Makoto Shinkai is a name that has become increasingly prevalent over the years. And for good reason, too. After hitting the anime industry in 2007 with his opus magnum "5 Centimeters Per Second", he quickly established himself as a director with the ability to combine masterful artistic talent with emotional, bittersweet storytelling.
Does his latest animation achieve that same ideal? In some ways, it does. But if you are awaiting another great story, this is not what you are looking for.
"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.
It's a premise that holds potential for a compelling story. How many films deal with such an age gap, especially with an older female? Very few. Sadly, this film doesn't realize its inherent potential. Rarely are their feelings for each other actually explored. It simply is. They meet, they talk, they fall in love. And why? The relationship seems platonic until a sudden confession at the very end. While the romance is at least passable, one can't shake off the feeling that more could have been done with the two. It all just feels a bit contrived.
Then again, one could always ask: with only 46 minutes of film, isn't it too much to expect developed characters and relationships? Maybe. But Shinkai was not constrained. He could have simply increased the length and have made the story exponentially better as a result.
Where "The Garden of Words" makes up for its romance, perhaps, is in its dialogue. What makes the dialogue so intriguing is not what it does, but what it doesn't do. It is simple, restrained; often limited to ordinary conversations between the characters. It shows more than tells. When Takao's dreams of being a shoemaker are revealed, it is through watching him sketch feet outside and craft shoes in his room. When it must tell, it relies on introspective monologues and poetic conversation. It gives us the time to think and the time for the atmosphere to establish itself. The modesty of the dialogue captures the monotony of their lives-- the change that they experience together.
Or at least that is what the majority of the film accomplishes. What builds as a subtle, heartwarming story regrettably ends as conventional melodrama. Any maturity in the characters is thrown aside in favor of screaming and crying. And, yet again, it relies on Shinkai's exhausted theme of unrequited love. For once, just once-- could he bother to convey the romance differently? It would be a sad thing if a director with so much talent was reduced to being a one-trick-pony. He is capable of more than this. I would like to believe that, anyway.
From a visual perspective, Shinkai's latest is nothing short of a masterpiece. If you have watched any of his previous works (notably 5 Centimeters Per Second), you will be very much familiar with the gorgeous scenery and eyecandy that accompany them. And is eyecandy ever plentiful here. It is a visual spectacle in every regard, meant to have us immersed in the world. Perhaps too much so, as you might find yourself so stunned by the scenery that any dialogue will sound like little more than background noise.
Numerous animation techniques are employed in the film. The most prominent of which is a depth of field effect, often used but never to the point of being distracting. Lens flare and careful panning are also frequently used to accentuate the scenery. Not a single error (at least noticeably) exists within the animation or artwork, thanks to Shinkai's meticulous attention to detail. There are times when the artwork looks and feels so authentic that it could very well be mistaken for live-action at a glance. "The Garden of Words" may be the best-looking anime to date. It is something that other animated films will (and should) aspire to, and nothing more could be asked from it visually.
Rain is the primary theme of "The Garden of Words", both in narrative and aesthetics. In storytelling, rain is often used to represent loneliness. Here instead the rain symbolizes happiness and peace. It succeeds in creating the appropriate atmosphere for the film, ensuring that there is more here to experience than the visuals. It is just as much an experience to feel as it is to gawk at.
The score comprises mostly of piano pieces and ambient noise which serve to further immerse the viewer. It's deliberately simple-- anything thrilling would only serve to undermine the experience. Notably, there is one vocal piece that plays during the climax and credits. I didn't think too much of it other than "Hey, this reminds me of 5cm/s!"
So what is "The Garden of Words" in the end, beyond a visual and aural treat? I would tell you that it is not a very good story. What brilliance it holds at the start is obstructed by lackluster characterization and cloying drama. With more focus given to the writing process and with a story at least partly equal to its production quality, this may have been a film to remember for years to come. As it stands, it is a captivating but ultimately disappointing experience. It could have been much more without the melodrama and with more room given for the characters to live and breathe. After all, beauty is best achieved in simplicity.
The greatest injustice that can be inflicted upon “Kotonoha no Niwa” is to falsely and narrowly label this 46-minute film a simple story of love. Too often do you see people claim that this movie is one about a "forbidden love" created by an age difference and it is through these lens that unwarranted and confused criticisms of the show sometimes emerge. The Garden of Words has a level of nuanced complexity that is concealed for the presumptuous as it requires you to think and pay attention to its use of visuals as well as its dialogue to
realise this. Indeed, Makoto Shinkai himself stated that he wanted to write a tale of “lonely sadness” and whilst romance is definitely a prevalent theme, it is not portrayed nor explored in a traditional fashion.
The entire plot centralises around the interactions between our two main characters: a young student and a mysterious grown-up woman. Be that as it may, the dialogue is very minimal but simultaneously so potent for a vast majority of the development that occurs and the insights we gain into our protagonists hinges upon brief and restrained conversations. It is the absence of dialogue in many cases that convey human emotions more eminently and passionately than when spoken and the visuals play an incredible role to enhance this. Given the film’s brevity, it requires every element to contribute to the plot and no element exists without a reason – be it simple movements, scenery, music or dialogue. It is truly impressive to see how effectively and concisely deep emotions and their underlying intentions are conveyed. The story is told elegantly for nothing is wasted.
Rain is a fundamental aspect that initially represents the condition necessary for our protagonists to meet. I think with regards to the symbolism that Shinkai has employed to explore key themes, it is better if you watch and contemplate yourself on them as this is where the majority of the satisfaction lies in this movie. The most impressive aspect of the Shinkai's film was how effectively extended metaphors such as the rain were used consistently and in an enlightening fashion which keeps the film short yet brimming with sentiment. These themes coalesce with our characters and their self-discoveries to tell a larger story at hand in a modern social context exploring the Japanese traditional notion of love. Takao’s burning desire to transcend into adulthood and realise his dreams is beautifully embodied by the older and seemingly sophisticated woman but even during the film’s brief journey, Takao’s preconceptions are deconstructed and despite their differences, they come to realise their similarities through their interactions under the rain which are painfully human. Perhaps my only significant issue I found was the lack of emotional intensity or potency that led our female main character to the position and predicament she was in. By no means was it weak but it seemed lacking compared to how brilliantly Takao was characterised and this slight imbalance for me, hampered the final climax to a certain degree.
For a film whose strengths lies in its representation through resigned soliloquies, much of the portrayal lies in the hands of the artwork and animation which are nothing short of a masterpiece. This is the most visually impressive work I have ever seen in the entirety of the anime medium. The animation is flawless with excellent cinematography such as clever use of deep focus in more intimate scenes that successfully emphasise key metaphors employed and well angled panoramas boasting the vast and gorgeous landscapes that are a sight for sore eyes. The sceneries and landscapes are meticulously drawn with details that are exceptionally similar to real life further enhancing the immersion of the experience. The musical score has a larger focus on softer pieces that almost act as an addition to natural sounds of rain and nature or the cacophony of city-life. The soundtrack is entirely piano-based and range from subtler pieces that capture the ambience of the moment to more prominent pieces such as “Greenery Rain” (one of my favourite anime OSTs) which accompany many of the visual experiences.
“Kotonoha no Niwa” is a magnificent movie that adopts a more nuanced and authentic approach in exploring human relationships. As stated initially, this is not simply a bittersweet romance that many condemn it to be but a subtle journey into the solitude and desires humans hold, within a prominent and relevant modern day social context. All of this is delivered to viewers in a film that entirely takes advantage of the anime medium, showing just how much artistry and cinematic storytelling that resonates within you (as most Shinkai films do) can be achieved in a what is fundamentally 46 minutes of animated images.
“Oh lord my eyes!” Well, that's the first four words that I thought when I watched this 46 minute film. I mean it in a good way though because this movie is something of a beauty. A few words to describe them from my mind are: alluring, charming, bewitching, glorious, and elegant. But beyond just the visuals lies a story about a young man (shoemaker to be exact) and a woman named Yukino. Together, they formulate this movie that is expressed in the Garden of Words.
