The Garden of Words Review

The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words is my favorite Makoto Shinkai film, I personally don’t have much of an attachment to 5 Centimeters Per Second, I thought it was okay, it didn’t really do much for me, I feel the complete opposite about The Garden of Words. I haven’t seen Your Name yet, but I have a feeling this one will continue to resonate with me a lot more.

The Garden of Words is a romance film, that revolves around a teenage boy who skips school during the rainy mornings, spending time alone. Eventually, he comes across an older woman who’s also spending her time alone at the same park he does, their meeting sparks a light in the two of them.

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What The Garden of Words does to convey the relationship is by use of nature and the weather that surrounds them, frequent rain drops, trees, rivers, the sun, these different elements play a role in displaying the emotions that the characters are feeling. It also determines exactly how the characters will act throughout. With Takao’s reluctance to skip classes when it’s sunny out and Yukino’s want for the rain, when her life is too much for her to bear alone. The rain plays an active role in keeping the two together or… keeping them away. This aspect is emphasized, about half of the film has shots that showcase the beauty of the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or Shinjuku itself.  Shinkai’s strength is in his depiction of background elements to the point that the characters have to look more simplified, really helps give his films a distinct look and it’s one element that I particularly adore about this one. Ever since childhood I’ve had a certain fondness for the rain, the sound of raindrops hitting the roof was comforting after a long day of school while carrying off into my hobbies or going into a cozy sleep. I was enthused to play in it even, but it always resulted in me either getting a cold or being scolded by mom about getting one. Rain was always a sense of relief for me, where it felt the best in solitude, at the comfort of my home.

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The Garden of Words is that type of film you watch once and yeah it might seem forgettable somewhat, and the things that stood out were pretty much the visuals and ending, but I eagerly wanted to rewatch it to get something more. While the plot doesn’t do much to flesh out the characters and their struggles, what I appreciated were the little moments between Takao and Yukino, those short-lived exchanges in the park subtly made an impact on the two and while they were simple, they were enjoyable enough to keep my interest. I was able to feel for their relationship, being their unique different selves, showing interest in each other and their longing to meet again. I adore how Takao’s dream career of shoe making is a part of the story that managed to be Yukino’s way of pushing forward, her struggle in keeping herself standing in a steady position, conveniently is what Takao tries to help her out with in making her a new pair of shoes. It’s a detail that I never thought deeply of and it fits so well thematically.  Love or “koi” was originally written as “lonely sadness” in the Man’yōshū era, Man’yōshū(Collection of old Japanese poetry) poetry and/or Tanka, a genre of Japanese poetry, was used to tie Takao and Yukino’s relationship, and “longing for someone in solitude” is a theme prevalent in the story.

 

 

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Garden of Words’ soundtrack is very fitting, the kind that’s pretty much background noise at first, though it does grow on you overtime. It certainly heightens the scenes that they accompany, especially the ending theme “Rain” by Motohiro Hata that plays at the emotional climax throughout the credits, you think that it’s just another background track at first it’s so well implemented. The audio tracks for this film, I think the Japanese dub is absolutely perfect and it gives off the tranquil, yet bittersweet emotion that I thoroughly enjoy about it. A gentle tone that the Japanese VA execute supremely, while being more heavy or emotional when the time comes right. On the other hand, the English dub while it’s well performed, the script is a bit too harsh for my liking, there’s more swearing, the tone feels more heavy in general and it just gives off the opposite feeling of The Garden of Words that I like. Props to the dubbing studio for pulling through with great performances, but I guess Garden of Words just doesn’t work for me with English voices. I would only recommend the dub if you prefer to watch Anime dubbed in general, if you enjoy both sub and dub, go for the sub and watch it dubbed if you’re curious about the vocal delivery and just want to take in the visuals. It’s personal preference obviously, but this is one of those films that I can’t watch again dubbed, considering how it pretty much goes against the tone that I enjoy with the original audio track.

There’s a Manga and novel of The Garden of Words too, I haven’t read the novel, but I did give the Manga a shot. I would say that it excels at giving Takao and Yukino’s relationship more depth, since it actually goes into detail with the events that take place, storytelling is its strong point, though visually the movie easily trumps it. Can’t deny that it was a nice read when I was longing for more of the relationship between the two, so I would totally recommend it if you feel the same after watching The Garden of Words.

