We’ve reached the end of June which means that this is the final film from anime directed Makoto Shinkai. Over the course of the month we’ve looked at the rise of one of the industries rising stars. While the production of Voices of a Distant Star was small, you could see the Shinkai and his team would make great films.
Now we reach the end with his final film, The Garden of Words. Does it continue the trend? Let’s find out.
The Garden of Words is an anime film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai.
The film follows the two characters; Takao Akizuki (Miyu Irino/Patrick Poole) a 15-year-old high schooler with dreams of being a shoe maker and Yukari Yukino (Kana Hanazawa/Maggie Flecknoe) a women in her mid 20s that Takao recognizes. While the lady might seem familiar to him, he can’t quite place where from.
Both characters live their separate lives not interacting with each other until a rainy day when both meet up in a local park.
While Takao comments at first that he likes rainy days, he soon starts to enjoy them more and even finds himself wishing for more as the two become more acquainted and strike up a friendship.
The two first spend the time sitting in silence only to strike up conversations about everyday life and Takao’s dream to be a cobbler. Over the course of a few months the friendship becomes deeper and other feelings come to light, feelings that they can’t quite explain.
Both seem to be isolated from their family and the people around them, as Takao draws designs in his notebook thinking of the expenses of college and shoe making materials, Yukari deals with an issue all her own. Despite their differences the two end up finding comfort in each others company every rainy morning.
Over the course of the film it becomes clear that Takao and Yukari know each other. It also comes to light that Yukari is dealing with a lot more than Takao could of ever imagined. Despite their hopes for the contrary, the two soon have to deal with the fact they’re in different points of their lives and can’t be together at this time.
On the technical side, Garden of Words is CoMix Wave’s best looking title. Much of the story is told during rainy days at a city park, and the production team took painstaking efforts to recreate not only the greenery but the rain and how it changes the landscape. Much like their other films, a great deal of detail is given to the backgrounds as well as the swaying of subway cars, scribbles on paper and the popping colours after a morning rain shower.
Additionally, Garden of Words features some impressive camera movements, as Shinkai comes up with different ways of showing off the recreated Shinjuku Gyeoen National Garden.
The Garden was one of the main focuses of the film as the majority of it was designed off of real life photos taken by some of the staff members.
Backing up the impressive animation is an equally solid English cast. While the other CoMix productions have been good, this time the two main actor’s Poole and Flecknoe seem to put a lot of emotion into their roles. The film features narration from both characters and the actors added a great deal of believability to the relationship.
Score wise, this marks the first time that Shinkai worked with someone other than Tenmon, who did all of the other films. This time the music was done by Daisuke Kashiwa. While this is the first time Kashiwa scored an anime his work feels a lot like Tenmon’s previous work, with piano pieces filling out the majority of the film.
The films ending song, Rain sung by Motohiro Hata and written and composed by Senri Oe, ends up matching the film’s final moments to a tee. While sounding melancholy, it also matches the overall positive feeling the film puts forward in the end.
Production has never been something that CoMix productions have suffered with, the majority of their titles feature solid animation and good music, but Garden of Words seems to have something else working for it. It just so happens that the something is story.
While the film is only 46 minutes long, the team uses the short running accordingly. The story is small in scale and doesn’t feature any time of fantasy or science fiction to create a world. Garden takes place in modern day Japan and only focuses on the relationship between the two main characters and more importantly the differences between the two.
The main theme of Garden of Words is growing up, or rather “learning to walk.” Both characters come from different lives and a 10 plus year gap separates them in age, but they’re both at a crossroads.
Takao is in high school and is coming towards his graduation. He lives with his mother, a woman who according to him spends more time in bars than at home and his brother doesn’t believe in his aspirations of shoe making. Yukari, is forced to quite her job after rumours and gossip ruins her reputations.
Both are looking to move forward but are stuck. Takao wants to be in college and move away from his current life, Yukari wants to move away from the town and start a new. They both long for each other lifestyles and this helps their attraction.
Additionally, Takao likes her maturity and how she doesn’t have to deal issues that come with going to high school. However, in the end they’re both going through similar issues in similar places (again no spoilers).
If I had to draw a comparison between this film and an American production it would be Lost in Translation. Both films deal with the ideas of moving forward and the isolation that comes with bad relationships and bad choices. Much like Lost in Translation, Garden of Words is a bit of a character study as to what people would do in this situation. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.
In the end, Garden of Words might be one of my favourite films I’ve seen this year. While it’s short, it’s technical attributes and story make me want to watch it again and think about it’s themes and concepts. I can whole-heartedly recommend this one, with no measure of doubt.
The Garden of Words was produced by CoMix Wave Films and licensed by Sentai Filmworks.