Forum Settings
Jun 20, 2013 3:24 AM

Joined: Mar 2013
Posts: 44
Thanks to /a/non for making this (original:

The Garden of Words copypasta/pastebin by /a/non

-Standard /a/ interpretation
-Translation of letter at the end
-Summary of the commentary track
-A few final words

Alright, so the latest movie by Makoto Shinkai, The Garden of Words/Kotonoha no Niwa, seems to have raised a lot of questions for fans who do not speak Japanese. I am not sure if it is because of the story revolving partially around a Japanese poem from the 8th century, because of the important letter at the end not being translated or because of the commentary track that came with the Blu-Ray and was also left without an English translation, but fact remains that fans overseas seem confused by some of the occurrences in the movie, and specifically by the end.
I'll try clearing some things up, starting with an interpretation I wrote of the main themes of the movie, and their implication on the ending. This was originally written on May 31st, the day the movie was released, so I've added and changed a few things according to how I currently see the movie:

An important thing to remember about this movie before approaching it is that Makoto Shinkai said he intends for the weather to be a main character as much as the rest of the cast, and I think that's really felt. The poem quoted throughout the movie is a famous poem from the Manyoushu, a famous 8th century Japanese poem anthology. As we will see later in the commentary track, Shinkai really loves the Manyoushu, and also found it very fitting for a literature teacher like Yukino.
The poem itself is in the format of Tanka and goes「鳴る神の 少し響みて さし曇り 雨も降らぬが 君を留めむ], roughly translating that's "Even if rain doesn't fall and the thunder doesn't echo, and the sky isn't cloudy, would you stay here?" That exactly is the question presented to Takao Akizuki throughout the movie, with him meeting Yukino only when it rains. Eventually he comes up with the answer, meeting her on a sunny day and saying that "If you are here I will come even if it doesn't rain", which is also the original answer poem from the Manyoushu.
Unfortunately, before Yukino has the chance to answer, the rain begins again. They go to her house, where they take shelter from the rain and Takao confesses his feelings to Yukino. Yukino puts some distance between her and Takao and informs him that she is about to leave for Shikkoku when it clears, saying she practiced walking by herself, even barefoot, and therefore doesn't need his shoes – the thing protecting us and allowing us to walk. The theme of shoes is very important throughout the movie.
Naturally Takao feels betrayed and runs away, but Yukino chases after him (barefoot) recalling the poem and the question it hints at. When the rain stops and the lights shine through she hugs him, telling him that it's only thanks to him that she can walk, he saved her (by giving her shoes, which are the thing that protects us and allows us to walk). Note that the lightning is also an interesting theme throughout the movie, and as noted in the commentary track, this is the first scene in the movie where the light shines upon Yukino, symbolizing how she can finally express her true feelings.
That scene combines all main themes in the movie, the Rain, the Shoes and the poem – Yukino has gained the strength to keep living, and is going to Shikkoku to teach, Takao will continue creating shoes and pursue his dreams, and eventually they will meet on a sunny day (notice how during the ending theme the rain slowly stops).

Now, this is an interpretation, so obviously there can be many others, but I really feel this one is strongly supported by the themes of the movie, and by the letter Takao is reading in the final scene:
"*beginning cut off*
また、お便りします。*picture of a shoe* ♫

2014.2.3 雪野 百香里

This turned out to be a very long letter.
Thank you for reading it all.
I hope that you are doing well, Akizuki-kun.
It would be great if the weather warmed up soon, wouldn't it?
I'll write again. *picture of a shoe* ♫

February 3rd 2013
Yukino Yukari"

It should be noted that "the weather warming up" hints of a reunion in spring; that suspicion is confirmed in the commentary track by Risa Mizuno and Shinkai. Another interesting thing about the final scene is how it takes place on a snowy field, Yukino's name literally means "Snowy Field", so that also hints at how they haven't truly separated. Another /a/non mentioned snow is also often used to represent love, I dunno about that, but it sounds good to me.