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Art from 浦助(Urasuke)

Well, I think I’ve about said all I had to say about how I feel about the film in general, though that wasn’t “all” I had to say. The main reason I wanted to write this blog was the feeling that this movie invoked after a couple of rewatches, yeah I did mention that I watched this movie more than once and that I actually “wanted” to watch it more than once. Back in high school, I simply watched this film, loved it, but it didn’t have any impact on me whatsoever and I kinda just wanted more from it. Then again, whenever I looked back on it I always thought about how beautiful it was and there was another aspect of it that did attract me. The attention it drew to feet and shoes, not many Anime did that and considering the film was known for that and its amazing visuals, I couldn’t pass that up! I ended up buying the Blu-ray around Christmas in 2018, and after the end of my third watch, it really got to me.

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It speaks for itself.

I spent most of 2018 isolating myself from people and my responsibilities, I had my reasons, but there really was something I noticed that I really missed after that third watch… it was having genuine conversations with people outside of my family and internet friends. I generally keep to myself, I was always an introvert, I don’t ever call or text anyone outside of my family, hardly hung out with friends away from school, haven’t even gotten in contact with recent or old real friends outside of the internet anyway, I’m bad with it online too. That feeling that I needed someone else to stay beside me intimately, that thought of having someone I dearly loved, that love being unrequited, never being in contact with them despite being friends and actually wanting to get back with them, never doing so. I really missed just seeing new faces, meeting new people, making new friends, a decent conversation with anyone else in the world that I never saw or just one that would brighten up my day. It felt like I took that for granted after seeing The Garden of Words again, I really want to do something to change that, in whatever possible way I can, as small as it is, it’ll be for better relationships, a better social life and a more fulfilling life. How invested I was in just watching these two people exchange simple conversations, how they inspired each other and how that escalated into a roar of emotions built up throughout, as unearned, cheesy or melodramatic as the climax was, it was honestly the best way it could have concluded.

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The Garden of Words to me, is a film that excels at what it does, despite not fully developing or pushing the envelope for very compelling storytelling. A story of two people who are going about their lives, are struggling, find an escape that leads them to each other, and they begin to long for one another in their solace. With its stunning visuals, attention to environmental and background detail, strong thematic threads, complementary soundtrack, positive message of having someone to live for or/and have someone to keep yourself moving forward and its simple, yet bittersweet romance. The Garden of Words will be a film that I continue to look back on and remember the positive impact it made on my life in 2018, when I needed it most. Here’s to a good new year in 2019.

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A faint clap of thunder / Even if rain comes not / I will stay here, / Together with you.

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Songs I Want in Smash 5 #4

Lightning from F-Zero: GP Legend.

Super obscure pick, but I feel that the F-Zero selection is very lacking. Especially with some of the more unpopular tracks they could bring back and remix, this is one of those. Like, all that has to be done is a fucking arrangement and you’re golden, it definitely deserves it. Plus, there isn’t a representative for the Lightning course, so either this or the one in GX gets in and I think this one would be a better fit.

 

Songs I Want in Smash 5 #3

The Summoned from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Hey, Cloud’s in Smash 4 and if him and the game’s other guests manages to transition to Smash 5, then I see no reason not to add more FFVII music. Including one of my personal favs from the prequel game Crisis Core, it was always hype for me. I know it’s technically a remix of Final Fantasy VII’s “Fight On!” which is already in Smash 4’s OST, but it’s still a track I would love to see.

My Top Ten Most Anticipated Video Games of 2018

It’s early February, everyone is getting more comfortable in the year setting their foot further into whatever goals they wish to achieve and video games are getting more and more exciting to behold. Everyone and their moms have been praising how amazing of a year in gaming 2017 was, and that set a high standard for the coming years. There’s some exciting stuff that’s been in development, it’s always a thing in the industry and this year isn’t no different.

We all have our video games that we personally “hope” and anticipate to release in the year and while there’s been a couple that I’ve been anticipating that released like, Dragon Ball FighterZ and Monster Hunter World, I really wanted to think harder and share my thoughts on what games “I’m” the most excited for. I’ll only be including games that’s been confirmed to release this year too, even if it might seem unlikely. So, let’s dive into this!

Kingdom Hearts III Sora Dive

10. Red Dead Redemption 2 

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It’s been years since the release of the original Red Dead Redemption, which was my personal favorite Open-World game and has never been topped since. Maybe it’s the Wild West setting and story, the gameplay that made the game so addicting to me, the world map being so large and interesting, it was hard for me not to enjoy the game throughout. I never completed the game 100% like I wanted, but there being a sequel in the works that could deliver an even larger world, new gameplay mechanics, enjoyable Western plot with top notch acting, and characters that are somewhat interesting, rivaling the first game’s quality. I think we’re in for another Rockstar Games hit.