Garden of Words (also known as Kotonoha no Niwa) is a 2013 film and the latest installation of Makoto
Shinkai's works. He is already known as a famous Japanese director as well as a former graphic designer. He is previously known for his involvement in other films such as The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices. As both director and writer of this latest movie, he puts his skills to test once again and I am grateful to say that it was definitely a memorable experience.
The story is told in a narrative perspective by a young man named Takao Akizuki during the mid year of June. He is 15 years old and has hopes to become a shoemaker. On a rainy day in June, he meets a mysterious woman named Yukari Yukino. They seem to be striking up a conversation that begins with an unfamiliar mood. The rain dark clouds covers the skies with claps of thunder strikes their first unusual encounter in the garden.
For the setting of the movie, it takes place in modern Tokyo seemingly in a normal environment. There's nothing too unusual going around the place with the sunny mornings, the cloudy sky, and passing days of riding the subway station. However, what becomes unusual is Takao and his admiration of shoes as well as Yukari's feet. His artwork expresses his desire to become a shoemaker more than ever. As mentioned in the film, it is in Takao's mind on what will get him out of his current living standards.
Throughout the film, it's observed that Takao and Yukino's bonds become stronger through their first unusual meeting in the garden to food sharing and later on with more of emotional attachment. Despite this, their relationship is lighthearted but again unusual. Takao dreams to become a shoemaker and here we have Yukino and her feet. The two doesn't know anything about each other but their connection somehow bonds them together. Takao is charmed by her presence and with the pouring rain symbolizes a picture worth a thousand words.
The season continues on. Seemingly every day, the atmosphere of this movie gives off a natural feeling. It's enchanting to see how everything flow along with the pouring rain. The fact days passes by like pouring rain but later on, it shows more of a clear sky. Throughout this time, it's clear that Takao has a clear mind with what he wants to do. He wants to become a shoemaker and with a proper mind set tries to raise income to achieve the task. After all, money don't grow on trees and everything has a price.
Takao and Yukino's relationship throughout the movie seems to be based on a strange connection. It's hard to make out exactly what it is because of their unusual encounter in the garden in the first place. But still, there's definitely a connection between them. It's just that the connection here seems to be rather blend due to Takao's lack of knowledge regarding Yukino. However, it's clear that he cares for her. In fact, his rage builds up whenever Yukino's name is heard from Takao's ears when something negatively is spoken behind her back. Most of the time though, Takao seems to be in his own little world.
The series also adopts the 'romance' genre so naturally, their budding relationship steers from strangers, to platonic, and romantic. To be honest, I find this rather bit bizarre and out of place. They've only met for less than a few months with little knowledge of each other. Furthermore, their relationship seems to be more of a fantasy from my perspective rather than realistic. It's definitely something not many of us see in every day life where people gets connected by shoes and feet, right?
Love or hate.
Like most of Mikoto Shinkai's films, the movie moves with feelings from a calm mood to more of a dramatic. This is expressed through secrets that are revealed later on. Under the rainy clouds, their tears pour and expresses emotions from the bottom of their hearts. Did I find this appealing? Yes. Did I feel the emotions of the characters? No. To me, this was just rushed in terms of relationship. In just that summer, bonds are established but once the dog days are over, it just becomes blend again. That's how I felt for the story anyways.
The artwork of this series is spectacular. Have you ever seen a bright rainbow right after a long shower? Perhaps this is how I viewed the visuals throughout this film. It is majestic and has a strong radiance that shines more than the cloudy skies that fills the settings. As expected of Makoto Shinaki, a former graphic designer, he puts his skills at work and obviously makes it dazzling for viewers to enjoy those scenery. It is no doubt in my mind the visuals of this series deserves a standing ovation.
On another note, the soundtrack of this movie combines a piano like tone with a song of melody to top things off. The ED song, "Rain" by Motohiro Hata shows emotions flowing through the backgrounds of our two main characters. Needless to say, it puts you in the shoes of their emotions. Along the way, the calm and lighthearted OST gives off a balanced vibe of naturalism. The dialogues spoken by the characters shows their everyday life tones while rage and emotions are expressed in a more intimating voice. I give praise to Kana Hanazawa who is known for her many works and in this movie, she shows the world her talent once again with her dazzling expressions and mannerisms.
For fans of Makoto Shinkai, this is definitely a film to watch and enjoy. However, if you're looking for more of a deeper plot, then that might leave you a bit more unsatisfied. At the same time, some hopes just doesn't keep up with my own expectations especially in the story department. Needless to say though, the colorful and artistic visuals of Garden of Words will paint you a memory you won't forget. Along with the soundtrack and song, it captures a moment where you feel as if you were there with the characters. It's also from this moment that hopes are formed with Takao and Yukino. There's this feeling from this 46 minute film I got that people can relate to. It's about hopes and dreams for the future. Takao wants to be a shoemaker and that's what he aims to be. I'm sure most of us has our own hopes and dreams for the future as well. Well with that said being and done, I HOPE you enjoy this film.
If there’s one, obvious theme that connects all of Makoto Shinkai’s works, it would be “distance”. As a bittersweet love story, The Garden of Words carries similar expectations to Shinkai’s other popularized works, Five cm per Second, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and Voices of a Distant Star. Shinkai uses beyond-gorgeous animation to tell a modest yet believable story, and The Garden of Words is as bare-boned as a love story comes.
The movie takes place over a summer, where a 15 year-old aspiring shoemaker meets an eccentric and mysterious 27-year old woman. Their backstories are hardly touched on, but the boy
is seen as wise beyond his years, independent and seemingly forced to grow up prematurely. On the other hand, the woman is more aloof, and clumsy in behavior. She feels as if she’s unable to move past her youth, but reveals little else otherwise. As in other Shinkai films, the dialogue exchanged between the two characters is minimalistic, and for the most part, inconsequential. However, the frequency of silence is what best represents Shinkai’s abilities as a storyteller, and therein lies the significance of the movie’s title, “The Garden of Words”.
Despite being a character-driven story with first person narration, the movie devotes a great deal of time with scenic shots. Shinkai has drawn a fully realized yet enclosed setting, and the details he’s put into this literal garden are nothing short of gratuitous. Shots of a cicada shedding its shell, raindrops dancing on the surface of a pond, and a tree branch dipping into a lake boasts an almost over-bearing attention to detail, but these gratuities do more than show off Shinkai’s talents in animation. Due to the differences in age and personality between the characters, the garden is supposed to express what the characters themselves cannot – a “Garden of Words”. The two characters are all-too-happy to see rain (which is usually a heavy-handed symbol for sadness or isolation), because of the shelter that the garden provides and its ability to emotionally connect the two beyond words.
… Which leads us to one of the film’s biggest issues: a 46 minute runtime. While it wastes little of its prohibitive length with contemplative monologues of the characters’ ambitions and awe-inspiring displays of setting, a romance that’s fostered over silent meetings can feel superficial. Furthermore, the film’s climax is a sort of departure from Shinkai’s usual endings. Breaking the subtlety and slow pace at which the characters’ relationship develops, the film’s climax shows an uncharacteristically forceful and crude confrontation. As an outburst of emotion with a fair bit of yelling and crying, it’s less powerful than the silent, emotional climaxes of previous Shinkai films, but not awkward enough to be dismissed as melodrama. The film even ends with the same unrequited love as most of his previous works, but the lack of fulfillment didn’t share the same effectiveness as it did in 5 cm per second, being a lot less ambiguous yet ending with the same, physical distance between the two characters.
In the sound department, The Garden of Words consists mostly of ambience, with the exception of a handful of beautifully composed piano solos. Both were done with great effectiveness, with the sound of rain meticulously matching each droplet appearing in animation.
The Garden of Words is probably the most visually appealing anime I’ve watched, but story-wise, it may not be as memorable, nor can it avoid comparisons with Shinkai’s other works. That said, its subtleties in storytelling and flawless visuals makes it absolutely remarkable, and a veritable visual feast for fans of the romance genre.
