The Ethical Dilemma at the End of Weathering With You

Weathering With You

Weathering With You is another archetypal, gorgeous Makoto Shinkai film, but something about its ending is a bit… off. Allow me to explain.

Hodaka and Hina’s dilemma

Hina: Weathering With You

Hina is a weather maiden, a person able to change the weather by sheer force of will, but it’s an ability that comes with a cost. Whilst her body’s gradually weakening with its every use, the rain won’t stop falling in Tokyo. The weather is messed up and the only way to fix it, Hina realises, is to sacrifice herself, such is the weather maiden’s sad fate. It has to be her life for everyone elses’.

The unspoken consequences of their choice

Hodaka and Hina: Weathering With You

Hodaka and Hina are in love, but if Tokyo is to survive, Hina needs to die. That is the choice laid down by Makoto Shinkai: it’s Hina, or Tokyo.

At first, she takes control and allows herself to be spirited away and consumed by whatever it is that lives in the clouds. It stops raining, and not a minute too soon, because Tokyo is flooding and on the brink of total collapse.

Alas, Hodaka cannot give up on Hina. He flies in and brings her back. As you’d expect, it starts raining again. 3 years later, Tokyo is half-submerged in water, likely displacing 9 million people and sending Japan into meltdown.

Going the wrong way

Hodaka: Weathering With You

It’s a shame Weathering With You never scrutinises Hodaka and Hina’s choice. In fact, the consequences of it are almost completely ignored in favour of their emotional reunion in the city they ruined.

In the 3 years since that day, did they ever really doubt themselves? Was it worth it? Because let’s be honest, whilst it delivers the romantic climax that Shinkai wanted, Hodaka and Hina have sacrificed an entire city for their love. In another story, they would be cast as villains.

It’s a selfish choice they make, understandable, but selfish, and it undercuts Weathering With You‘s end, if just because it never calls them on it.


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13 comments

  1. I definitely understand your issue with Weathering with You. Still, there are SO many Japanese stories that involve the destruction of Japan or cities within Japan. This is another one. Also… Hodaka’s choice to save Hina and the subsequent sacrifice of Tokyo is an interesting metaphor for relationships between [disfunctional?] people. Sometimes our own love choices supersedes the needs of those around us. This isn’t always the right choice for the many, but it feels like the right choice for the individual/couple. This is a tough story to swallow because it ends in a way that isn’t in keeping with the paradigm of many stories that come out of Japan or even Hollywood.

  2. I understand your critique in that the consequences are not fully explored, and, structurally, that is an imbalance between pre-choice and post-choice. However, I feel that it’s justified.

    The consequences are: status-quo continues. We already knew what that world was like. It didn’t change. Therefore, time spent on how bad things got for Tokyoites would have have communicated that their choice had been wrong.

    It was incredibly important to Shinkai that we not get that message, IMO. Because Tenki no ko is about two kids, at the bottom of the social system, being told they have to pay a huge price for the greater good. And why should they? Why should the younger generation sacrifice itself to deal with climate issues? Just because the rich, the old, and those in charge would be in trouble? Climate change also disrupts the homeless, as the film pointed out, but they are not the ones who are pushing Hina to suicide.

    Through this lens, I think it was just enough to show how people had to move, as seen in the grandmother visit at the end. Thankfully, she was accepting of this change. Thus, Hodoka and Hina could simply live.

    1. Because it’s for the greater good. One life lost, yes, but for the benefit of millions of others. Sure, it is an unfair responsibility that fate has put onto the young girl’s shoulders. And I don’t begrudge the kids for fighting against it. But self-sacrifice is unequivocally the responsible choice, within the context of the movie. It is also the responsible choice in real life, albeit on a collective level, and with much less heavy individual penalties.

      I too, like Bateszi, question the decision to casually neglect the consequences of their choice, in favor of that sweeping romantic reunion. I could accept it if the kids were portrayed as broken, codependent brats embracing each other as they curse the world that has denigrated them. But here their choice is being displayed as unquestionably correct, which I find a cop-out. And there is no indication at all that they questioned its morality — the movie preferring to sweep those ethics under the rug.

      As an aside, I don’t understand the point about rich people. I don’t remember seeing them represented in the movie, besides if I had to bet on any group to adapt to an apocalypse of any kind I’d go with those who have the resources & connections to do so. The biggest losers would without a doubt be the marginalized communities in the affected areas, suffering from lost possessions & reduced prospects, compounded by a lack of influence with decision-makers.

