with Me” is about a hare onna 晴れ女.

In “Weathering with You, the plot revolves around a high school first year student, Hodaka Morishima, who leaves his island hometown for Tokyo. From the wounds on his face, one suspects he was bullied. On the ferry, he is almost swept overboard when a rainstorm hits. The man, Keisuke Suga, gives him his business card. In Tokyo, Hodaka finds that cannot get work because of his age. At a burger joint, one of the workers, Hina, gives him a hamburger. Ending up sleeping on the streets, Hodaka finds a gun, something he initially thinks is a toy because gun control is very strict in Japan.

Finally unable to find work or pay for food, Hodaka looks up Keisuke who gives him room and board as Hodaka learns to write and investigate urban legends for Keisuke’s small publishing company. One of the urban legends Hodaka and Keisuke’s niece investigate is the hare-onna or sunshine girl.

Preventing her from entering the dubious possible sex trade business, Hodaka discovers that Hina orphaned and must care for her younger brother, but he also learns she is a sunshine girl and encourages her to make a profit from it as Tokyo is plague by long and endless rains. Using her ability to clear the skies briefly has an effect on Hina that she initially hides from Hodaka.  At the beginning of their enterprise, they use teru teru bōzo. You might have thought these were cheerful depictions of ghosts.

Japanese culture is characterized by a mixing Shinto customs with Japanese Buddhism. Bōzu are Buddhist monks although now it is also a term to mean “bald-headed” since monks shaved their heads.  In the film, you’ll see teru teru bōzu which Hina and Hodaka use as they begin their business. Teru teru bōzu are simple dolls made from a cloth or paper with a round head and with a rectangular sheet covering it so that there’s a handkerchief hemline. The teru teru bozo is hung up the day before an event when one is praying for good weather. The custom dates back to the 10th century according to Joya. Sometimes people will chant: teru teru bōzo, ashita tenki ni nare or teru teru bōzo, make tomorrow fine weather.

In the end, it is not the teru teru bōzo, but Hina who is able to clear the skies, but it comes at a great cost. Hina must choose between life on earth and life in the heavens.

The Japanese title, “Tenki no Ko” 天気の子 translates into “Children of Weather.”   Tenki is also a homophone for a word meaning “turning point.” In the film, there is a choice to change the fate of Tokyo. Yet to understand some of the world that has been created here in this film, you must also know something about the significance of gates or torii in Japan. 

Torii get their name from a tradition of perching a rooster on the gate as part of ceremony according to Mock Joya’s “Things Japanese.” This has to do with a rooster being associated with sunrise and the goddess Amaterasu.

Gates are also portals, places where things can be revealed or changed. In the film, while the writers investigate the hare-onna, they learned that legend divides them into either fox or dragon. A fox can transform itself into a woman, but once taken under a torii reverts to its original fox form. A carp (the symbol of boys) can become a dragon by going through the dragon gate.

The association between torii  is also seen in the name of the young girl who is the sunshine girl–晴れ女 (hare onna)–Hina Amano (天野 陽菜). Her last name has the same reference to heaven as you’ll see in the word for weather and in the sun goddess’ name Amaterasu: 

  • 天気 tenki
  • 天野   Amano
  • 天照 Amaterasu

The “no” means field and so both her first name and last name have a references to nature.

While the name Hina uses character that mean both sun (陽 as in tai you太陽) and greens or vegetables (菜), it is a homophone for two other Japanese words: a chicken or doll 雛 or country (side) 鄙. You might be familiar with Girls Day, but in Japanese, it is called Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival. So again, there is a reference back to the torii as well as to the doll. 

The Hina Matsuri is now celebrated with special foods and a display of dolls that represent a traditional royal court, but previously, there was a tradition of making paper dolls which would supposedly take on the bad luck or illness of the person–male or female, child or adult. The dolls would then be cast away into the water and take with it the problems of the person. Today’s Hina Matsuri is the displaying of beautiful dolls that are put away after a few days.

In the movie, the hare onna or sunshine girl is called upon to produce sunshine for what were once referred to as hare-bi. Hare-bi according to Joya, or bright or formal days, were days for annual festivals, seasonal farming events (planting or harvest) or personal community celebrations (marriages or birthdays) or times for supplication (for rain or an end to insect infestations).

There are other names within the movies that have significance. Hodaka means sail (ho 帆) and high or tall (高 daka). We first meet him on a boat, but not a sail boat. His last name means forest island, and he is leaving a smaller island for the larger island, Honshū, where Tokyo is. In island, the character for bird is present because island is where a bird is. 

The first name of Hina’s younger brother, Nagisa (Nagi) Amano (天野 凪, Amano Nagi) means calm, to become calm. Nagi is something of a player.  Less clear is the significance of Hodaka’s savior, Keisuke Suga (須賀 圭介). Su is for necessary and ga is congratulations. Kei means corner or angle, and suke is shellfish. Keisuke’s niece’s, first name–Natsumi Suga (須賀 夏美)– has the meaning of “beauty of summer” and summer is the traditional rainy season of Japan.

The police have comical names:

  • Yasui (安井, Yasui)
  • Takai (高井, Takai)

Takai can mean tall or expensive. Yasui means cheap.  While the police are sometimes laughable, the scenario in “Weathering with You” is not. Written and directed by Makota Shinkai, the film’s suggestion is that the unprecedented rainfall is caused by global warming. Island nations have cause to be worried by the rising waters. In the real world, the sacrifice of one person won’t save the world and in this one, the focus is just on saving Tokyo because the sunshine girl’s effect is only localized.  Yet to balance off this horror, the rain is represented as its own ecosystem, one where the rain at times becomes creatures–fish that gather in schools, rise and swirl. Yet there is nothing frightening such as the appearance of dragons, traditionally thought to be the cause of rains and rainstorms.

[Spoiler Alert] In the end, Hodaka will prevent Hina from sacrificing herself and bring her back to the world of humans on earth. In doing so, he’s learned to stand up to gangsters, a somewhat exploitive employer and even forces he can’t understand. He goes back home to finish up high school and seems to have finished without the problems that lead him to leave with a wounded face. Tokyo adapts. The world of the Tokyo in “Weathering With You” adapts, and the Buddhist concept of the world is that change is inevitable, but we don’t actually concern ourselves with the world.

Imagine how it must feel to small island countries who are at the mercy of the actions of larger nations, particularly on the subject of global warming and the climate change resulting from irresponsible actions of others. A hina might be able to take care of the cares, ills and bad luck of one, but not of the many.

Both Hina and Hodaka are minors and thus cannot legally work. Under the current circumstances, the world might seem hopeless for young people growing up, but ultimately, this film does have hope in the connections between people. In the end, we might not be hare onna/otoko or ame onna/otoko, but we are all children of the weather and we must weather the future of the changing weather together.

While I don’t normally recommend seeing dubbed version of Japanese movies, I saw “Weathering with You” the second time in a 4DX lab. While the rain is torrential in the film, in 4DX, you just get misting that isn’t enough to fog and obscure your glasses. The wind blows and teases. You might want an extra layer, but you won’t shiver or be totally dampened by the experience. You get to step inside the world just a little bit more and your imagination will be tickled by the changes, all very subtle. This is one of my favorite 4DX experiences and shows that 4DX isn’t just for action films; it can enhance a romantic story by whisking you away with whispers of wind and water.

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