Makoto Shinkai is one of the most talked about Anime directors in Japan, and he gets better and better with each new project of his. When Shinkai and his crew sit together to work on a project, the final product is nothing short of a beauty in directing. The fact that a human tries his hardest to learn from their mistakes and work on them to become better at their profession, that alone deserves colossal amounts of respect. This review is not meant to attack Makoto Shinkai or any of his fans, nor is it written to try and ruminate over what kind of art
the man produces when it comes to his animated features. This review is written for the purpose of criticizing what is yet another Shinkai film that scores in the audiovisual department, but falls flat from a narrative standpoint.
The whole entirety of The Garden of Words, from it's story, to it's characters, to it's music, to it's visuals are all based around the theme of rain. Rain in it's artistic merit, is filled with metaphorical symbolism and meaning. According to art, rain may be an indicator of loneliness, depression, good intentions, giving or life. This is generally speaking of course, as rain can also describe things and feelings that are very distinctive, depending on what is added to it from a narrative standpoint. In the movie, "The Garden of Words" the writer managed to use the rain to convey the meaning of freedom and getting rid of one's own shackles to find inner peace and self worth. The writer managed to use both the rain and the setting the two main characters socialized in to strengthen his themes, because the particular setting's presence with the rain complete the meaning of the film. Yes, the rain and the park create the body structure for the story, and that is something we rarely see these days in storytelling. It is a structure that is very unique, as it focuses on the weather and setting and makes both of them the center of the story.
Most of the time, writing a story can be focused on characters or certain circumstances. The structure for this story is easy, the characters could be written in an unlimited manner. However, the reality of this is that one should be really careful, because if the characters that were intersecting with the rain and the park were very well developed, but less immersed with those settings, then the originality of the idea would have been diminished. Luckily, the writer managed to create a story with characters and events that fit with each other in a nice and light manner. If we took a look at the characters, then they are all fairly realistic in accordance to the story. As for the events, they take place in a fairly realistic time zone, from the beginning of the rainy season until it's very end. There are many sights in the film that inspire awe and wonder, visually speaking, but nothing compares to the beauty of the rain falling, and the events that occur in that particular park, are the most beautiful. There is a great amount of concentration on how the rain begins, continues and then stops. The writer managed to convey it's motion perfectly, to the point where he was able to turn the rain into a concrete and distinctive personality of it's own. As for the ending, it doesn't add anything of value to the movie, nor does it ruin it.
The directing in this movie played a huge role in making the story stand out, most of the outer backgrounds in this film are realistic photos, aka real images, and then the staff draws and colors over them until they become a drawing. What is so impressive is the fact that they are very detailed, and they give an atmosphere to the film that is enough to immerse the viewer into it's setting, and that is something that is hard to accomplish, but the movie managed to do it effortlessly. The main reason for that is the fact that the drawings are realistic photos, and the fact that both the state of the weather and time reflect in a very big and realistic way on them. The inner place backgrounds that can be found in houses and what not, are filled with plenty of details, and those details reflect on the characters that live inside those houses and make them more believable as characters. The character design is very important for the body structure of the story that are the park and the rain, but there is a minor error that can be found, which is the fact that the characters do not look their own age. For example, the teacher looks like a student, and the school student, Takao, looks like he belongs in a college.
The Japanese voice acting is great, especially with whom they picked to voice over the main cast. It is important for the voices to be calm and warm in a movie which centers around the idea of rain, and that is something that Shinkai managed to pick with certainty. The soundtrack is also good, where the most prevalent musical instrument is the piano, and this is a very suitable choice for the rain. The songs are all suitable when it comes to their lyrics, and they fit in with what occurs throughout the movie. The sound engineering is one of the best features of this movie, where it truly shines is the various sounds of the rain, whether it be the sound of the rain when it's windy, or when it falls on various objects.
The conclusion is that the harmony between the sound engineering, the drawing of the movement of the rain, and the various background layouts truly were the factors that made this movie an enjoyable ride. This chemistry between the three factors mentioned, created a unique atmosphere that is riveting and deserves a round of applause. The length of the movie is only forty six minutes, which is very suitable for all of the movie's content to a degree, and the movie doesn't even need one additional minute of content. Truly great choices by Shinkai.
However, even if the movie had all of the backing up in the audiovisual department, it is still not a movie for everyone. A lot of the viewers cannot chime in with the figurative art of the film, especially the movies where the main theme that is prevalent in them being the body structure of the story. Me being one of those viewers, as I thought the movie lacked any real character development, and the story was trite. This does not mean that the Garden of Words is a bad film though, it just means that it is a niche movie and it is not for every viewer.
I knew what I was getting into but still I can't help being a bit disappointed.
The art was breathtaking, obviously. I found some of the lightings and humans to be way too simple compared to the so-realistic-you-can't-help-wonder-if-it-really-is-drawn backgrounds.
The soundtracks sometimes hit the right spot at the right time but they aren't really that memorable.
But really the low point of Kotonoha no Niwa is the story and the characters.
Characters: I know, some people enjoy the just-sitting-in-silence kind of thing but it made it too awkward for me. So I'm not saying they were bad characters. But they weren't good either.
Story: They brought in this whole
shoe thing and the teacher's backstory all for... nothing? They never really went any too deep with it. The love didn't end up completed.
So it was "just" a feels show. Which isn't >bad< but I find that making feels show work is almost impossible. Creating one of this kind of movies is like basically saying "We are going to make you have emotions and it's going to hurt" but it's like telling me "Hey here's a challenge, try to watch this through without letting a single tear drop." and I take that challenge and yes my eyes stay dry.
So all in all, when I started watching it I was hoping that they will bring in some kind of nice twists or some nice conversations, but other than some supposedly fun retorts here and there it really didn't make me feel...anything.
Breathtakingly beautiful, but that's about all it is.
I really wanted to like this film, but I can't. I understand that Makoto Shinkai is known for romantic dramas that explore the human condition, but I feel that sometimes the way he goes about it is really contrived. There are clear attempts within Shinkai's directing to relay symbolism and other "subtle" insights into the characters' emotional conditions, but they ultimately fall short. Sometimes the "camera" (from a directorial standpoint--I know there isn't actually a camera) lingers on certain things to insinuate deeper meaning--her heels at the end of the film, for example--but there isn't anything significant about
them that merits the extra screen time. Yes, there's the theme of her "learning to walk" through life, and the fact that he's an aspiring cobbler, but the shoes themselves don't symbolize anything deeper. They're an empty symbol--or at least one that Shinkai doesn't bother to develop, and he includes such symbols so often in this film, that it feels like he's hitting me over the head with his attempts to be deep and introspective. After Hoshi o Ou Kodomo--which was a deviation into adventure/fantasy (and, in my opinion, a horribly flawed homage to Studio Ghibli)--I suppose he wanted to re-embrace his niche genre again. But, sigh, so forced.
The plot is very cliche, and the characters aren't developed enough to merit such a shortcoming. I don't feel anything for these characters, and I don't care what happens to them. I began to root for their romantic success near the end, but then the film just finished so quickly. Perhaps it's commentary on the fleeting nature of most human relationships, but I just couldn't buy into it. Also, the climax of the film is highly melodramatic for no real reason--I think I literally laughed when the rays of the sun burst onto the scene, augmented by the swells of dramatic music, and the heavy splashes of rainfall. (YES. There is dramatic sunshine AND torrential rain pour at the same time.)
The movie is beautifully animated, and I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen. But boy, did my head hurt from being hit over the head with his attempts to be deep. Worth a watch, but not if you're looking for a sincere consideration of the human condition.
Given that you may not care for my opinion, let me start this review by letting you know whether you should watch Kotonoha no Niwa (KnN from now on) on an attempt to make this reaview more useful.
You should NOT watch it if:
You dislike Spice of Life, slow pacing, little dialogue and/or romance anime. This movie is with certainty not shounen, there's no fight scenes, no world-scale-plot, no ecchi, no fanservice nor unbeatable main characters.
I also think that you would like it better with at least a basic understanding of japanese, as it will, IMO, give you a better understanding of some of the plot's
You SHOULD watch it if:
You're in for an eye-candy, a down to earth love story as well as state of the art (yet without action) animation.
I would watch it anyway if I were you, for just the landscapes and all the art in general would make it for a worthy watch even if it didn't have any plot at all.
