As I will be explaining the ending of Weathering with You (天気の子, Tenki no ko)—the 2019 anime directed by Makoto Shinkai—there are SPOILERS EVERYWHERE.
The movie is a romantic fantasy about a runaway teenage boy, Hodaka , who meets a girl who has the power to control the weather. The girl, Hina, has a chosen-one role. She is meant to save Tokyo from a non-stop deluge of rain by using her powers and sacrificing herself, thereby restoring balance to the world. Hina chooses to accept this destiny, but after she disappears from our world, Hodaka finds her and brings her back, dooming Tokyo in the process. At the end of the movie, Hodaka and Hina meet up again after three years, but much of Tokyo is now beneath the sea and there is no end in sight to the freakish non-stop rain.
In many of the reviews I have read, the writers stated that they found the decisions of the characters to be selfish and even immoral.
I disagree, and this article explains why
Though Weathering With You also has themes related to love and the environment, in this article, I will focus on ‘choice’. Towards the end of the movie, the three main characters Hodaka Morishima, Hina Amano and Keisuke Suga all face tough choices that end up not only altering their lives but also changing the world. In my opinion, the movie is mainly about the choices we make and how those choices affect us (and the people around us).
How does the Weather Maiden magic work in Weathering With You?
The movie Weathering With You employs a soft-magic system. It is not exactly clear how Hina’s sunshine-making powers work. However, it is evident that there are greater forces at work—a god, gods or beings with technology so advanced that to humans it appears to be magic.
Let’s call them the External Forces.
There are quite a few clues about the nature of the magic system in Weathering With You.
- Weather maidens have the power to change the weather in a limited area for a short period of time. Hina uses her power via prayer.
- Weather maidens appear when there are times of extreme imbalances in the weather, and their purpose is to restore balance to nature.
- Due to the legends about weather maidens that are mentioned in the film, we can assume that these extreme, supernatural weather events (and subsequent weather-maiden interventions) happen from time to time. However, since so little is known about weather maidens, it is obvious that these events are rare.
- Weather maidens appear to acquire their weather-changing ability by visiting another realm (let’s call it the Sky Realm). Hina first accesses the realm by stepping through a red torii gate on the rooftop shrine of an abandoned building. Getting to the other realm seems to require great faith and determination. It is also not clear whether weather maidens are GIFTED their abilities or whether they have innate abilities that are ACTIVATED.
- The External Forces can direct or manipulate the actions of people. Hina was drawn to the rooftop shrine (and the portal) on a stormy day when clouds parted and a ray of sunlight illuminated the rooftop of a single derelict building in the middle of Tokyo—the building with the rooftop shrine. Even though her mother was dying, Hina appeared to be compelled to leave her mother’s deathbed and track down the destination of the ray of light.
- This ray-of-light scene also shows that the External Forces have at least limited power to control the weather. It would have taken at least twenty minutes for Hina to walk to that building there, yet the single ray of sunlight remained perfectly in place. Although the External Forces have some control over the weather, they are either unable or unwilling to fix extreme imbalances in the weather. A weather maiden is required for that.
- The psychic interviewed by Hodaka and Natsumi divides weather maidens into two categories: those that can bring sunshine and those that can bring rain. Hina definitely has the power to control sunshine, but she is also shown to control lightning. I think we can assume she can control other types of weather phenomena. It is possible that the dichotomy mentioned by the psychic may be due to the weather maidens having to deal with different kinds of situations (e.g., drought or excessive rain)
- Weather maidens are ill-fated. Through using their weather-changing ability, they will eventually be consumed by their power and will disappear into the Sky Realm, with the sacrifice of their physical body serving to ultimately restore balance.
- The weather maiden’s sacrifice is not an appease-the-gods kind of blood sacrifice. Hina’s sacrifice is more of a transformation, and her spirit, essence or energy, which enters and then resides in the Sky Realm, magically restores balance.
- As a weather maiden uses her power, her body slowly becomes translucent. This implies that the eventual sacrifice must be done willingly. The weather maiden, even after seeing the effect the magic use is having on her body, would need to still be willing to continue to use her powers in order for her to complete the transformation. It seems that weather maidens gradually come to an instinctual understanding of what is going to happen to them (and Hina also receives direct confirmation of her fate from Suga’s niece, Natsumi). To me, this implies that the self-sacrifice must be done willingly AND knowingly.
