When the coronavirus hit catastrophically, I instantly knew what our next OWLS’ topic would be: “Hope.”
We are in the midst of a pandemic which has led people to live in fear and anxiety over the coronavirus. For this month, rather than seeing the dark side of the situation we are living in, we will be exploring anime and other pop culture mediums that bring hope for humanity and why they have such a positive impact on us.
When it comes to this topic, I realized that my definition of “hope” is completely different from other people’s definitions, but all our perspectives on hope during this crisis are valid. The pop culture medium that I will be focusing on is Makoto Shinka’s 2019 animated movie, Weathering With You or in Japanese, 天気の子 (Tenki no Ko, Weather Child). Now, this film has a lot of political and environmental commentary, but what I am most interested in talking about is the ending and so if you haven’t watched the film yet, I recommend that you stop reading this post. In regards to the ending, I would like to talk about the selfishness of the two main characters, Hodaka and Hina, and how that’s currently reflected in today’s society when it comes to this pandemic.
Weathering With You (天気の子)
(Anime Movie 2019)
Directed By: Makoto Shinkai
The Immaturity & Selfishness of Hodaka & Hina
If you don’t remember what happened at the end of Weathering With You, I will give you a short summary. In order for the rain to stop in Japan, Hina had to be the human sacrifice to change the weather. Hodaka gets arrested but escapes with the help of Natsumi. Hodaka goes to the shrine but is stopped by Suga and the police and in a desperate plea, Hodaka asks Suga if he can go save Hina. Suga helps him escape and Hodaka goes to the roof and enters through the shrine gate. He sees Hina and they end up falling down from the sky towards the Earth. Everyone lives, but at the cost of having the rain continually pouring. Hina, Hodaka, Natsumi, and Suga are arrested by the police. Three years later, the rain continues to pour in Tokyo causing most of the city to be submerged in water. Hodaka finishes his probation, graduates from high school, and returns to Tokyo. He meets Suga, and Suga encourages him to find Hina. Hodaka finds Hina praying on a street overlooking the drowned city, and the two are reunited.
Now, if you are a hopeless romantic, you would find their reunion to be a happy ending. However, the subtle message that Shinkai seems to convey in this ending is that humans are selfish. Hodaka and Hina had the opportunity to save their entire city from being submerged in water, but they decided to save one another. As a result of their actions, the city continues to rain and will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. Now, one can argue that Hodaka and Hina are just immature teenagers, but throughout this movie, these two characters have demonstrated maturity in other ways—taking care of one another as runaways. Yet, their final act of “maturity” ends up revealing their immaturity and as viewers, we should be giving them the benefit of the doubt that “kids will act like kids.” However, from my perspective, given the circumstances that they were in, I think Hina and Hodaka had the mental capacity to do the “right” thing. An act of heroism and selflessness transformed into an act of pure selfishness, revealing the monsters we are as humans.
How Does Weathering With You Relate to the Current Pandemic?
Now, you may be wondering how Weathering With You relates to our current pandemic with COVID-19; from all the news sources I’ve read and the social media posts out there, I came to the conclusion that we are Hodaka and Hina. Shinkai was right: we are toxic. We hurt the environment and now Mother Nature has come to punish us. And what makes matters worse, in our time of needed unity and empathy, we turn our backs on one another and fight over toilet paper. We are mandated to stay at home, only to go outside for the essentials and if needed, we may take walks around our neighborhood. However, we manipulated these rules for our own pleasure—deciding to use this time as a vacation and go to outdoor parks and beaches. We let our children go to their friends’ houses without even considering the possibility that they may get infected. And we hoard essential supplies without even thinking about the most vulnerable. We make these decisions but aren’t aware of the consequences that it can have on ourselves and each other. And when things don’t go our way or we don’t like the mandates and news coverage, we are quick to complain about it on social media but don’t take any action about it.
However, let’s not forget I am speaking from the perspective of “privileged.” But my “privileged” isn’t as great in comparison to other people. I mean, I don’t have great health insurance that’s one aspect of me that I don’t see myself as “privileged.” However, I do have a roof over my head and I am able to get my basic essentials, unlike other people. There are people who are worried about their finances when it comes to paying rent and the bills because they lost their jobs. There are children who don’t have enough to eat and don’t have access to computers so they can’t really continue their education. There are people who are scared to go home due to domestic and child abuse too. There are homeless people who are exposed to COVID-19 on a daily basis. All these issues that we ignored for a long time are now being brought to light and it’s coming back to haunt us because we did nothing to resolve them when we were a “civil” society but instead, we focus on our own goals that can benefit only us.
Also, let’s not forget the first responders, the healthcare workers, the “essential” workers in the grocery stores, and the delivery people. They are signing their lives away to keep society running. They can’t stay home like us. They are risking everything to save lives or just to have an income because the economy is in the pits of hell. Also, most of these workers aren’t receiving any medical benefits, paid sick leave, nor protective gear during this pandemic. They are the most vulnerable but they still continue to do their jobs. In fact, after this is all over, they probably won’t get recognition in the history books because they aren’t “government officials” who are writing the laws and “running the country.” Yet from this point onward, they should be respected and appreciated each and every day because they are the real heroes for keeping things afloat.
As for me, I admit that I feel useless because I can stay home. However, I am doing my part in keeping my social distance. I also know what’s gonna benefit me and our future, and that’s me finishing up graduate school. I’m also lucky enough that I still have a job even though I lost some hours. My way of contributing to society is assisting students in remote learning as a tutor and a teacher. That’s enough for now…
Is there a future?
I listed all the issues that are currently plaguing our society but there isn’t a point in saying all this if I don’t propose solutions or even envision the future. Aside from people using their common sense and being mindful, my hope is that we save as many people as we can but also accept that lives will be lost and we have to be mentally prepared for it to happen. My hope is that the issues that are exposed during this pandemic get addressed more thoroughly and we look to resolve them as opposed to ignoring them. My hope is that during our time being self-isolated we reflect on our lives and appreciate what we have and not take anything for granted. Because right now, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
I don’t want to die in this manner. I believe that there’s so much more that I can offer this world. And according to Hayley Williams from Paramore:
Lost the battle, win the war
I’m bringing my sinking ship back to the shore
We’re starting over or head back in
There’s a time and a place to die but this ain’t it
That’s all I have to say about this for now. Up next on the OWLS’ tour is Megan.