Additional tips :)
You should pay close attention to the movie to understand most of its undertext, I advise you not to watch this when you're sleepy or when you just don't care. You might not be comfortable with the romance centering around a teacher and a student, if this is the case, You shouldn't pick this anime up. If you don't mind being spoiled, I'll add a remark at the bottom of the review.
It's true that the story is astonishingly simple, a 15 year old student who happens to end up sheltered from heavy rain along a 27 year old woman on several continuous occasions and starts building up feelings for her as the movie goes on. Even under this simple plotline, director Makoto Shinkai chooses to go with what is possibly the simplest approach to it, in fact, (although I'm not certain, so don't take it seriously) I would say that there's more music than there's dialogue. Even though, I still think that this left the storytelling unharmed, I actually think that the way it's told is absolutely sublime, the closest to perfect I had watched in ages; it feels like there are real conversations going on, not just game tutorials or TV documentaries or whatever popping out of nowhere. It is this minimalistic approach on dialogue and resource that allows for the one that's actually used to really make an impression on the viewer, that is however, if you're willing to watch it. Anythough, on a personal level, I give this movie a 10 in story, because of its mature and realistic discourse.
As would be expected, Makoto Shinkai delivers an awe-inspiring visual style, perfect from top to bottom, starting on the delicious and natural looking greeness of the colour palette to the intrincate reflections on wet surfaces. This is indeeed the strongest category the movie has to offer, with extremely polished sequences, developed into perfection and without skimping a single cent on a single frame. It's an obvious 10.
Very nice SFX never feeling reused or sloppy really allow for better enjoyment, specially without the awkward volume adjustments that frequently occur on lower quality anime which attempt to save money/time instead of properly adjusting and selecting samples. The voice acting was all that could be asked for, though, not having any particular difficulties or challenges of the sort to seiyuus, there's very little to state here. Something I DID find remarkable was music, which, if paid attention to, proves to raise the bar on regards of music in anime overall, with complex rythms and syncopations, as well as intrincate harmonic progressions, the soundtrack of KnN put itself amongst the few animes with actually artful original music. I give sound a 10, for this merit, as well as for how it compares with others.
As mentioned before, these characters DO seem real, and although simple in nature, they manage to develop fully all throughout, and most importantly, they manage to do it without taking aid from cliché. This alone deserves a 10.
I really loved this anime, I will have to be forgiven by yourself if I had overstated my praise for the movie in this manner, but I really do think it's a perfect 10. Who knows, maybe I'll watch it again in some time and realise it's not that perfect, but for now I do think it is, as I think it's underrated, and to say that a 150er is underrated really is taking it to the extreme. Of the animes I have started and finished so far, I could only compare my enjoyment of this one to Fullmetal Alchemist and Mushishi, which you must agree is VERY high up.
If you're a love-lover, it'll disappoint you to know that there's never a kiss throughout the movie. The movie doesn't end up quite closed on the plot matter, for, although it reaches completion, it seems as though another movie could be made out of it with the characters far away from each other. (I'm inclined to believe that the best plot is one that doesn't need a sequel, but that does make the viewer want a sequel :) )
When I heard Shinkai was releasing a movie this Summer, my excitement could hardly be contained. I was always a fan of his works, having met him at a convention a few years back and getting him to sign my copy of 5 Centimeters per Second. So of course, after watching the visually stunning preview for this movie I couldn't wait.
I noticed that it was another short movie by Shinkai, which I never consider a bad thing. It's just long enough to build up characters and a story but not lengthy enough to need unnecessary elements or time wasters. And man, this movie did not
waste any time.
Some might be turned off by the slow pace, as I've seen with his other movies. But if you realize that a slow pace is what you're in for, there's no reason to complain. All the details of the characters he puts in are essential in one way or another in order to give them a background, a story, something to make you feel like these characters are real people.
Speaking of the characters, Takao was much, much more interesting than the typical bland main character. He has interests, a love of shoe-making and the rain, and he's trying to figure out what he's doing with his life. Then there's Yukino, who's older than Takao and strange in her own right. Not much is ever revealed about Yukino, especially early on. This hurts the characterization because it seems the focus was on developing Takao while only throwing Yukino a bone or two every once in a while.
The story was above average. The two meet under cover from the rain every so often and they get to know each other. But there were points during the movie that seemed forced and sometimes the emotions conveyed didn't make much sense given how the characters were behaving early on in the movie. Also, as others have pointed out, if you know Shinkai as a director the ending of the movie probably won't surprise you, or have the same effect that it should have.
The art was astounding. There's nothing really to add here. All of Shinkai's movies are beautiful and it seemed like this one had special attentoin put into it. The rain, the leaves, the city, everything was what you'd come to expect of the studio that made Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.
The sound track was also fascinating but it had very minor hiccups and flaws that make it just under stellar. You could hear the music getting a bit repetitive towards the end, and sometimes it almost sounded Studio Ghibli-esque. Plus, the ending song that is so key to Shinkai's movies didn't really have much feeling to it, other than the lyrics.
In the same vein, the voice acting was astounding in some regards but fell short once in a while. Takao seemed to have an awkward time conveying anger or any emotion that he was feeling. But Yukino's VA, Kana Hanazawa, did an exceptional job as she always does. It was easy to empathize with her because of the emotion conveyed through her voice.
Overall, it'd be very hard to improve upon this movie. It made me cry, it made me laugh from time to time, and it got me attached to the characters without caring that one was 15 and the other was 27. It also accomplished its goal of teaching a lesson without directly stating it, which is one of the things I loved about 5 Centimeters per Second. I'm probably going to watch this movie again and again when I get the chance. It also made me cry the most out of any show I've watched (Even Clannad: After Story and Toradora!).
A must watch for any Makoto Shinkai fan, and a must watch for anyone who is a fan of romance.
Garden of Words. I remember seeing a couple of gifs of this and thinking that the animation was astoundingly beautiful, so naturally I checked it out - and I wasn't disappointed.
And just to add, I re-watch this once every three months or so. I don't know what it is, but it creates so much peace for me that I love it. This review is more of a personal aspect than a professional one, so bear that in mind whilst reading perhaps.
To get the generic business out of the way: this anime is based around love, particularly of what you cannot have. It also enforces
that it is okay to aim small, so long as you are doing what you do with a passion. In times of hardship, those who believe will persevere, etc. All of the morals of this anime are strongly enforced by the lead character and his mysterious park-shelter friend.
The story is basic with nothing complex to grasp but enough to keep you watching. I especially like the characters in this anime simply because I didn't have to second guess them or suspect them. I actually just trusted them to be themselves and that was fine. I wouldn't call anything in this anime a plot twist either, yet it was so interesting to see it develop.
But what keeps me coming back to this is the art. The beauty is incomparable and I could just watch little clips on animation from it now. The quality of the whole anime is just 10/10 for me simply because it is so appealing to all senses. I like to put this on and just zone out watching it. It doesn't require constant attention, it just requires you to watch whilst it runs its course and that's why I love it so much. I honestly see this as more of an experience than a story. Put on a set of good headphones (Sennheiser are my choice) and make sure you're watching a full HD copy because it is just so pleasing that you will not look back.
I can't say I'd go screaming and shouting about it like I do with some other animes, but it's still a 10/10 for me nonetheless. Every once in a while I'll remember this exists and just watch it over, knowing what's coming but enjoying the journey. I couldn't recommend it to you more.
All in all I'd say this anime means a lot to me, and I'm glad it created the bridge to look into anime and watch so much more.
Makoto Shinkai provides us with yet another stunning visual treat with his latest film. "Garden of Words".
For those of you who don't know this man, he was most famous for directing films like "5 Centimeters per Second" and "The Place Promised in Our Early Days" as well as "Children Who Chased Lost Voices from Deep Below" recently in 2011.
The hype train built up a lot of steam with this film, especially after watching the trailer a few months ago. Judging by the gorgeous artwork, fluid animation, and brilliantly simple piano score, this looked and sounded to me like a potential summer blockbuster in the
Sadly, the hype train did not quite live up to this potential as there were several glaring flaws which only became more prominent as the film went on.
