Your Name (2016) has gone down in Japanese cinema history as a record and ground-breaking movie, bringing Makoto Shinkai into the spotlight as Japan’s leading animation director. Three years on, Shinkai’s Weathering with You (2019) was released with high expectations. The story is about a runaway boy who comes to Tokyo and encounters a girl with a mysterious power, in an era when the harmony of the weather is going crazy. They choose their way of life while being fiddled with fate. In India, where the screening was compelled by an online signature campaigns of local fans, Director Shinkai talked about the production background, including his thoughts on Weathering with You.
Is weather a theme that had long been been on your mind?
MS: It’s not a theme that I’ve always thought about. I guess some directors are thinking about the next movie while making their current movie, but I’m not that type of person. I can only think of the one thing in front of me. Every time, when I finish making a movie, I become empty. During the production of Your Name, I didn’t think about the next work at all. So, it was from about 2016, when Your Name was released, to the beginning of 2017 that I began thinking about the theme of Weather.
Since Your Name was viewed by a great number of people, I thought I might as well make the next movie dealing with a theme that everyone can relate to… so that everyone wants to go to see it. I wanted to make a movie that is like a big ship that many people can board. When I thought about what themes would work, I decided the weather would.
Weathering with You has been released in more than 140 countries and regions including India. Did you have the intention to expand your work overseas from the time of production?
MS: None at all. Rather, I was aware of the reverse. For example, speaking of animations, Disney/Pixar’s works are very popular in Japan now. This year alone there have been releases of Aladdin, Toy Story 4, Lion King, and Frozen 2. Aladdin is live-action, but everything else is animation. Lion King is live-action at first glance, but actually a CG animation. We are in the same market as Disney/Pixar, with its huge capital and huge talent, and audiences can freely choose what to watch with the same 1,900 yen ticket. Of course, there are a lot of people who want to see rich things at the cinema, so we make movies in a situation where we have to fight Disney/Pixar under relatively unfavourable conditions. At least, I do. Since they are making movies with an eye on the global market, I feel we won’t be able to compete if we do the same thing. So I decided to make a work that is authentically Japanese and would dig deeper with our feet. For example, when Japanese audiences think about which movie to watch this summer, I want them to feel like “I’m Japanese, so I’m more interested in Weathering with You than Pixar movies…It might be more interesting than others…There might be a message for myself in the movie.”
If I don’t make a movie in that way, I feel it won’t be accepted overseas. So while making it, I don’t focus particularly on the international market, I make everything in Japanese and concentrate on how to make it resonate for the Japanese audience. Even in Your Name, it was very difficult to process subtitles, such as the Manyoshu, the difference between the personal names of “I (watashi)” and “I (boku)” when the main characters are switched, and whether to let the audience hear the lyrics of the RADWIMPS’ songs, or the dialogue of the characters depending on the scene.
Anyway, I don’t think about bringing it overseas. First of all, I do my best to make the native Japanese feel that “It’s a movie for me.” If I can do this then people outside Japan might get interested too. That’s what I mean.
Your intention is surely communicated and reaches overseas.
MS:If so, I’m glad. What surprised me at this screening was that young Indian audiences were enthusiastic, and said to me in a Q& A session that “It has always been a dream to meet you”. Japanese movies don’t have much presence in India yet, so it must be hard to imagine that Japanese animation directors will visit your country, unlike in the US and China. Without the online petition, I don’t think I would have had a chance to come to India. However, there are people who have wanted to meet me for years, even though I had almost zero opportunities to visit. It was really touching that there were such fans in a country so far from Japan.
Weathering with You was enthusiastically accepted by Indian fans. This screening in India proves that his work resonates beyond Japan and the success of Shinkai’s aim to make “a large ship that many people can board.” Weathering with You has already been an explosive hit in Japan as the No. 1 box office of 2019. Makoto Shinkai’s role as a leader in the Japanese film industry is reaffirmed.
Interviewer：Masafumi Konomi ／ Photo：Mika Kondo ／ Editor：Emi Ishigami