- When weather maidens finally disappear into the Sky Realm, this is shown to many people in their dreams, perhaps as a way of acknowledging the sacrifice made. I suppose that some people who have a religious bent may not only thank her for her sacrifice, but also, in time pray to her as a goddess.
- When Hina follows Hodaka back to Earth, thus reneging on her ‘chosen one’ self-sacrifice, there is non-stop rain for three years with no end in sight but no further appearances of any ‘Sunshine Girls’. This implies that a weather maiden is a one-of-a-kind, one-at-a-time role.
Interestingly, Hina was given her gift (or had it activated) almost a full year before the weird non-stop rain really got out of hand. At various points in the anime, news broadcasts mention the exceptionally rainy weather of the summer when Hina and Hodaka meet, but the broadcasts don’t say anything about abnormal rainfall during the previous summer—when Hina gained her powers—or the fall, winter or spring leading up to the first super-rainy summer. This implies that the External Forces somehow knew that a weather maiden would be needed in the near future and that it was time to find and prepare one.
Thus, the role of the weather maiden involves destiny (in that a chosen one is selected to be sacrificed) AND free will (in that the chosen one needs to knowingly and willingly accept that role).
What is causing the extreme weather?
The cause of the extreme weather is never made clear. At times during the movie, the rain is completely unnatural, first appearing as a mass of water suspended in the air before suddenly crashing down to earth. Thus, there seems to be a supernatural cause (or co-cause).
One of the minor characters vaguely references global warming and climate change when she states how it is unfortunate that kids nowadays can no longer enjoy a comfortable spring and summer in Tokyo. Therefore, global warming may be a contributing factor, but is definitely not the only cause.
Is it possible that Hodaka is responsible for the weird weather? Even the scenes set on his home island feature rain, with the establishing shot of his hometown school near the end of the movie showing a flooded campus. Hodaka could be a ‘ameotoko’, a man cursed to have rain follow him around. However, during the three-years-of non-stop rain in Tokyo, he is back in his hometown. If he were an ameotoko, wouldn’t the epicenter of the rainstorm follow him back to his hometown? Thus, to me, the possibility that Hodaka is a ‘Rain Boy’ remains just that—a possibility.
The Tokyo weather is at its worst when Hodaka and Hina are most distressed–after Hodaka gets kicked out by Suga and after Hina and her brother face getting picked up by the Japanese equivalent of Child Protective Services. There are four possibilities here:
- It is pure coincidence. Snow with lightning in August, though? That seems to be too much of a coincidence.
- The ‘emotions’ of the natural world are simply mirroring the emotions of the protagonists. This is an ‘it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night’ literary device (a form of pathetic fallacy), which often used for dramatic effect in stories, but it doesn’t suit a story in which one of the characters can actually control the weather.
- The severity of the bad weather is directly caused by Hodaka and/or Hina’s emotional state. This is possible, but we don’t really see this cause-effect relationship in other scenes where the characters are distressed.
- The severity of the weather is influenced by the External Forces, who are seeking to raise the stakes and push Hina towards allowing herself to be sacrificed.
I would argue that the fourth possibility is the most likely explanation. This is because we have already seen the External Forces manipulate the weather in order to draw Hina to the portal/torii gate. This possibility raises an important question though (one that I will come back to later in this article): to what extent are the External Forces manipulating events and people?
About Hodaku: Hodaka Morishima is a 16-year-old runway from a small island town. He never reveals exactly why he ran away other than he wants nothing more to do with his hometown or his family. When we first see him, he has three bandages on his face. At first, I thought that he may have been the victim of bullying, but the dislike and disregard he feels for his family suggest that the bruises may have been the result of child abuse. For the first part of the movie, Hodaka is mainly concerned with survival as he is forced to live in the streets. However, after he establishes a business and close friendship with Hina and her brother Nagi, the thing he wants most is to just maintain that. He prays to the gods that the three of them be allowed to keep what they have—nothing more, nothing less.
As a decision-maker, Hodaka is sometimes full of doubt and sometimes impulsive.