Story: The narrative features a 15-year-old high school boy who aspires to be a shoemaker and a 27-year-old woman who happens to be his high school teacher. The age gap makes for an interesting premise, but falls far short because Shinkai, beating an already dead horse, once again revolves his story around the theme of the forlorn and distant lovers, and how they struggle and cope with their issues. This constant rehash of the same theme for what is now his 5th major production gets old very fast, no matter how much you change up the plot.
Character: While I do sympathize (somewhat)with the characters and find their motives reasonable, the ways in which they developed were almost too predictable. A fated encounter in a beautiful green Japanese garden followed by casual conversation and the characters gradually grow closer. Aside from feeling contrived, the film also felt too short, leaving very little room to explore the characters. The film's brevity is especially detrimental towards character development, which has been a hallmark of Shinkai's films in the past.
What with all this criticism, let it be said that this is still a Shinkai film, and therefore an excellent visual treat.
Art: Wallpaper worthy all around. With a combination of detailed character designs and meticulously drawn backgrounds, from the luscious green gardens in which our main characters meet to the raindrops from Japans stormy season that inundate them. I would personally like to give praise to Shinkai and Co. for his consistency in creating excellent visuals throughout his career, and his dedication to making his animation top notch and fluid in all of his films up to this point is something to be admired as well.
Sound: OST isn't particularly memorable. The rainy sound effects are of good quality, but the fact that it's almost all I ever heard in the film can get a bit monotonous at times. Nevertheless, the rainy effect combined with the minimalist piano make for a harmonic atmosphere that is both pleasing to watch and relaxing to listen to.
Enjoyment: While I can't say I was totally disappointed with the film, I was nevertheless somewhat dissatisfied that Shinkai had to fall back on his old and overused themes, and rely so much on his films appearance and sound. It would be a shame to see such a prominent director/producer go down like this, so I hope this is merely a bump in the road for what has so far been a remarkable career for Shinkai and I look forward in hopes that he will bounce back in the future.
Recommendations: For those of you who are Shinkai fans or familiar with his work, I recommend this film so that you can educate yourselves on how his directing career is progressing. For those of you who are new to Shinkai's work or anime films in general, I would recommend you start with some other film (perhaps one of the 3 mentioned in the beginning would interest you guys )
Kotonoha no Niwa, or The Garden of Words is a short anime movie depicting a troubled teenager, Takao Akizuki, and a young woman in an identity crisis, Yukari Yukino. In this movie both these character often skip their responsibilities to relax in a small gazebo in a lush garden. One day they happen to meet each other in this sanctuary and a beautiful, yet hidden bond starts to form between them.
One of the most amazing prospects of this film is its simplicity. Something I was not expecting considering that the writer, director, and producer of this film is Makoto Shinkai; famous for
creating Byousoku 5 Centimeter, which happens to be almost the very opposite of Kotonoha no Niwa. Sitting at approximately 46 minuets long, Shinkai tells a quick story with a mature romance involving our two main characters, Yukino and Akizkui. It is also very straight-forward which compliments this mature feeling that Shinkai has displayed throughout the movie. It pulls no tricks or confusing metaphors, it lays it all out on the table and tells you exactly what to expect from the story the second these two meet, and then it delivers it by revealing the problems step at a time.
Do I really even need to talk about the art in the movie? Hands down one of the most well made animations I've seen to this day. CoMix Wave Films, the studio of both this and Byousoku 5 Centimeter, once again delivers with amazing quality that is sure to make you think just one simple word "Wow!". I literally was blown back by the attention to detail in this movie, whether it is the cutting of vegetables, the action of pencil on paper, or even the rain hitting the ground, and as someone who loves rain, but has recently moved to the desert (thanks SoCal) this film had me gushing of excitement over those little droplets from the sky. The most impressive thing about the art in Kotonoha no Niwa is its ability to even convey what emotion each character is feeling through only body movements and facial expressions, something that is very hard to do in animation. CoMix Wave Films once again sets a very high bar for other studios trying to compete (looking at you KyoAni) and I believe that it will continue to hold that bar high up for years to come.
Music and other sound effects serve two purposes in media; to make the film more realistic with sound effects, and to serve as a compass for the audience so they know which way the scene is heading and how to later interpret said scene. Kotonoha no Niwa handles the sound perfectly, even the many scenes of them just sitting under the roof of the gazebo had impact due to the music and sound effects. I truly believe that had this film removed dialogue either completely or even in favor of small tidbits of dialogue as done in many old-timey movies, it would still be very easy to understand and well received.
"It's okay, we're human, after all. We've all got our little quirks" - Yukari Yukino.
This quote pretty much sums up the entirety of both Yukino and Akizuki. Both are characters with small problems of their own and unique, yet realistic ways of dealing with them that everyone who has encountered a bump in the road of life can relate with. These characters don't do anything out of the ordinary given the situations they're placed in, and because it is so simple and relatable one can't help but be intrigued by their small quirks. An aura of maturity mixed with some irresponsibility is a little charm that both these characters also display and is a big part of why the audience will be attracted to them, just as they were to each other. These characters are the epitome of normality mixed with small everyday excitement that everyone secretly dreams of whether their dozing off in school or during a meeting.
The side characters for this show are mostly non-existent and do little to progress the actual story as it is primarily focused around the two main characters, however in the few moments where the side-characters are important (won't discuss for sake of spoilers) they are not as fleshed out as they should be despite their importance. This is why I unfortunately cannot give character a perfect score.
This section is mostly going to be about my personal preferences and why I gave it a 10/10.
Kotonoha no Niwa is very short compared to other anime; yet it manages to tell a better story than a majority of other anime despite given six times as much time as your average 24 min 12 episode cour anime. As someone who has found himself busier and busier with work and school nearly everyday, Kotonoha no Niwa was a gift from above, it allowed me to spend my limited free time enjoying something I love very much, watching good anime. Not only does it's time frame fit perfectly for a busy-body like me, but it also includes my favorite genre, romance. I have seen many romance works of art and my favorite has always been ones where the story is very mature and doesn't play around, which is exactly what Kotonoha no Niwa gave me. I didn't have to wait around for a tsundere to figure out the correct way to say "I love you", or have confessions be interrupted over and over again through stupid comedic gags (ITS NOT FUNNY); so when I watched Kotonoha no Niwa I felt very relieved to see that a 15 year old boy and a 27 year old woman would act exactly how I expect them to when faced with "I love you". Lastly, the rain. I mentioned it above, I am a MASSIVE lover of rain, the calming pitter-patter against the window as I chill-out inside or on the deck and just look at nature. Rain is a beautiful thing and I would be lying if I said that it wasn't a huge part as to why I enjoyed this film so much.
Although it has it's flaws, they are very minor. Kotonoha no Niwa delivers a beautifully short and mature love story between a teenager and a young woman. The story is very straight forward and easy to understand. The art and sound will blow you away with astonishing attention to detail. The characters are very realistic, intriguing, and relatable. Even if you're not a fan of romances or short stories, Kotonoha no Niwa is a gorgeous short film that you should not hesitate to add to your completed list.
The Garden of Words is about two people who are both, in a manner of speaking, learning to walk. Both feel isolated and apathetic for very different reasons. Takao has just begun to take his first steps toward pursuing his goals, only to be greeted with mockery and doubt from those he wants most to impress. Yukino cannot bring herself to face her demons, and allows the trauma she has experienced to drive her to a dreary and unhealthy seclusion. Both of these characters develop a sort of dependence on each other in attempting to rise to their feet. Unlike
most of Shinkai’s characters, Takao and Yukino do not exist to simply play out his latest bittersweet storyline. The story itself revolves around who they are – two fully realized human beings with flaws and desires and misplaced hopes.
Despite its title, very few words are spoken for a majority of the film. In tentative silence, these characters selfishly burden one another with their hopes and dreams for the future. The guilt for this erroneous reliance is mostly on Yukino’s shoulders as the adult member of this duo, while Takao can hardly be blamed for his teenage naiveté in relying on the praise of the mysterious woman in the park. But despite her age, Yukino is at a much similar stage of character growth to Takao, hoping in the affirmation of another to restore her confidence in herself. While there is never any impropriety in Yukino’s behavior toward Takao, she disregards the possibility that he could develop romantic feelings for her. The unwitting cruelty of her secrecy results in a verbal outburst that enables Yukino to feel again for the first time since her ordeal.