9. Mega Man 11 

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It’s great to see the Blue Bomber make another revival, but this time with a step in the right and refreshing direction. No longer will Mega Man be tied to that NES nostalgia trip, now we’re hitting the next generation of Mega Man in a 3D cel-shaded art style and a fresh new redesign for Mega Man and co. All Mega Man fans should be excited, because Capcom is finally making that next step to please the starving fans once again, with a new found passion. Here’s hoping it doesn’t become another Blue Bomb…

8. Spider-Man

Spider-Man Insomniac Game

Spider-Man getting a new game from Insomniac Games? Who’d imagine that? Spider-Man is my personal favorite comic book hero and despite playing a couple of the Spider-Man games like, Ultimate Spider-Man(GBA), Web of Shadows and Shattered Dimensions, I don’t really have the most fondest memories of playing these games, despite enjoying WoS a lot. That experience I had with the Spider-Man games never stuck with me, I guess from the ones I played they just didn’t do much for me. With the upcoming game, it’s going to be big budget, cinematic and open-world as expected. Plus, the Arkham Asylum style of gameplay is welcome, considering how well done it was in those games, the only thing that worries me about this new game is the QTEs getting in the way of the overall gameplay. Otherwise, I have high hopes for this title and hope it delivers really well.

7. Soul Calibur VI

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I’ve never been a fan of the Soul Calibur series, but I’ve always appreciated it. I did play some SC, SCII, bought SCIII, played a lot of that and rented SCV, and enjoyed it for what it was, but that SC competitive scene? I’ve never dipped my toes into and with SCVI I think I’ll be interested. I never really spent time trying to git gud at the SC games and the time is finally coming, the game is looking very solid.

Taking some cues from Tekken 7 and bringing back the more fast-paced gameplay from the original two SC games, that the hardcore fans are ecstatic about. Fingers crossed for Tira and Setsuka’s return, I loved those characters a lot in SCIII, although Xianghua and Sophitia look like characters I can see myself learning, along with Kilik, Nightmare, Mitsurugi and Zasalamel, from the currently revealed roster. Looking forward to another amazing fighting game title from Bandai Namco!

6. Dragon Quest XI

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Being someone who’s never touched the Dragon Quest games from the looks of it, this one is shaping up to be my very first entry. This game will take a more open-world approach to the formula, but still retain the same turn-based combat, so that’s pretty awesome. I’m just in for that Akira Toriyama art style, a simple, enjoyable plot, a compelling cast of characters. Good ol’ JRPG charm and adventure, I don’t know if I’ll be picking up both the 3DS and PS4 versions, but I think I just might hehe, I love me some Chrono Trigger so I gotta see what the fuss is all about you know?

5. Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection

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Oh yeah Street Fighter! I’ve been a fan of the series, since early on in my childhood and with this game’s announcement trailer along side the rumors before it, it got me so pumped for this release! It will contain literally every iteration of the franchise that came to the arcades and that’s definitely a steal from the price it’s asking for. Gallery modes and all the extra goodies you would expect, it also includes netplay for Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. Unfortunately, Street Fighter Alpha 2 won’t have netplay, but there’s always FightCade.

The collection sounds super promising for all SF fans, including me, just have good netcode please! I also wish, the best console versions of some of these were ported instead, but it’s fine sticking to the arcade versions, it’s a bummer that Alpha 3 Max with all of those extra modes and characters like Eagle, Yun, Maki and Ingrid probably won’t make the collection. I’m not sure if they’re going to use the vanilla version of SFA3 only, but it would be strange considering there’s other arcade releases of SFA3, I hope they at least add the latest version or give us the option to choose. Oh well, it’s going to be pretty awesome though, just don’t fuck up the netcode, the game won’t be worth it, if that’s the case. It’ll just be amazing being able to play Third Strike and Alpha 3 on my PS4 and all the other current gen platforms, in the best way you could possibly play all of these SF games, hopefully…

4. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my all-time favorite video games and Bloodstained is its spiritual successor, an Kickstarter game headed by Koji Igarashi who’ s mainly responsible for the Metroidvania style Castlevania games. Considering most of those were pretty top-notch, I have high hopes that Iga is capable of delivering a quality  product, along with his team. I know there’s people out there who are cynical about it and are predicting that it’ll be another failure like Yooka-Laylee and the infamous  Mighty No. 9, but personally I think this will be one of the few successful Kickstarter titles backed by a creative mind, progressing forward from a previous establishment. I’m just that confident in Iga and it looks like development is going smoothly, nothing has given it a bad name so far.

