I don’t know if any of you have read Miss Smilla’s Sense for Snow. It’s a Danish criminal thriller which focuses a lot on snow. How it behaves and what it can tell us. It’s pretty interesting to convey wheater through words alone. Not entirely unlike trying to explain colours. If you’ve experienced it for yourself it’s perfectly obvious what those words mean, otherwise, it’s close to impossible to understand.
I know snow. I love it! I love cold temperatures as well. I have a fairly low heat tolerance and tend to get sick when the temperature creeps up too much. Montreal is a city of whimsical weather, to put it kindly. Temperatures range wildly and often unpredictability. All sorts of stuff falls from the sky. Speaking of which, that sky can be just about any color. Our winds are comparatively mild but they come from the sea and are full of salt. The weather is like a bratty kid here, it throws tantrums and refuses to be ignored.
I’ve always been someone who pays particular attention to the weather, even if I am an indoor kid. And that may be why I also tend to notice it in anime.
In both animated and live action stories weather is used as one of two things: a plot point which creates an obstacle for our protagonists or a heavy handed atmospheric cue. If the story doesn’t need the characters to be stuck somewhere or their boat to capsize, and the audience doesn’t need to be mildly number out on a grey day, then the weather will be unremarkably fine. You know, just o.k. Nothing to write home about.
Very few animes will bother to actually animate rain just because or draw wild winds you can see from a window but no one ever mentions. Why would they put in the effort. It’s even worst in live action where cg is expensive, practical effects difficult and the entire thing is almost guaranteed to cause continuity issues.
I started thinking about weather in anime recently because I made my way through Garden of Sinners. In this series of movies, the default weather is always varying degrees of not great. The sky is almost constantly overcast and more often than not there is some form of precipitation. It is in fact a mood enhancing device, the entire franchise cultivates a grim and edgy persona so the bad weather is just an extension of that, but it makes it so that average sunny days really stand out.
And to me, it also had the unexpected side effect of adding just a bit realism. Sometimes it rains on perfectly ordinary days. In fact sometimes it rains for days on end. That just happens. You can have impressive quantities of snow come down without it really changing your day in any way. Some days get windy. Weaving weather effects into the animation really goes a long way into tricking your brains into thinking you’re watching a place that *could* exist.
But it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound. I mentioned my sense of snow for a reason. I know snow well. I know that even the fat wet snowflakes that make for wonderful snowmen and can collapse roofs when they pile up, are way lighter than a thick wool scarf. So if it’s blowing in the wind there is no way delicate snow flakes are falling calmly straight down to the ground. I know if it’s snowing enough to have it coat the roads in enough snow to leave footprints, it’s also accumulating on rooftops, guardrails and branches. It can stay stuck in hair but it will melt on skin. I know all these things on an almost instinctive level so when an anime doesn’t get the details right, I instinctively know it’s not real snow.
Like I said Garden of Sinners (movie 8) really got me thinking about it and it did a decent job with the snow. If I remember correctly Toradora actually wonderfully captured the eerie stillness of a calm winter night. I was expecting my breath to fog up a lot watching it. Most shows though treat it like a decoration.
I’m not as good with rain. I don’t understand it on the same level. With rain for me, it all about the soundtrack. If the rain noises are right I’m transported there, otherwise they might as well not bother animating it Still most examples that come to mind use rain in a plot specific way. It’s not just something you put in to fill out the background.
I understand that animating whether is probably unpractical but I also think that in certain anime it would really enhance the impact and delivery. It’s a subtle way to make a fictional universe suddenly seem so much more real and alive.
Do you notice weather in anime? Do you care? Do you have a favourite storm scene?