Because of the nature of this story, a majority of the film moves slowly and seems pointless until the final developments of the last scene. Takao’s story lacks strength at times and feels disjointed. Aside from his interactions with Yukino, his struggles are rather vague and unremarkable. He seems like a typical, listless anime high schooler that has big dreams and doesn’t bother to give his classmates the time of day.
Although it improved greatly since Makoto Shinkai’s previous film, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, the movement of the characters still retains a bit of unnatural stiffness. However, facial expressions seem liberated from the vague paralysis they exhibited in Shinkai’s previous work. Best of all, The Garden of Words’ scenery is a visual feast. Takao and Yukino see each other on rainy days, as it is only during such weather that Takao decides to skip school. For this reason, many scenes feature water, whether it is clinging to the foliage, collecting on a path, or flooding from the sky. Despite the great amount of it, no shortcuts are taken in depicting any facet of this element. It’s as though each frame is determined to capture every miniscule sparkle of light that could reflect off a droplet of water, and each puddle produces a glorious and colorful sheen. Shelters roar as they endure the strength of a deluge, and all outlines fade to a murky gray in deference to the torrent.
The Garden of Words seems directed like one 46-minute music video. Visual perspectives shift with the melancholy notes of the piano, which are not very memorable but serve their purpose well enough. A couple of sweeping aerial shots seem unrelated to the actual film, coming off as some vain attempt at grandiosity where little is merited. It is not until the last scene of the film that the music shines as brightly as the artwork, when an instrumental version of the credits song emerges with breathtaking modifications to the timing and structure.
As is typical with Shinkai films, the story ends on a bittersweet note, but not without hope for the future that one day these two might be able to talk to each other as equals, without the unhealthy dependence that drove them apart. The Garden of Words may not the most powerful anime movie, but it tells a short, honest story about two weak human beings learning to stand on their own, and this is what makes it worth the watch.
"A faint clap of thunder. Clouded skies. Perhaps rain comes. If so, will you stay with me?", "A faint clap of thunder. Even if rain comes not. I will stay here. Together with you."
If the simplest method are the best, then what happens when someone almost prefects the simplest methods? Pretty sure something like Kotonoha no Niwa is the answer to that question.
So Kotonoha no Niwa is a 45 min short romance movie about a student, who dreams of becoming a shoe maker, meets a woman on one rainy morning in a park and from that point on that is the entire basis for their
relationship from June running through July up until August these two people have only ever met on rainy mornings in this one park when BOOM in August it is actually revealed that the woman this dude has been seeing this entire time is a teacher at school, OMG!
I don't like the art STOP! Before the people who've watched this lunge for their keyboards to crucify me for saying that let me tell you why. I'm never going to be able give another 10 for Art is that simple, because I have never seen such pretty art, the first shot of the movie I though I was looking through a high-end camera, then the next couple I was reminded that yes, this is in fact an anime movie. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MAKE IT SO PRETTY GODDAMMIT?!
The sound was also on point, while the character are talking there was nothing, apart from one point near the end when the piano was just spot on, but every other time there was a soft piano melody playing in the background, well placed audio all round.
The characters were great for a mere 45 mins of building but I can't help but yearn for more development, but that's too expect because well, it's a 45 min short movie.
I had a splendid time with this movie, you could've removed all the audio and I would've happily still watched it just for the art, all I can hope for now is that they do a 24 episode TV series, that'd be nice.
After watching the likes of Kimi No Na Wa, I find it hard to believe that these two films stem from the same seed (as long as you ignore the trademark Shinkai artwork of course).
I dived into this expecting a torrent of emotions, carried by a wave of gorgeous visuals, but what I got instead was merely the latter. And that too, coupled with its own flaws or two. There's absolutely no denying the sheer attention to detail paid to the art direction and imagery here; in fact, I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few moments that had me wanting to capture
a shot as my wallpaper. But turn a blind eye to that scenery and what you're left with are some bland, unmemorable cardboard characters.
And I say that both in terms of the physical and the emotional.
Aside from their insipid, simplistic features, there's just something about this style of character design that fails to strike a chord within me. I can think of more than a few anime from even the 90's that I'd prize over this instead, but hey, that's simply a matter of personal preference. The greater problem, however, lies in the fact that this insipid feeling transcends deeper into their personalities as well.
You see, I'm an extremely fiction-sensitive person. By that, I mean that when it comes to real life, I'm like a brick of soulless stone, but the moment you bring in an emotional story with some fictional characters, that brick of stone can turn into a sniffling mess of tears within minutes— as long as there's some powerful music to boot too. Now, Kotonoha no Niwa has beautiful art AND beautiful music on its side, yet I still felt nothing. Nada, zero, zilch.
Trust me, I was more shocked than you might be. Because I truly expected this to be added to the list of movies that hit me right in da feelz™. Yet, as the seconds turned to minutes while I watched this, I could only sit there endlessly waiting for it to hit. When I go back and think over it, I realize that the fault lies in the story— or lack thereof shall I say.
Starting off strong, with an interesting look at life and dreams and what it's like to feel trapped at a standstill while the world around you goes on, I'm afraid the film itself came to its own sudden halt after the first 10-15 minutes or so. After that, as the "story" unraveled, it became abundantly clear that there was no real point to be found. Here is a boy that yearns to be a shoemaker and here is a woman that struggles to find her role in life. They meet (a few times), they talk (a little), they bond (apparently), they fall out (for a wee bit) and WHOOP-DE-DOO they find new meaning to life. I just wasn't buying it.
Granted, there's only 45 minutes worth of screen time, but it's not the lack of dialogue or plot I find unsettling. Oh no, Hotarubi no Mori e proved to me that far more can be spoken with visuals than with words. But Kotonoha no Niwa tries to sell more than it's got and it tops its dull cake with a ridiculously over the top climax that sprouts from seemingly nothing. WHY, oh mysterious woman, did these encounters impact your life to the extent that it saved you? WHY are you suddenly bawling your eyes out like your pet kitten just died? WHY am I expected to give two craps about any of this when I know nothing about you (besides you having some kind of random taste disorder that got miraculously solved by this kid's not-so-miraculous cooking)?
Sigh. Guess I'll never know.
What I saw: an attempt at deep symbolism and meaning through an unexpected relationship in a time of need.
What I really saw: little more than a contrived work of beautiful art shadowed by its lackluster message and characters.
What I felt: nothing.
After many years passed when I watched 5cm per seconds, which burned itself into my memory, as not only a beautiful dramatic romance, but also as one of the best looking anime, I was so looking forward to The Garden of Words.
Not knowing what to expect but beautiful imagery I tried to absorb as much as I can in one sitting.
Takao is a 15 year old highschool boy who wants to become a shoe designer. Skipping school on rainy mornings he came into contact with a young woman in a nearby park.
There he spends time with her having various conversations and drawing and sketching shoe-designs.
the other side we have the life of the young woman, who's name is not told right from the start but later revealed.
We know she suffered some sort of injury which makes her impossible to work, so she spends her days at a park bench with Takao.
It soon becomes clear that a romantic relationship unfolds thought is never spelled out. The age difference is just too big.
From here on we see how Takao starts to open up to the nameless lady and makes her indirectly part of his life until later her identity is revealed.
I don't want to spoil anything, it's only 45min so you can just watch it.
All I can say is, it is again a very touching romance, with some drama and a realistic but idealized portrayal of real life.
Makoto Shinkai is very talented in telling us short but emotionally gripping dramas and love stories.
They are not very heavy but very cute, though the drama is haunting and makes you think about it ever afterwards (at least that's how it was in 5cm per second).
The Garden of Words was different in that regard giving you a good closure that doesn't break your heart and leaving only good feelings.
The story mainly focuses on Takao and Yukari Yukino ( no spoiler her name is in the character description).
