The World of Anime
Alongside Parasite, another of this year’s pre-lockdown success stories was Makoto Shinkai’s brilliant anime fantasy/romance Weathering with You. Shinkai’s follow up to 2016’s Your Name didn’t quite match the astonishing success of that earlier film, which remains the highest grossing anime ever worldwide (and one of the highest grossing films of any genre in its native Japan). But Weathering with You still made a big splash when it was released over here in January, grossing over £500K at the UK box office. It was fantastic to see the film play so well in this country, and it really connected with our audience here at the Showroom in particular. For the uninitiated, Shinkai is a Japanese animator known for producing stunning and meticulously crafted animated films that frequently combine fantasy and science-fiction elements with sensitively drawn, carefully observed characters and touching stories of love, loss and longing.
Often touted as “the next Miyazaki”, his films are the perfect place to start for those wanting to dip their toes into the world of anime beyond Studio Ghibli and Akira. And if you’ve not seen it, Your Name is probably the best place to begin the journey. Shinkai’s astonishing genre-bending body swap romance in which two teens mysteriously find themselves repeatedly switching places in their dreams is currently available to stream via Netflix. So too is The Garden of Words, his mid-length (46 min) feature from 2013 about the May-September romance between a lonely teenager and a mysterious older woman that develops when the two meet by chance in a beautiful Japanese garden during the rainy season. The atmosphere conjured through the persistent rain in The Garden of Words anticipates the way Shinkai squeezes every ounce of melodrama and emotion out of meteorological events in Weathering with You, only on a much smaller, more intimate scale.
Weathering with You isn’t sadly available to stream online in the UK at the moment. However, if you’re looking for other brilliant anime to whet your appetite, then look no further than the BFI Player. There you’ll find a brand new five film collection of anime titles as part of the BFI’s ongoing Japan season designed to “excite enthusiasts and open the door to the uninitiated.”. The collection includes Mamoru Oshii’s stone cold cyber-punk classic Ghost in the Shell (a huge influence on The Matrix), his 2004 sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, and three brilliant films from Mamoru Hosada. Of the two directors showcased in the collection, Hosada’s work is the closest in tone to Makoto Shinkai’s, and the films spotlighted here – Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children -are some of the most beautiful, touching and compelling works of animation of the last 15 years.
The Japan Season and above five anime films are available to stream through BFI Player now, which is free to view for six weeks for all Showroom Members. Find out more here.
This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on 6 August 2020.