Makoto Shinkai‘s Your Name was a bonafide phenomenon in Japan, grossing 25 billion yen and for a time earning the title of the highest grossing Japanese film of all time and solidifying the filmmaker as probably the long sought-after heir to Miyazaki, commercially. His latest, Weathering With You, has already earned 100 million dollars (10 billion yen+) and has already made it the most successful Japanese film domestically since his last. And now, speaking to its acclaim, Japan has chosen it as its first animated Oscar entry for the foreign category in 20 years.
For background, the foreign Oscar category is determined through individual country submissions. Each country can only submit one film, and the LA-based members of the Academy (all branches) and the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee team to create a short-list of potential nominees, which is announced and then later whittled down by eligible Academy Members to a 5-nominee list.
Last year, the prize was won by the Mexico-submitted Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, but Japan’s entry Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Shoplifters made the final cut as a nominee (and should have won, if you ask me). But, over the last 2 decades Japan has only chosen live action films for their entries. The last time an animated film was submitted, it was Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, which failed to be nominated that year. Ironically, Miyazaki’s later Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003, but was not put up for Best Foreign Film. So it goes!
Weathering With You, which focuses on the romance (what else with Shinkai? Romance for him is like flying contraptions for Miyazaki) between a Tokyo youth who has runaway from home and a young orphan that can control the weather, will be hitting North American shores at the Toronto International Film Festival and should be rolled out by its distributor GKIDS in short order with a theatrical release set for early 2020.
Were Weathering With You to get the nod, it would join Ari Folman‘s Waltz With Bashir as the only other animated film to be nominated for Best Foreign Feature. It’ll have stiff competition though, as South Korea’s entry Bong Joon-ho‘s Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year is already looking like a favorite. Regardless, quite a landmark for anime today!