Otherwise, having a new heroine is exciting, Miriam as a character design is very appealing, the bosses, Michiru Yamane’s(as well as Jake Kaufman and whoever else) music and environments are giving that Gothic-Horror vibe that I fucking adore. As much as I would prefer this game to use pixel art or hand-drawn animation, the game still has a cel-shaded visual style that sticks out in a good way. I’m pretty excited for Bloodstained, I have been since its announcement and I’m crossing my fingers that the development for this one wasn’t all for naught, I’m still confident in its success though.

3. Fighting EX Layer

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Ooooooh hell yeah! Do you know how fucking long I’ve been waiting for these characters to return?! The first game I ever got my hands on and vividly remember playing was the underrated Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha, it was the video game that pretty much shaped my taste in many things, video games, music, etc and it was just an overall enjoyable fighting game that I could put tons of hrs into without getting enough of it. It made me the fighting game fan that I am today and you know for sure that it had some original characters that I wanted to come back in new Capcom games or Arika at least coming back with a new title with them in it. Years ago, there was the Fighting Sample that Arika created for the 3DS that included a couple of the SFEX originals like, Hokuto, Shadowgeist, Kairi, Blair and whoever, but it never became an actual thing until 2017’s April Fool’s joke from Arika…

Kairi, Hokuto and Garuda in the Unreal Engine 4?! It was a hype reveal, but was it going to be real? Thank the Gods, it’s actually going to be a real fucking game and I’m so looking forward to kicking ass with my favorites such as Skullomania, Doctrine Dark, Cracker Jack, Area, Pullum and Garuda! From the Open Beta it was quite promising, the mechanics are pretty cool as well, despite being a little broken, they do add another “layer” to the matches. The game could possibly flop, but the game actually being a fairly polished and captivating fighter is enough to get my thirst quenched, it’s a passion project that I can see having a lot of effort and love put into it, the success is in your hands Arika!

(Some gameplay I captured, to catch your interest)

2. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes

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I think we all saw a new title in the No More Heroes series coming eventually and with the release of the Nintendo Switch, that lingering thought and speculation has become a reality. Despite not being the third installment in the series, this spin-off game definitely catches my interest, with Travis Touchdown making a return along with a relative to one of Travis’ previous assassinated, introduced in this game, Badman. From the gameplay revealed just recently, it looks to take different gameplay perspectives compared to the previous titles and it still looks super fun and similar to the others as well. Though I hope the gameplay isn’t stripped down too much, I doubt that’ll be the case really and it’ll still be a pretty fun game. Co-op play has been revealed too, which is pretty fucking awesome.

It’s been confirmed that each assassination will take place in the world of Indie games and that concept alone brings even more hype for me, considering the unpredictability of it. Existing Indie titles won’t be explored anymore, like Hotline Miami or Shovel Knight and they will instead be used as cameos for Travis’ T-Shirt designs apparently, but I’m very curious how the original indie titles will be incorporated into the game, the portrayal of Travis himself and all of the new unique characters I’m sure Suda and his team will bring to the table(They certainly take unique forms, *wink* *wink*). I’ve been waiting for a new NMH(Hell, replaying the NMH games currently) title for years and seeing the series not dead, warms my heart and gets me ecstatic, I just need a Nintendo Switch and I’m good to go!

Before I go into my number one, I want to give a couple of titles honorable mentions:

Death Stranding

Death Stranding

Hideo Kojima’s new baby, as a big fan of the guy myself my eyes have been dead set on this one and with the recent trailer, my interest has only risen. Kojima himself has revealed that this game will release before 2019 and a couple of days ago it was also revealed that the production of the game has been a fast process, I don’t know how to feel about this, but hopefully that’s more so a good thing than a bad thing, and it’s probably a good thing it’s fucking Kojima.

If the release date was actually confirmed I would have had it in my top 5 though, maybe number 3 or something haha. Otherwise, I’m definitely fucking excited for this one if it’s actually releasing this year. It looks wildly weird and intriguing, as expected from the man himself.

Super Smash Bros. for Switch

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(HYPE!)

Now for my most anticipated game of the year.

1. Kingdom Hearts III

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Here’s the big boy, Tetsuya Nomura’s magnum opus(well, what we all hope) Kingdom Hearts III! KHIII is probably one of the most anticipated video game sequels of all-time if you look back, along with Sonic Adventure 3(RIP?), Half-Life 3(RIP), Shenmue 3, Mega Man Legends 3(RIP?), the list goes on, but yeah out of all of those KHIII is actually the massive one. KHIII is that one that, we’ve been teased about, since the release of KHII along with all of the spin-off titles. Everyone’s been waiting eagerly for this release and it looks like we’ll be finally seeing that become a reality this year. Reuniting with the gang in the new Kingdom Shader, powered by Unreal Engine 4, pretty much the best you will ever see these characters so far in the series. Exploring the Disney worlds that we know and love, this time having new ones from Toy Story, Tangled, Big Hero 6 and the recently revealed Monsters, Inc, Toy Story being the one that pretty much drove me to tears when it was revealed.