He can be very indecisive when it comes to little things. When he is trying to decide what to buy for Hina for her birthday, he asks for advice from Yahoo Help, Suga’s niece Natsumi and Nagi. Even after spending a few hours at a department store jewelry counter picking out a ring (following Nagi’s advice), he is still unsure if he made the right choice.
However, he makes big, life-altering decisions without much thought about the possible consequences. It is only after he arrives in Tokyo as a runaway, for example, that he asks (via Yahoo Help course) where a 16-year-old runaway might be able to find work.
Towards the climax of the movie, when Hodaka wakes up after Hina’s disappearance and realizes what has happened, he makes a world-altering decision to try to save her without considering:
- Whether it is even possible to change anything
- Whether it would better to respect Hina’s decision to allow herself to be sacrificed
- Whether it would be better for the world if Hina be allowed to sacrifice herself to prevent a natural disaster
When he rushes off to save Hina, he is just acting on instinct and is not considering the consequences. It is only through his sheer determination (and disregard for his own safety) that he gains access to the Sky Realm and brings Hina back to Earth.
He manages to save Hina, but heavy rains return to Tokyo and never stop, leaving much of the city underwater after three years. During that time millions of people would have lost their homes. It is not mentioned in the movie, but there would have been trillions of dollars of damages and there likely would have been deaths due to flash floods and landslides.
Wouldn’t it have been better to sacrifice one girl to save a city of over 9 million people from disaster? Wasn’t his decision selfish? Is a teenage crush really that important?
However, if he had accepted Hina’s sacrifice, would he have been able to live with himself? When Nagi urges Hodaka to save Hina, he accuses Hodaka of being responsible. Nagi isn’t entirely wrong.
- Hodaka was responsible for hastening Hina’s sacrifice/disappearance by starting the 100% Sunshine Girl business that made her frequently use her weather-changing ability.
- When Natsumi brought Hodaka to the first interview (before Hodaki and Hina had established their friendship), the psychic who they were interviewing told them that weather maidens risked being consumed by their powers if they used their abilities too much. It is not clear whether Hodaka forgot about that warning or whether he played down the risk. In any case, he mostly ignored the warning. Although he was the one who stopped the sunshine-bringing service, it was too late.
- The night she disappeared, Hina asked Hodaka if he wanted the rain to stop. Not fully understanding what Hina was asking, he replied that he did, an answer that only served to push Hina a little further toward accepting her sacrifice.
In a best case scenario, if Hodaka had decided to let Hina go, he would have ended up like Suga (i.e., the version of Suga that was presented for much of the movie)— broken-down and barely functioning. There are a couple of times in the movie when Natsumi compares Hodaka to a younger Suga and says how similar they are. The broken-down version of Suga represents a potential future version of Hodaka
In a worst case scenario, Hodaka literally wouldn’t have been able to live with himself. Tokyo would have survived unscathed, but he wouldn’t have.
In the drowned Tokyo at the end of the movie, Hodaka meets Suga, who, seemingly sensing Hodaka’s discomfort, tells him not to worry because the world has always been crazy. Similarly an elderly woman tells him that much of what is underwater now was underwater two centuries ago.
However, at the end of the movie, Hodaka finally understands that he instinctively made the right choice–not because the consequences weren’t severe— but because it was his choice to save Hina and in doing so keep to his wish for the three of them—himself, Hina and her brother—to keep what they had, nothing-more, nothing less. That was the only choice that would have allowed him to live with himself afterwards.
About Keisuke Suga: Suga has a certain amount of rough charm that disguises the fact that his life is a mess. After the death of his wife, he not only lost custody of his daughter, but he has to beg just to be able to visit her on rare occasions. It appears that he doesn’t even have visitation rights. It is never revealed what happened to him, but the situation implies that he became such a wreck after his wife died in an automobile accident that he could not be trusted to take care of his daughter. He drinks heavily, his home-office is a mess and he barely works. The thing he wants most is to regain custody of his daughter. He is willing to make some changes to his life—such as giving up smoking as keeping the habit would be harmful to his asthmatic daughter—to accomplish this, but he is clearly struggling.
Suga helps Hodaka quite a lot, but when the police come to his home and tell him that they are trying to find Hodaka and that they may consider him a suspect in his kidnapping, he decides to cut ties with the teenager. He gives Hodaka a wad of cash and tells him to leave. This is incredibly bad timing, as at that moment everything is falling apart for Hodaka, Hina and Nagi. The police are closing in on Hodaka while Hina and Nagi are about to be taken in by the Japanese equivalent of Child Protective Services. Suga—the one person who might be able to help them—turns his back on them.
