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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.