Whatever misgivings I had about 2019’s Weathering With You when I reviewed it a couple of months ago in its initial Blu-ray release, it is a remarkably pretty film. While the character designs and animation are definitely within the typical anime style (big eyes, simplified facial designs) the backgrounds are nearly photorealistic, with just enough push in their colors and movement of the elements to keep them from looking like staid still images. The story, about a Tokyo drowning in rain, a runaway who needs to find his place, and the girl who can change the weather who becomes his friend, is heartfelt, amusing, and often nearly as beautiful as the artwork the forms its backdrop.
Director Makoto Shinkai (as I’ve observed, maybe tediously, in more than one review) has been compared to Hayao Miyazaki, without adequate cause. However, in this newly released Collector’s Edition of the film, a feature-length documentary on the making of the film may actually lend some credence to this comparison. Their subjects are wildly different, their approaches barely similar, but one thing Shinkai seems to have in common with Miyazaki is a rabidly dedicated work-ethic, and a complete hands-on approach to his films. He storyboards them himself, keeps a close eye on the art and composition departments and has a hand in seemingly every single shot.
The primary draw of this release is the new 4K Ultra HD transfer of the film. This is a rarity with anime releases in the U.S.: from what my meager research could tell, Weathering With You is only the third anime release in 4K UHD, after genre mainstays Akira and Ghost in the Shell.
How impressive is the 4K video? Well…it looks great, but Weathering With You was already a great looking Blu-ray. This may look better, but it’s an improvement on the margins. I will say some scenes I had some criticisms about worked better in 4K. Specifically the fireworks scene which I said looked like a tech demo in my initial review, but which has more apparent depth in this release, and didn’t seem at all jarring.
The standard Blu-ray is also included in this set, as the second of four discs. The other two are the aforementioned documentary, on a Blu-ray disc, and a CD with the film’s soundtrack. The documentary is an interesting, illuminating observation on the making of the film which was produced concurrent with the actual production of the animation. It is not a post-production EPK affair, with talking heads being interviewed about how wonderful everyone was to work with. It shows the nitty-gritty of making of a feature-length animated film in Japan, which consists primarily of people sitting at desks, either drawing or looking at computer screens.
It’s not structured like a feature documentary, with some enforced narrative, which may mean its interest for the casual observer is a little mixed. This is a detailed portrayal of all the aspects of the making of the film, which means people talking to each other (very politely – this is a professional Japanese crew, after all) about the points of the film that they like and those that can be improved. Minute details of the film are considered – should there be dialogue here, or a few seconds later? Who should talk to whom first? Maybe the music should just be cellos for a few seconds before the piano comes in. It’s impressive how much thought goes into every tiny detail of an enormous production like Weathering With You. When making an animated film, there’s no chance, there’s no happenstance: anything that is going to be on the screen has to be considered and placed there deliberately, and this documentary is about these deliberations. I found it fascinating. I can imagine others might find it dry, or undercooked.
The 31-track CD contains the entirety of the released score and soundtrack for the film by Japanese pop-rock band RADWIMPS. Heavily piano based with several songs that feature prominently in the film, the score is a lovely compliment to the feeling and sentiment of Weathering With You. The melodies and arrangements tend towards the simple and elegiac. I was impressed in the documentary how collaborative the process between RADWIMPS leader Yojira Noda and director Shinkai were, with new songs being written as the film was developed and aspects of the story and music changing as each was developed concurrently.
Besides the material on disc, the Weathering With You limited collector’s edition, which has been released by GKIDS, also includes a mini-poster of the cover art, a decal of the main characters from the film, and a book. The book is a collection of interviews with the principals, both on the acting and production side of the film, as well as some pre-production material, including the initial proposal for investors for the film by director Makoto Shinkai.