Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name follow-up is only the second Japanese animated film ever to get the nod.

Anime director Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering with You, his first film since Your Name, has earned over 10 billion yen (US$92.6 millon) at the Japanese box office since its July release, and is already in the top 10 highest-grossing domestically produced films in Japan. The story of teen runaway Hodaka and magical, weather-controlling Tokyo girl Hina has also resonated with audiences and critics, who have been showering the rainy-days tale with praise.

Now Weathering with You has a shot on adding Oscar honor to its critical and financial success. The new Shinkai anime has been designated as Japan’s submission for the Best International Feature Film category for the 92nd Academy Awards, which will be handed out in February 2020. Entries for the category, which is a renaming of the previous Best Foreign Language Film award, must originate in a country other than the U.S. and have the majority of their dialogue in a language other than English.

▼ Trailer for Weathering with You

The Best Foreign Language Film category was established in 1947, and Japan was initially something of a powerhouse, winning three awards by 1955, for Rashomon, Gate of Hell, and Samurai, The Legend of Musashi. However, after Musashi’s win in 1955, Japan went through more than a half-century drought, with its next, as currently most recent, win in the category not coming until Departures/Okuribito in 2008.

Weathering with You’s submission is significant in a number of ways. First, despite being the highest internationally grossing anime film of all time, Your Name didn’t get so much as a nomination for the Oscars’ Best Animated Feature award, and die-hard Shinkai fans have been waiting three years for greater recognition of the director’s artistic merits. Secondly, Weathering with You is only the second anime movie ever to be submitted for the Best International Film/Best Foreign Language Film category, and the first in over 20 years, with the only other member of that group being Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s original intended-retirement film, Princess Mononoke, for the 1998 Academy Awards (Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, the only anime so far to win an Oscar, did so in the Best Animated Feature category in 2003, submitted in its English-dubbed version).

On one hand, consideration in the Best International Film category means that Weathering with You won’t be in competition with films from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, or other U.S. studios whose works fall much more in line with what Oscar voters expect from animated content. Such a discrepancy was likely at least a contributing factor in why anime Best Animated Feature contenders When Marnie Was There, The Tale of the Princes Kaguya, and Mirai went home from the Oscar ceremony empty-handed, and with Toy Story 4, The Lion King, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Lego Movie 2 and the upcoming Frozen 2 all releasing this year, odds are the Academy already has its hearts and minds filled with examples of what it thinks an animated movie should be, giving Weathering with You little to no chance of winning the Best Animated Feature award.

But on the other hand, live-action films and documentaries are also eligible for the Best International Film category, and it’s likely that works in those formats will be seen as more authentic, socially relevant, and respective of their country-of-origin cultures, giving Weathering with You a different but equally difficult set of challenges in the Best International Film category. There’s also the fact that as of right now, Shinkai’s new anime is only a submission for the award, one of dozens from which the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Committee will select five official finalist nominees.

For the time being, though, being chosen as Japan’s representative is still quite an honor for Weathering with You, and here’s hoping the English-subtitled version of the film prepared for Academy members’ consideration avoids the sort of hilariously clunky translation hiccups that Your Name had.

Source: Livedoor News/Kyodo via Hachima Kiko
Images: YouTube/東宝MOVIEチャンネル
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