Title: Garden of Words
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Writer: Makoto Shinkai
Year Released: 2013
Run Time: 46 minutes
Garden of Words is directed and written by Makoto Shinkai, arguably best known for his work on 5 Centimeters Per Second—my favorite animated film of all time. I love how right off the bat, there are strong similarities between the two films. The picturesque visuals, for example. Watching a Makoto Shinkai film is like getting lost in a visual painting.
“In the evenings, before I went to sleep, and in the mornings, in the moment I woke up, I realized I was praying for rain.” – Makoto Shinkia, Garden of Words
This is particularly evident in the nature shots. As expected, it is the garden scenes in Garden of Words that are the most visually stunning. I have never seen rain so beautifully rendered as in this film. And there is plenty of rain to enjoy as the 15-year-old Takao Azizuki and 27-year-old Akari Yukino only meet in the garden when it rains.
Takao, the film’s main protagonist, has dreams of becoming a shoemaker. Not merely a shoe designer, mind you. He wants to design and handcraft his own shoes—cutting the leather, carving the wood, sewing everything together, and all that. Understandably, nobody seems to understand his passion.
He also has a weird habit of cutting class every time it rains. Instead of riding the train to school, he’ll ride it to the park instead. Then, he’ll spend the whole day hanging out at a gazebo instead of going to school.
“You just thought to yourself “this woman’s a freak,” didn’t you?”
“It’s okay. We’re human, after all. We’ve all got our little quirks” – Makoto Shinkai, The Garden of Words
It’s during one of these rainy days that he meets Akari, who he immediately develops a rapport with. Akari also has her own quirks, like drinking beer and eating chocolate at the same time.
I was expecting an age difference problem, that’s for sure. It would have been interesting to see whether or not they would end up together based on that alone. But the reveal that Akari is a teacher in Takao’s school surprised me. The student-adult relationship was complicated enough, and I found myself unsure of whether or not to root for them ending up together.
“To me, she represents nothing less than the very secrets of the world” – Makoto Shinkai, Garden of Words
Then, Takao confesses his true feelings and it is blow after blow after blow—multiple stab wounds to my heart. The film’s ending would have been the final nail in the coffin for me. I thought Makoto Shinkai over indulged his twist that time around. There is a thin line between nostalgic and depressing. 5 Centimeters Per Second was on the right side of it, while Garden of Words was way deep in the wrong one.
Makoto Shinkai: the breaker of hearts. The destroyer of dreams! I found myself staring blankly at the film credits, while trying to hold my sliced-and-diced heart back together.
But right before I stopped the video, an epilogue began to play. And everything in the world was wonderful again.
Coffee Bean and Tea Reads Rating:
5 out of 5