Suga’s decision is reasonable. The thing he wants most in life is custody of his daughter. Harboring a sixteen-year-old runaway (who is also wanted on a firearms offence) would bury that dream.
He does what he thinks is best—cutting himself off from Hodaka—and then immediately tries to drown his regret in alcohol and starts smoking again.
The next morning, he is chastised by Natsumi and when the police inform him of Hodaka’s escape and Hina’s disappearance (and he sees that sunshine has finally returned to Tokyo), he realizes the gravity of the situation and can’t hold back his tears.
He changes his mind and decides to help Hodaka, intercepting him at the building with the rooftop shrine. His main concern here seems to be to get Hodaka to not attempt to save Hina, but instead to return to his parents.
However, after seeing Hodaka’s single-minded determination and then seeing the teenager getting manhandled by the police, Suga tackles the officers,allowing Hodaka to make his way to the rooftop while ensuring that he will face a ton of trouble. This is a strange about-face as there is little chance of Hodaka being able to do anything positive while Suga himself is throwing away his chances of gaining custody of his daughter.
So was it the wrong decision?
By standing by Hodaka, Suga is deciding that rather than focusing solely on trying to win custody of his daughter, he should focus instead on trying to be the kind of man deserving of winning back custody.
At the film’s close, three years later, he is much more ‘together’. His business is going well and he appears to have more access to his daughter (if not outright custody).
Had Suga stuck with the original plan–abandoning the three kids to their respective fates—would he have been able to live with that decision? Would he have gotten his life back together?
He eventually made the only choice that would have allowed him to live with himself (and help people he cared about), though it took him some time to get there.
About Hina Amano: When Hodaka meets Hina, she is a 15-year-old pretending to be 18. After the death of her mother a year earlier, and with her father not in the picture at all. Hina’s main goal is to take care of her younger brother—to keep what little was remaining of their family together. She will do whatever it takes. She is fired from McDonald’s (probably for lying about her age) and needs money to raise her brother, so when a sleazy nightclub operator tries to recruit her, she doesn’t resist very strongly. Without Hodaka’s intervention, who knows what would have happened?
Hina initially chooses to accept her fate as a weather maiden—to disappear from the world in return for the weather to return to normal.
After every prayer for sunshine, part of her body becomes translucent (something not fully revealed until quite late in the movie), yet she persists with her 100%-Sunshine-Girl job as she can see the happiness she brings to others.
She keeps her deteriorating physical condition a secret from Hodaka and Nagi—likely to spare them from worry and to also ensure they wouldn’t interfere. She would have known they would have strongly opposed her and would have stopped their 100% Sunshine Girl service immediately if they had known about her condition. She also lies to Hodaka about her age—saying she is nearly eighteen—two years older than he is—when really she is only fifteen. This likely had the effect of making Hodaka less protective of her.
She seems to know instinctively that she will eventually disappear and she later gets confirmation of this from Natsumi. In her last conversation with Hodaka before she disappears, it is clear that she is resigned to fulfilling her destiny. She even asks Hodaka to take care of Nagi once she is gone. However, it is clear from her sadness that her self-sacrifice is something she is willing to do but is not something that she really wants to do.
Her initial choice was not wrong. After all, she would have saved Tokyo. However, it would have come not only at the expense of her own life, but also would have deprived Nagi of her care and also of any good that would come from her own future life (and those of her potential descendants).
Sure, If the weather had returned to normal after months of non-stop rain, of course everyone in Tokyo would have been ecstatic…for a day or two.
Sure, she could have prevented the flooding of Tokyo’s flooding problem, but Tokyo wouldn’t suddenly turn into a paradise of never-ending happiness.
At the end of the movie, the city is largely underwater, but life somehow still goes on for its residents.
And it still goes on for Hina, who kept to what was her main goal all along—to raise her brother and keep whatever was little was left of their family together.
Coincidence or Intervention?
Was it really Hina’s own choice to sacrifice herself or had she been manipulated by the External Forces into believing her sacrifice would solve everything?
