It really doesn't get much better than this. Makoto Shinkai has knocked this one out of the park--every time I watch one of his movies, I wonder if his art can get any better. Hold on to your hats, because somehow, every time, he manages to produce a work of quality that completely overshadows his earlier works.
And that, my friends, is no easy task.
Story: Keeping it simple, the story is a bittersweet romantic tale of a boy who meets a stranger in the park on rainy mornings, when it is his rule to skip first period. He has a dream to become a shoemaker; she drinks beer, eats chocolate, and doesn't talk about herself. They fall in love, until late in the film we discover that she is actually a teacher at his school who has been bullied by students.
The tale is downright beautiful, especially their final argument and her confession, which leads to more resolution than love stories sometimes get in Japanese works.
Animation: I don't know that we actually need to discuss this. You know how pretty Iblard Jikan is? This is like that, except better.
Simply put, this is the absolute height of animation quality and I can't imagine how gorgeous it would be on a big screen. Lighting, subtle motions like rain falling on a pond & light spilling over the horizon, extremely natural human motion, and uber detailed, textured, and dimensional landscapes are just a few of the goodies you will encounter in the eye candy department. It manages to be both crisp and soft and completely amazing.
Sound: Again, beautiful and natural, both in music and in voice acting.
Characters: Simple and believable, and relatable. The characters' situations bring up really meaty human questions about the value of school and work, education as a path to achievement, and how difference in status can affect a romance.
Overall: If you like anime at all and are a human being with emotions, this piece is not to be missed. If you are a robot (or a cynic), you might not like the story, but the animation is totally worth 46 minutes of your time.