Prior to North American release, Weathering with You was one of the Japan’s most successful films of last year, garnering so much critical and audience appreciation that plans to export it quickly followed. On top of being the first anime to be released in India, a North American release seemed inevitable, especially after the success of the filmmaker’s last film, Your Name (2016). But it was also so successful that there was a demand in Japan to release the film in the 4DX format, and because of that, there is a limited opportunity for American audiences to experience this film in the most immersive way possible. Exclusively at select Regal 4DX theaters for a limited time starting this Friday, January 31st, Weathering with You will be available in this premium format.
Instead of reviewing the film itself, which has had plenty of critical attention after its 2D North American wide release in theaters last Friday, I will focus on reviewing the 4D elements and how the film experience is enhanced by them. Of course, this will also depend somewhat on the individual theater and how well their equipment is maintained (new technology often means a few bugs here and there), but in the best case scenario, this is what you should experience.
Effect 1: Motion and Vibration
Although a bit more subtle than if you were to see a Marvel movie or John Wick in 4DX, the movement and vibration is one of the main effects used throughout the film. Whether slowly tilting your seat up to follow camera movement, or to simulate motion during one of the climactic running sequences, the seat movement allows you to connect your experience with the characters onscreen. The vibration is primarily used to simulate the engine rumble while riding in vehicles throughout the city.
Effect 2: Back Effects
Helping with the direct identification with the characters, there is an effect in the seats that actually hits the back of the audience. It is more of a poke than a hit, protruding somewhere hidden beneath the padding of the chair’s back, effective not for the pain it causes but rather the shock from an unexpected assault. This is only implemented a couple of times within the film, primarily near the end when there is a bit of action.
Effect 3: Air Blasts
These bursts of air can come from both the seat in front of you to hit you directly in the face, or they may also come from the headrest to simulate something just missing hitting your head. As the film deals with moments of extreme weather (often followed or proceeded by calm or peacefulness), the front air bursts are usually used for sudden changed. At one point an ocean of water seems to fall all at once from the sky, and the front air bursts hit as it falls for the impact of the moment. The airbursts in the headrest are used sparingly, and the most recognizable moments come with the onscreen use of a gun. The airbursts near your head simulate a just-missed shot.
Effect 4: Leg Ticklers
The leg ticklers are a couple of moving tubes (or some variation) that hit your legs to simulate movement. Often they are used to simulate debris in various situations. For instance, in John Wick 3, it was used to simulate falling glass around the fight, and in Ford v. Ferrari it was used when the car went off-road and kicked up rocks. There are a few scenes of crashes and accidents in Weathering with You which briefly utilize this effect.
Effect 5: Water Elements
There is no effect more important to the viewing experience of Weathering with You than the water effects (which are optional, and can be turned off in each individual seat). The main premise of the film involves a constant storm in Tokyo, and although it isn’t constant or enough to actually get you more wet than a sprinkle, the rain effects are used pretty much throughout the film. And, as the film has a bit of melodrama that will likely affect the more emotionally prone audience members, the rain has the added benefit of hiding tears during the climactic sequence.
Element 6: Floodlights
There are large floodlights that flash on the sides near the front of the screen, often used in full effect during massive explosion scenes. There were a few of these explosions in the film, but it was the times that they were used in small flashes to simulate lightening that were most effective. Combined with the water and the wind, the 4DX elements were able to completely simulate the feeling of being caught in a storm.
Element 7: Wind
The wind elements are achieved by large fans attached to the sides of the theater, and they help to simulate forward motion in a few of the chase scenes, but are more often used for the crucial weather aspects of the film. While not as important as the rain, the wind comes a close second in simulating the most important element in the narrative.
Element 8: Smoke/Fog Effects
While there was only one time during the film that the fog machine was used, it was one of the most effective 4DX moments I have experienced. Often the smoke is paired with explosion scenes, but it was used as a thick fog for one of the more fantasy-driven sequences, and the impact was downright magical. I hesitate to give any more details than that, as it may be better appreciated without anticipation of the moment.
Element 9: Snow
The weather gets so extreme at a few moments that it actually starts to snow in Tokyo (the film is set during the summer), and simultaneously in the 4DX theaters. The snow effect is achieved with the use of bubbles, which float down and catch the light in a way similar to snow. The snow effects in Weathering with You were not as subtle as I had experienced in other 4DX films, but it was still a fun touch.
Because Weather with You is a different kind of 4DX experience, the effects are mostly subdued to match the tone of the film. While it might not be the flashiest 4DX film, the effects nearly always feel perfectly suited. And that is what should always be at the center of focus. While those looking to get the full effects of the format may want to consider another film, fans of Makoto Shinkai, Japanese anime, or just this film will be delighted at the enhancements brought by Regal’s 4DX experience.