Various side characters are introduced but have no greater impact on the show and don't feel they miss.
While the show is a romance and things are portrait more idealistic as they are in real life, the characters were extremely realistic and had real personalities.
Takao is interesting as he has a true talent and hobby he works hard for, and Yukari real fears and problems.
Their relationship is shown very faintly yet is enough to get the idea.
We don't see such real characters often in anime, mostly they turn to either some sort of cliche or rule of cool. I liked how well they were handled and how relatable they were. Even for such a short story I felt heavily engaged into the events.
Art and Animation
I'm not sure if I should say anything here because... if you seen the pictures or trailers you know what it looks like.
I don't lie if I say this is the absolute best looking anime I've ever seen.
Yes there are anime that have better animation, but when it comes to pure looks, this is better than reality.
The colors are so engaging, the light effects immersive, the small details so breath taking.
And what little simple movements there are are well animated, and everything seems to be hand drawn, no cgi.
I really don't wanna add anything here anymore it's a clear masterpiece when it comes to its looks.
The movie is very quite. Mostly we hear the ambient rain which is an important factor for the story.
But if there is music it is very minimalistic piano pieces which work perfectly well with the setting and pacing. It's as if the key are the drips and drops of the rain itself.
The ending theme, though listenable, didn't catch me so well.
I wouldn't say the sound aspect is the worst because that implies it is bad, and it isn't.
The Voiceacting is done by Kana Hanazawa, and Miyu Irino. Two very pleasent voices. Not my absolute favorites in the industry but 2 of the best you can get.
The movie was throughout enjoyable, alone the backgrounds and light effects made the show so breathtaking that it was hard to make anything that wasn't enjoyable out of it.
And it totally hit into my heart, because I am an avid lover of romance, it might just be my favorite type of story you can tell in a movie or show.
Premise and Setting +0 (Nothing we have never seen before, a lovestory)
Pacing +0 (It could have been a bit longer to flesh out character relations)
Complexity +1 (simplistic perfection)
Plausibility 0 (A bit of a stretch with the romance, but it's so simple you can't do anything wrong)
Conclusion +1 (it ends satisfying)
Personality +1 (real people)
Behavior and Chemistry +0 (It would have been nice to see more interactions)
Development and Progression 0 (There wasn't enough to develop anything)
Motivation and Backdrop +1 (Everyone had real hopes and dreams)
Likability +1 (Even with the little exposition they got, they grew on me fast)
Art and Animation 10/10
There is nothing to argue about.
Voice Acting +1 (two talented voices)
Theme Songs 0 (not my thing)
Soundtrack +1 (I love minimalistic piano songs)
Sound Effects 0 (nothing too spectacular)
Art +1 (best looking thing ever)
Sound +1 (enjoyable pianos)
Story +1 (touching minimalism)
Characters +1 (true people)
Value +1 (will remember just like 5cm per seconds)
"The Garden of Words"... Elegant and attractive, but lacks a bit of spice.
As the title says, be prepared for a lot of dialogue. Inside the romance genre, not all stories follow the same pattern neither have the same setting (boy meets girl, girl likes boy) and not always this love will be reciprocate. While the majority of romances have heartwarming kiss scenes, love declarations and a "physical" interaction between characters, this other kind of setting chooses the conversations and thoughts to conduce the story.
From one of the best storytellers of drama/romance anime industry, 'Kotonoha no Niwa' mix a bit of poetry and symbolism with one
of those 'summer love' stories. Creating a storyline that is easier to follow when compared to others Makoto Shinkai's movies, but somehow lacks a bit of dept.
Once I saw this interview with Shinkai, it was just after the screen of Hoshi no Koe, back then, he was still working alone with few resources and was doing the animation and storyline by himself. He said he wanted to focus his stories on the people. Their feelings, expectations, thoughts, etc...
I'm glad to see he's still following that path, and this was sure a great movie, however, I still can't compare it to 5cm/s or The Promised Place. It would be easier to relate Kotonoha no Niwa with Hoshi wo ou Kodomo, his latest work before this one, since in both he inverted his way of storytelling. They have a linear progression and the story flows in a way that bring characters together. It's the complete opposite of the plot from his previously movies. Back then, there were two main characters really close and the time and external consequences would trow them far away from each other.
If you haven't watched those movies I mentioned, the paragraph above probably didn't make any sense to you.
Summing up, what I want to explain is that this new concept reduces the drama in general from the whole story, making it look like an average romance. That deep storyline development with a strong focus on characters emotions, which was -seriously- the big difference between his works and Studio Ghibli movies, is suddenly gone.
The story starts with our male protagonist, a 15 years old average high-school boy. He follows a normal routine and commute to school everyday by train. When it rains, he takes the opportunity to unwind a little and make a detour through a park. Where, he will occasionally met the female lead and this is were the story begins. Anything beyond it, would be a spoiler.
And... basically, this is it. Honestly, not the best background for a romance, neither the kind of plot I'd expect from Shinkai. Like that, the symbolism on this movie is minimal when compared to other of his stories -even the symbolism itself been on of his best characteristics-.
No matter how you look at it, it's a very minimalistic plot. One might say this was the intention, to keep things simple, in order to retract "ordinary" people, but if so, why not pick a common situation, not this unusual meeting during a rainy day, in a public park, between two strangers.
Like many others Shinkai movies, the time and space works only as background for the story. The progression of the plot is linear, there are few time marks of it. The focus, like said before, are the characters themselves and the way they interact with the environment will be one way of linking the dots of the plot.
That said, the scenery plays an important role in the movie. The partnership between Shinkai and ComixWave already created beautiful scenarios, and this time it was surprising as always. The amount of details you won't see in other movies and the singular pallet of colors that changes according to the mood of the scene, makes artwork one of this movie best aspects. Even if the story is plain, the artwork manages to transmit a feeling of calmness and even make some scenes more emotional then they would end up being with a normal animation.
Dozens of different styles and techniques allied with the most recent technology makes of Kotonoha no Niwa one of the most beautiful and realistic movie from the recent years, the true definition of "scenery porn".
This is something you need to watch in order to understand. I would write paragraphs and more paragraphs about it and wouldn't be enough. If only every anime were cautious with the little details like this.
Sometimes, music can transform a simple scene into the saddest moment you've ever seen. Lots of producers noticed that already, but unfortunately from times to times you bump with those animes that overuse emotional songs at inappropriate moments, a.k.a. tear jerking stories.
If you ever wondered where is that perfect balance between calm, sad and happy melodies, this movie is a great example of perfection. The OST is strong, beautiful and even nostalgic at times. Arranged with a precision of an concert. Mainly composed by piano pieces, the only vocal piece appears at the end, like a closure for the story before the final scene and the ending credits -Yes, just like 5cm/s, Hoshi no Koe, The Promissed Place....-
In the end, I'd say this is a enjoyable movie.
I give it an 8. In respect of Artwork and Soundtrack, that are indeed outstanding.
It's indeed something I would recommend. Would recommend for those who are new at the genre, or those that dislike deep romances or sad dramas. For Shinkai fans that had huge expectations like me, all I can say is: We shall wait for the next one.
Sadly, this is the same sentence I used to describe Hoshi wo ou Kodomo. I don't know what happened, but I wish Shinkai would return to his path of storytelling, so the day I can tag his movie as a masterpiece comes again.
It's was like eating a tasty cake, but having someone steal your cherry, that you kept for the end.
I had pretty big expectations for this movie and dare I say it, it didn't disappoint me one single bit. Makoto Shinkai has always amazed me with those beautiful stories of his. His work is always centered around the small things in life that can be so easily ignored, yet are what makes us who we are.
His stunning "The Graden of Words" is no exception. A magnificent tale of a sweetbitter love that struck two ordinary people and changed their lifes irreversibly. The characters were nicely developed and had all the depth needed for their story to be felt close and personal. The amazing
compilation of beautful art and oustandingly plotted story reveals yet another masterpiece that Makoto Shinkai has decided to present us.
As expected, this ought to make you cry.
NATURE: I have existed since aeons, beyond aeons, and encompass the whole of Earth, Time, Space, and the Firmament. I am the crux of all matter, the crucible of all conflict, and the context of all society.