      (Sorry, I know I’m many months late. I have just watched this.)

      1. Yes, self sacrifice is the responsible choice, both in and out of universe. That’s the point. But the thing is, we’re talking about a fictional character here, one that we can project onto and question and pick apart their actions. What if it was you? I don’t mean this as a form of whataboutism, stay with me here.

        What if you were Hodaka, and you had the choice. The choice between what you consider to be the love of your life and millions of others. Of course the responsible choice would be the millions of lives. Of course, of course, of course. But would you do it? Would you really?

        I think this is what Makoto Shinkai was going for here. The view of “the needs of the few outweighs the needs of the many”, but from the perspective of the few. Of course it’s the responsible choice, but more often than not if people were “the few”, they would instead sacrifice the many.

        I know I too am many more months late (almost a whole year), but I wanted to add a comment to those like me who decided they wanted to read this article. I also don’t like how the movie glosses over the repercussions of Hodaka’s choice, but perhaps many other people too would gloss over the consequences of their choice after a moral and ethical dilemma.

      2. Hello there, as I said in my previous comment I don’t begrudge the kids for their choice. My beef lies with, as you say, how the movie glosses over the repercussions of that choice.

        On another note, pretty cool how this post keeps drawing comments, nearly two years after the film’s original release XD

  3. The strange thing is, I don’t disagree with either of your (thoughtfully worded) perspectives. The world is far from perfect and full of contradiction and Hina’s choice is an impossible one to make. Her choosing to die for the greater good would be a particularly Japanese choice given how so much Japanese drama ends in tragedy and compromise. More to the point, if I were in their position, I don’t know if I’d choose any differently either. It’s just that after their decision, the film becomes a bit manipulative, as implied by Andrej’s comment, Shinkai intentionally avoids depicting a broken Tokyo. In the end, they have each other, but the world around them is broken. Where is the empathy for others?

  4. I can agree that it seems manipulative. For that reason, I think it’s really trying hard to pull away from the paradigm that you and okiru mention.

    I asked my English students (Japanese uni kids) what they thought of the movie (they had almost all seen it). In limited English, they said the ending was “good”. I asked about the choice we are discussing here. Most of them didn’t get my point, but one of them said it was a good choice in the movie, but not a good choice in real life.

    But I don’t think it’s “empathy” that makes them think that. Rather, it’s probably the obligation of doing the right thing for the group in full view of the group. If that is what Shinkai is pushing against in his ending here, I am on board. Or maybe he just wanted a different kind of ending. It’s jostling, yes, but I felt like it made a lot of sense in the contexts I’ve already spoken about.

    I didn’t like the gun, though. I thought that was a worse narrative sin. It’s such an easy device to propel the story forward, and so unrealistic in Japan.

    1. Andrej, I definitely agree about the gun and how jarring it is/was.

      It’s very interesting that your students had that reaction to the ending. From what little I know of Japanese culture, that reaction seems very expected. If this movie came from a Hollywood, it’s likely that both Tokyo and Hina would be saved. Having to make the choice between them is not an option many movie-goers get.

  5. BTW, just watched I Lost My Body (a French animated feature). I really liked it! Another movie with a non-traditional ending. Very emotionally affecting!

  6. I actually love the ending. Although I totally agree that in some level the ending seems a bit selfish and morally wrong. However, I don’t think that three live are more “important” than one life. I know that sometimes we do things for the greater good but as seen in the movie, the kids were neglected and society has failed them at some point. Only a few people were able to help them. It simply means that sometimes we need to prioritize ourselves as well rather than regretting our decisions.

    Even if Hina don’t sacrifice herself, I think the flood will surely happen sometime in the future as it is bound to happen. Hina didn’t wish to be a maiden in the first place. She already sacrificed a lot by granting wishes from several people. I think it is too much to sacrifice her life knowing there are also people depending and loving her – Nagi and Hodaka. People can adjust to whatever changes there will be in the world and it is not Hina’s fault why there is flood. It just so happen that she suddenly became a maiden but if you really watch the movie, you know that it has continuously rained even before she was not a maiden and was in the hospital with her mom.

  7. Cant agree more with the ending. I dont think they should sacrifice their happiness for the world. They have to be happy first before thinking about others. And it is not their responsibility to save the climate disaster, they only 15 and 16 years old, for God sake. There is no way for people to judge them for not saving the world, thats not their problem anyway. If some people say that its better to sacrifice 1 person to save millions, i say LET THEM DROWN.

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