Science-fiction caught up with up pretty fast in 2020; after decades of mocking supposedly futuristic films, we’re suddenly up to our necks in Hazmat suits and alarming dystopian dioramas on our televisions. Cinema will have to re-claim viewing patterns that have taken over a century to evolve, and attending exotic festivals have been strictly out of play, from Cannes to Tribeca. Screen Anime’s digital film festival platform looks ahead of the curve when it comes to curating high quality anime for home entertainment. In the UK and Ireland, a paltry £4 a month or £40 a year will get you access to a rolling programme of hits, with the current line-up (as of June 25th) featuring the brilliant Your Name by Makoto Shinkai and his follow-up Weathering With You.
Your Name is a film I’ve reviewed at 5 stars elsewhere, but Weathering With You was news to me, and takes a place alongside other films in this month’s ‘extra-ordinary high-school life’ theme. A prominently displayed copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye provides an initial clue as to the kind of teenage issues and unrequited love featured, but rest assured; Weathering With You also has plenty of the big-scale magical uplift that made Your Name such a mind-blower in a Studio Ghibli meet Christopher Nolan vibe.
High-schooler Hodaka Morishima forms a bond with the alpha-male Keisuke Suga after the older man saves his life on a ferry, and ends up going to work for his company in Tokyo. Hodaka accidentally comes across a handgun, which he fires while attempting to protect Hina, a girl who works in a local McDonald’s fast-food outlet. Hina has the power to clear the skies through prayer, a power that Hodoka unwisely attempts to harness for financial gain.
As with Your Name, Weathering With You has a hybrid story-line which lends itself to metaphorical interpretation; it merges some realistic treatment of issues confronting Tokyo teens with spiritual mysticism of the Shinto variety. The animation itself is as stunning as you might hope, with a eye-popping evocation of a Tokyo beset by storms and rain, images so beautiful you’d want to have them framed on your wall. There’s also lashings of upbeat pop music, and a climate-change theme that’s enviromentally sound.
And here’s why the Screen Amine venture might have an ace up its sleeve; Weathering With You, like Your Name, is built for re-watching, and unlike say Trolls World Tour, where three rentals cost $60 and leave you with nothing but receipts after three days, your £4 gives you a month of continuous access to both films, plus a small but impressive rotating menu of lesser-known titles like Anthem of the Heart and Fireworks. And yes, three-day free trials are on offer so you can try before you buy. As our political leaders might say, what have you got to lose?
Whether you have a family audience to entertain, or you enjoy the spiritual and visual aesthetic of anime as an adult, having access to films of this standard is worth recommending as an alternative to American streaming services. When the pandemic storm stops raging, hopefully we’ll reclaim traditional cinema habits, but for now, it’s worth considering riding out the storm with the wonderful Weathering With You.