If I were a god and looking to recruit a weather maiden to help return balance to the world, she would be an ideal candidate for the job—naïve, relatively easy to influence, selfless, motivated to make others happy, willing to make sacrifices, secretive, without a parent or guardian to turn to for advice and emotionally fragile due to the impending death of her only parent. With the right incentives and a little push here and there, this is the kind of person would be willing to make the sacrifice that I required.
In this movie, it is unclear what is coincidence and what is guided by the External Forces. However, a lot of events seem to lead directly to Hina voluntarily choosing to sacrifice herself:
- Hina seeing the shaft of light while she was at her mother’s deathbed–a light which seemed to draw her towards it.
- Her transformation into a weather maiden a year before a weather maiden was actually required.
- Hina finding someone—Hodaka—that knows about weather maidens and who might encourage her to use her powers and experience the happiness she could bring to others.
- Hina coming to understand and accept the tragic fate of weather maidens.
- Hina suddenly facing the prospect of losing Hodaka (who was thrown out of Suga’s home and was being hunted by police) AND losing her brother (about to be taken in by Child Protective Services) AND losing her freedom AND losing her home.
- The sudden intensifying of the storm, making the self-sacrifice appear all the more urgent.
It is almost as if the External Forces are saying “Here are your powers! Doesn’t it feel great to help others! You have the power to help everyone! Doesn’t that make you happy? Doesn’t that bring you satisfaction? Just let go. There isn’t anything left here for you anyway! Your mother has passed away. Your brother will be taken away! Your home is gone! Look how bad things are getting now! People are suffering! You have the power to help everyone! You can save them! Use your power! Save them!”
Spoilers for Donny Darko
The above situation is similar to what happens in the film Donnie Darko. in that movie, a teen is given powers that he must use to restore balance to the universe. However, it will require his sacrifice. Throughout the movie, external forces work to (1) encourage him to learn how to use those powers, (2) make him understand the need to make that sacrifice and (3) weaken his emotional ties to the world by doing thing like having the girl he loves get killed.
End of spoilers for Donny Darko
In Weathering With You, there are lots of incredible coincidences:
For example, Hodaka just happens to be saved from A SUDDEN EXTREME WEATHER event by Suga, who publishes OCCULT articles (despite having no belief in the supernatural) and who sends Hodaka and Natsumi (for his first job) to a psychic who informs the pair about WEATHER MAIDENS just before Hodaka finds out that…surprise!…Hina (the girl who gave him a Big Mac earlier and who he recognizes when he SEES HER AGAIN, this time being dragged towards a nightclub by the SAME GUY who had pushed him out of a doorway, an act that led Hodaka to finding the revolver, which he then uses when rescuing Hina) is a WEATHER MAIDEN.
You can interpret the events of the movie as a string of amazing coincidences. However, you can also view the events as at least partially the machinations of External Forces influencing things in order to come up with the required voluntary sacrifice of a weather maiden.
In this second interpretation, Hina’s initial choice to sacrifice herself is largely the result of manipulation. Her decision to return to Earth would reflect her true desire to live her own life, take care of her brother and be with people who care for her—a decision which the External Forces appear to respect.
Thus, she makes the choice she feels is best for her and the people around her and which is a choice that she can live with,
In this interpretation, Hodaka isn’t disrespecting Hina’s wishes; he is helping her rediscover her own true will.
The Main Theme
To sum up, when it comes to the main characters’ final choices in Weathering With You, it is not a question of selfish desires versus the greater good. It is more about the individual characters making decisions:
- that help those around them, those they care about
- that they can live with in good conscience
- that reflect their true goals.
I would argue that this is the best that we can expect of anyone and of ourselves.
In Weathering With You:
- Suga chooses to become a man worthy of regaining custody over his daughter
- Hodaka chooses to make up for his mistakes and preserve the life of the one he loves
- Hina decides to live her life and continue to take care of her brother.
Thus, I would say one of the the main themes of Weathering with You is:
If we can care about the people around us and act according to our conscience, the world will be a better place and we will be better people. We might not fix this crazy world, but it will become a better place little by little.
And that is good enough.
What do you think about thoughts about their decisions? What are your thoughts on the film in general? Leave a comment below.
IMDB Page: www.imdb.com/title/tt9426210/
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