MAN: I was born from the intercourse between a puddle imp and a flop of algae. I am a furry ape with a spot of consciousness. I think myself as rather grand, if I do say so myself. I've made cars, the electric guitar, and bishoujo games. Clearly the achievements of these three startling innovations outweigh the whole monument of leafy greens and greeny
NATURE: Good day Man. For the less-than-Aeons of your existence, you have been trying to supersede my form in your own creation. How many times have you failed as of yet?
MAN: Countless many, my dear, countless many. But I daresay I have a new contender yet!
NATURE: Oh please. Another mere 'representer'? A Da Vinci or a Velazquez? Or perhaps one of those stupidities who have tried to 'subvert' my form by abstracting away from me the core distinct elements? Like a Rothko, Picasso, or Dali? Perhaps a failure of a 'cinematographer' like Kubrick or Tarkovsky? Those who are still subject to my whims although they love to harp on their 'framing' of my components as an innovation in itself!
MAN: Nope. This is a guy from Japan that used to make OPs for Bishoujo games.
NATURE: Oh? And what can he do? Wait WHAT IS THAT? Is he actually capturing the effect slow gleam of light and the gradual natural focus of the eyeballs onto my leafy greens, with just FRAMES OF PAINT PLAYED VERY FAST ON TOP OF ONE ANOTHER? What witchery! What madness! What-
It was at this point that Nature promptly collapsed into a pile and was swiftly blown away by the newest next level Turbo Leafblower (now with a digital share function to share your latest leafblowing exploits with your friends). Afterwards came the era of Postmodernism Part 2 "where's your metanarrative now Modernist losers!" which saw a great flowering of bishoujo games and further rooted Man's ability to to escape the travails of the flesh by staring at pretty pictures. Eventually they ran out of cute girls standing in sunflower fields so they had to make do with hot office ladies sitting by sparkly pretty ponds. Makoto Shinkai went on to make his next film, with even prettier pictures, which promptly caused the collapse of the wave-function and all that esoteric Qualia stuff. After the entire universe restarted, the next iteration of 'Nature' was thus Shinkai-ified, populated by beings who could not do anything other than stick to their base functions because they were continuously stunned by how bloody awesome the trees looked to be able to develop conscious intellect. Soon enough there had to evolve a species that was actually so apathetic that they couldn't be bothered a rat's ass about staring at pretty trees. They were a very narcissistic species that thought that they were better than the other species because the rest of them were mostly mute, from being too Shinkai-ified, and did stupid things in the same ecological patterns (these guys they called 'animals'). The narcissistic species went on to make cars, and reinvent the electric guitar, and remake electronic simulations of social interaction, called 'dating sims', because they couldn't be bothered to commit to the real thing. Thus the cycle came full circle.
The Garden of Words is Makoto Shinkai's most mature work to date. Anyone that is familiar with Shinkai's work, knows what to expect. He's an artist that likes to make films about "feelings" and "emotions". He is fascinated with how we feel, and uses his art to evoke that. When I first saw the gorgeous 5 Centimeters Per Second, I remember being let down. I thought the film was kind of incoherent and unsatisfying. It left me with a really bad feeling in my gut. At the time, I was too used to films having a traditional narrative, and I didn't really "get" 5
Centimeters Per Second, or what Shinkai's art was doing, for that matter.
Of course, upon revisiting his work later, I realized how special and wonderful his art truly is. He's unlike any director I've ever experienced before. Once you realize his films aren't about a linear plot per se, and more about capturing an "emotion" and making the audience feel that emotion, then his films start to resonate more. Even when I first saw 5 Centimeters Per Second and walked away feeling frustrated, his art succeeded, because it made me feel the bittersweet nature of relationships, and how distance and time can pull us apart. How "expectations" can change in the blink of an eye. How our life doesn't always go the way we thought it would. I ended up crying upon my re-watch of 5 Centimeters Per Second, because it reminded me of all the people I had loved and been close with growing up, and how those relationships eventually were pulled apart by distance and growing up.
The Garden of Words focuses more on the nature of relationships in the present, and human connection. More specifically, how two people of different backgrounds and age, can connect with one another. How the connection two people can have, can be salvation. It can be everything. Shinkai nails it with this film, and does so with the concept of a student, and an adult connecting, as the student wants to escape the confinement of school that holds back his dreams, and the adult that wants to escape the very world this student wants to be apart of.
I don't like to talk to much about plot in reviews, as I feel people should watch the film to get that. So I'm not a big fan of simply summarizing plot. My reviews tend to focus on emotion, themes, with a little plot here and there to kind of hang all of this on it. But at its core, The Garden of Words is a very poetic film. The way the dialogue is read (most of it is done by narration) it has a very rhythmic cadence to it , the way the chilling piano soundtrack dances around the "rainy" season that is the backdrop for many of the scenes. And even when the characters talk, it's almost in a whisper, as you can hear their voice dance in the cold air around them. Unlike Shinkai's past work, this film has a very rhythmic feel to it. Down to the dialogue, and pacing of the scenes. All of it flows like poetry. For some, this might be a turn off. This isn't to say that The Garden of Words is abstract and artsy. The beauty of this film is that, it's actually Shinkai's most linear story since Journey of Agartha. And whereas Agartha was an "epic" journey homage to Miyazaki's fantasy epics, The Garden of Words falls more in line with his other works that are short 40 min + films (and are more focused on "emotion").
Unlike 5 Centimeters Per Second, which leaves you kind of hanging (which is the purpose of the film), The Garden of Words gives you closure to the story. And also unlike Centimeters, the story is much more linear. This of course, allows for the audience to connect with the characters and story, and by the end of it, you feel resolution to what is going on. And again to be clear, 5 Centimeters Per Second had a purpose to that end. This isn't a criticism of that film, rather I'm just giving a comparison to those that interested how these films differ from one another. At least to me, The Garden of Words perfectly balances Shinkai's art of capturing an emotion, its poetic storytelling which comes across as artsy, and it accomplishes this all within a tight little story that you can walk away from feeling resolution that traditional story formats give you.
The art in this film is unreal. The film is so gorgeous in its depiction of Shinjuku National Garden. Shinkai has always had IMO, some of the best art I have ever seen. I got chills when I first saw 5 Centimeters Per Second, as his ability to capture nature and lighting is incredible. And with each film, Shinkai seems to get better and better at his art. The Garden of Words will leave you looking at certain scenes in awe. Especially as the backdrop for this film is a "rainy" season in a gorgeous national garden. After seeing the film several times, I went to Tokyo and visited Shinjuku National Garden, and coincidentally the day I went, it started to rain. I was absolutely floored by how accurate the anime was to the real thing in capturing the garden, the weather, and the "feeling" of being there.
The greatest achievement of this film, is the intimacy it captures between two people. That despite the differences, it examines how the connection between two people, can truly mean something. The film does this by having a pretty simple but effective plot that is in the background, and gets revealed in the end. Thankfully, the plot driving things in the background (what puts the characters in motion), also serves a very important theme about how the actions of others, can impact other people in a really big way. And this works, because it shows the other side of how human connection can also destroy us. So we get a very beautiful story about destruction and salvation through human connections that all comes together by the end of the story. The film also focuses on the dreams we have, the world we want to live in, and the fear of taking that step to get there.
My only gripe with the film, is that one of the finals scenes comes off a bit overly dramatic. But the film's theme is so powerful, I ultimately didn't mind. Despite thinking this ending scene was kind of cliche in romance stories, the scene is almost a subversion of those tropes, as underneath the surface it's not about "the big love scene", rather, it's about someone finally opening up to another person, and showing their complete naked self.
The Garden of Words is in my opinion Makoto Shinkai's most impressive work to date. Some may prefer 5 Centimeters Per Second, because its art work is simply gorgeous. And there is a dream like quality to the film that really captures the emotions he's going for. The Garden of Words in comparison, is more linear and goes for a more poetic approach. But when I look at the overall package of both films, I feel that Shinkai is proving that he's becoming better and better at his art, and ability to create a truly special experience that conveys feelings and emotions in a way most director's can't.