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Makoto Shinkai Discusses Link Between His Personal Life and Weathering With You

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Also talks climate change, the role of entertainment media in society, addressing your name.'s criticism

your name. director Makoto Shinkai had an interview with the women's magazine Fujinkōron about his latest film Weathering With You, revealing the personal connection he has with his works.

"I was born and raised in the city of Koumi in Nagano Prefecture, which is situated on a plateau encircled by mountains," he explained, when asked why his works always seem to revolve around a nature theme. "In the 70s, it was even more idyllic than it is now; my house was surrounded with nature. I was engrossed in this environment. I'd stare up at the sky every day, lost in my own little world. I'd say that I was more of an absent-minded child rather than a romantic."

Back then, Shinkai had no definite career path in mind, although he did enjoy creating watercolor paintings since childhood. He did, however, object to his father deciding his path for him. Since the Meiji era, his family operated a construction business, but he didn't want to take up the business just because he was the oldest son. "Unlike [Weathering With You's] Hodaka, however, I didn't have the guts to leave home. I fervently desired not to leave my beautiful hometown behind, so I extended my moratorium period, spinning my wheels."

Eventually, Shinkai moved to Tokyo for university, and after graduation, he was poised to study at a construction company in preparation for taking up the family business. At the last minute, however, he decided to join a game company instead, a choice which infuriated his father. Shinkai refused to relent, and through his work he discovered the joy of matching pictures with music. He decided to try his hand at creating his own story, which resulted in the short film She and Her Cat, winner of the 2000 DoGA CG Animation Contest. Emboldened by the film's success, Shinkai quit his job and began creating animation in earnest.

To this day, Shinkai still doesn't know where he found the stubbornness to oppose his father. "I kind of think that if my father had told me since I was young to become a filmmaker, I wouldn't have ended up where I am. Perhaps I was simply rebelling on instinct."

"But I am really grateful towards my parents," Shinkai went on. "My mother likes to draw herself, and she told me, 'You should do what you love.' Those words saved me. Eventually, even my father gave me a chance. He told me to try out anime for five years and come back if it doesn't work out."

Shinkai says that he wants Weathering With You to convey the importance of having the freedom to decide one's way of life. "I want children and parents to watch it and be able to have a frank conversation about what they thought of it. The great thing about entertainment is that, through shared experience, it's able to communicate to people across different generations and worldviews."

Shinkai claims that he didn't feel much pressure to top your name.'s success, but that it did change the way he now views his work. Until your name., his films were mainly watched by anime fans, but the sheer size of his audience now has made him reappraise the role of entertainment in reflecting the society around it.

The inspiration for Weathering With You came in the summer of 2016, when, exhausted from all the promotion he was doing for your name., Shinkai looked up at the sky and saw a cumulonimbus cloud. When the skies cleared, he felt healed, which gave him the idea that the weather and the human spirit are connected.

When the time came to start working on his next film in earnest, Shinkai's thoughts turned to climate change. "People say that humans are destroying nature for the sake of their own conveniences, and I agree with that," he said. "And yet I'm the kind of person who doesn't hesitate to turn on the air conditioning in my room when it's hot. Climate change is a large-scale phenomenon with an unimaginable scope, but there's not much a person can do about it on an individual level. Even so, my actions as a single person have a definite effect on the environment. It may feel like something that's out of your realm of responsibility, but it absolutely isn't. I made the film while thinking about how to deal with that problem through the framework of entertainment."

Shinkai also addressed some of the criticisms he received about your name. Although he intended the film to have an empowering message that it is possible to change the future, some viewers interpreted it as a story where disaster is averted with no consequence. Shinkai deliberated on whether his next film should address those criticisms, but eventually decided on a direction that would "annoy your name.'s naysayers even more."

"In Weathering With You, Hodaka and Hina are at the mercy of fate, but they decide how to live their own lives. I am sure that there are people who will not be satisfied by the choice they make. But that's fine. I think it's my role to start a conversation by creating a story without a correct answer. I firmly believe that's the greatest gift I received from your name."

Weathering With You opened in Japan on July 19. GKIDS has licensed the film for North America, and will give the film an "awards qualifying" theatrical run this year before a wider screening with subtitles and an English dub in early 2020. The film has so far sold 8 million tickets for 10,734,722,500 yen (about US$101 million) since opening. The film is now the #9 highest-earning film of all time in Japan.

Source: Fujinkōron (Akane Maruyama)

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