Since, it’s been confirmed that the team that worked on the original KH games and the Osaka team that worked on Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance have combined their efforts to develop KHIII, this will be KH in its truest form and despite the trailers being before that merge I think, it’s truly showing in the trailers that’s been revealed, the game is looking just fantastic! Seeing the story of Sora and his friendship with Donald and Goofy finally come to a close will be a captivating one for sure, and will probably be one we cherish every second of. It’ll be quite the experience to behold the finale of the Dark Seeker Saga, we’re all ready for the final confrontation of Sora and Xehanort, and I hope that it’ll be the conclusion that etches a deep impact into our hearts. An impact that reminds us in the midst of our constantly aging selves that, our child-like wonder and grasping for the things that we grew up with, shouldn’t ever die, “Don’t Think Twice” about that. 😉

 

 

 

Shadow of the Colossus Review

So, I finally finished Shadow of the Colossus and to be honest after I finished it, I was grateful for the experience, but saddened that it had to come to an end. I know I could always replay it yeah, but there was something about playing SotC day after day, despite knowing of what’s to come, considering I’ve spoiled the game long ago when the Game Grumps did an LP of it, that never stopped me from wanting to play the game myself of course and yes, this game is totally worth the praise it gets. There’s just something that makes the experience of playing it so special and I think it has to do with the balance of traveling with your horse, Agro, in these quiet, calming ventures through the game’s barren, yet beautiful world. Then, eventually marking your target, the Colossi and going for the kill, hanging on to dear life to slay these giants, in the most intense and nail-biting moments in gaming, just to save a girl.

I think this balance is what makes SotC such a captivating and amazing experience, it’s not just the balance it’s how that balance is executed throughout the game, there’s just never a dull moment. The plot is quite basic, but what truly shines when it comes to the game’s narrative is just how everything is shown to you by visual information, nothing is ever in your face about what happens in the duration of the game, the narrative is shaped by what you see throughout and what is being visually stated(There’s so many details in the game like this, even outside of the cutscenes), there’s only a few moments of exposition and that really works for the game’s show and not tell approach. The saving your loved one, in the process of questioning your own morality is that type of story in any form of media(NieR/NieR: Automata is one of my favs for that reason as well) that I just adore, so it gets bonus points for that.

The movement physics given to Wander brings this very satisfying feeling of weightiness and looseness that makes fighting the Colossi and just exploring the world itself, a very rewarding task(You can joke about Wander’s walking animation, but the way it’s animated gives off this visual dopamine for me, that it’s something I can’t ever get enough of). Speaking of the Colossi, the majority of them are actually very fun to fight and are all interesting confrontations, there was definitely some frustration had when fighting a couple of them, not to the detriment of the game, since that made defeating them all the more relieving. Most sporting very cool designs, Gaius(3), Phaedra(4), Barba(6), the art direction and character designs are another thing about SotC I can totally appreciate, Wander especially has a design that’s very appealing to me as the main character you play as.

For the PS2 version and the PS3 remaster, there’s that bloom effect to the game that gives it this heavenly, dream-like feel to it and it’s so appealing to the eyes, there’s so much to go into detail about how the game looks, but I think the visual style really holds up, even today. The soundtrack is nothing to down-play either, it really gives the game its identity, adding an extra layer to what the narrative of the game could possibly tell, it really tells a story for every moment that a track accompanies and it is masterful.

Shadow of the Colossus was a game that I kinda already loved from just the footage of it that I saw, but I knew if I just got my hands on it, that it would end up being probably one of my all-time favorite video games and guess what? It definitely is, though time will tell where I’ll have it in my top list, but it’s up there. The fact that I’m writing about it now, even without much emotional attachment(Oh yeah, the ending definitely made me tear up) in terms of nostalgia anyway, my experience with SotC was a special one and I loved it so, that I felt such an empty void, that I needed to fill it by speaking passionately about it. I don’t know if I’ll find another game that can give me the same experience that this one did, not to say it’s my favorite video game, it was a game that had given me a time in gaming that most others never accomplished and I enjoyed every second of it. I’m definitely looking forward to playing both Ico and The Last Guardian, possibly any game that Team Ico develops.