Makoto Shinkai really did it again. Despite being only about 45 min in length, the message delivered still carried the same taste that was seen in his earlier works. The intricate details in the visual and the soothing sound effect might have played a big part in it, but the real magic was of course brought out from the stories of the characters. Without giving out spoilers, it is essentially about people finding their way out of impediments towards life’s goals and the loneliness that often accompanies them. And this sometimes brings people together in odd ways. But yes, he animation is stunning and the story is sweet, but after the grand successes of The Children Who Chase Lost Voices, this felt like a small step back.
The Garden of Words is a short film depicting the romance and relationship between a 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman. Takao, the boy, feels lost and alienated by his uncertain future and passion for shoemaking. Concurrently, Yukino feels lost in an adult society where she feels she does not belong. The first thing I noticed is that it has the most detailed and realistic presentation of leaves I’ve ever watched. Even the several forms of rain are beautiful. The birds eye view of the garden is seriously breathtaking. All of these technical qualities combine with the story to form yet another poetic masterpiece from the creator. Dialogue plays a major role in this piece, as would be suggested by the title The Garden of Words.
Some people go searching for beauty, traveling to exotic locales halfway around the world. But beauty isn’t in how something is; it’s in how you see it. Shinkai sees how beautiful the mundane, ordinary things of this world are: clouds, rain, shadows, trains, and the strangers you walk past every day. Shinkai’s films help the viewer realize this. The voice acting on display is stellar as well, with Miyu Irino doing a great job with Takao. But the stand out performance comes from Kana Hanazawa as she effortlessly conveys every emotion that Yukino expresses, from confusion to sadness, despair to relief, she does a remarkable job throughout. Notice that the real star of this movie is the rain as it is everywhere and the little drops, the clouds, everything has magic and it clearly shows for the characters involved and it is a main intrument for the relationship.
I was not expecting to watch such a thing on my saturday morning. If you’re a romantic in any sense of the word, be sure to not pass by the opportunity to see it. The atmosphere of Kotonoha no Niwa will sink you in… the rain, the animation, the music, the voice acting… eveything is there to create a bubble around you for 45 minutes. Makoto Shinkai is one of the greatest anime filmmakers so any new work of his is a treat.