Now, in order to retest our theory, and also hear many interesting stories relating to this piece, I listened to the commentary track and tried summarizing it in a clear manner.
Now, I want to warn you in advance that there were some things I couldn't figure out and some things that aren't really worth pointing out. In a few scenes Shinkai mentions "this scene was put in so that so and so", or "this was influenced by so and so", "I really liked the acting here" and such. It is basically Shinkai Makoto and Mizuno Risa watching the movie and having fun for 50 minutes, but overall I tried summarizing most of the commentary, especially some of the funny comments. There is also some commentary about the different shoes in the movie and their origins if anyone is interested.
Another thing I would like to note us that Shinkai mentioned in an interview that he wants to portray the beautiful scenery he sees in Tokyo every day with this movie.

In the commentary track Mizuno Risa speaks with Makoto Shinkai about the movie. Risa has been an actor in all of Shinkai's films since Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place. In 5cm/sec she even played a character with her own name, but in this movie she only plays the voice coming out of the radio, announcing the end of the rainy season around the halfway mark, a performance Shinkai compliments. Shinkai mentions that Risa gives him the image of a working woman, who always tries her hardest even when confused or lost.
Watching the movie, the two mention that the art director Takiguchi is a different one than Takumi Tanji who worked with Shinkai on his former works, and that Takiguchi's style is very similar to the famous art director Yamamoto Nizo (Laputa, Cagliostro, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time…), in how it not only has a realistic aspect but also gives off an atmosphere of a Japanese painting. It seems Takiguchi always loved Yamamoto Nizo, and was affected by him. Shinkai comments on how they really tried to give off a realistic vibe with the art and animation, for instance with how the paper sinks a bit when the MC draws his sketches. Shinkai also mentions how he was afraid people will get bored with the rain after 40 minutes, so he tried presenting the rain in different ways throughout the movie, and using different angles to show the rain at the back of the characters. He talk of how they worked hard on the rain, and reminds Risa that rain used to be very hard work for animators once, when they actually had to draw every drop. Shinkai speaks fondly of the great rain in Kiki's Delivery Service, but says Kotonoha no Niwa didn't really have the budget to go that far.
As the two are watching the scene where Takao returns home at the beginning of the movie, Shinkai mentions that Takao's house is based on the apartment he currently lives in. He wanted to give Takao an easy going family where even the mother running away isn't a serious affair, even though they have no father. The mother's backstory is that she works at some university, and is knowledgeable about literature, but she's still fashionable and wild.
Watching the second meeting of Takao and Yukino under the rain, Shinkai mentions tuat Kotonoha no Niwa is a story about shoes, so they made sure to always show the shoes on screen. For that, they made sure Yukino has an extensive wardrobe. It is important that she is always pretty, since they need a 15 year old to fall in love with her. At the end of the scene Yukino tells Takao "let's meet again", and Shinkai claims that remark is cruel of her, because she makes an appointment without setting a date, and is like she's playing around with him.
Watching the collage of Takao and Yukino's meetings throughout the rainy season, Shinkai notes how they made some parts specifically to play Kashiwa Daisuke's piano pieces. He mentions how the song in that scene is fairly dramatic for such a day-to-day scene, but he feels that it really conveys the ups and downs that Takao and Yukino have during that time in their day to day life, just getting on a train etc.
Prompted by Risa's question, Shinkai mentions that the umbrellas are symbolic throughout the movie and represent the character's personal space, when the characters are talking and Yukino is using an umbrella it portrays her keeping her personal space and not telling Takao about her being a teacher, but we can see that Takao's umbrella is folded because he tells Yukino everything.
Another symbolic scene is Takao's dream, of being a bird and flying high, symbolizing the heights he aspires to reach, we can also see him looking far into the distance in other scenes for the same reason. Shinkai says Takao thinks that Yukino is his entire world ("she seemed like all the world's secrets"), and in a way it is also a story of him realizing that there is more to his world. Takao says only making shoes took him to a "different place" and Shinkai agrees with the statement and comments that he feels that way about animation too. Risa says she too feels the same about acting.
Shinkai notes that it was important for the characters to be "separated" from the real world for their real selves to come out, if they were to meet at school it wouldn't be the same, but in this small world they share being sheltered by the rain their relationship blossoms. Basically in the beginning of the movie Yukino feels like a mystery (as Takao himself presents it), but after we start to see her failings in the kitchen we gradually come to realize she is a normal person.
Watching the flashback scene where Takao's mother receives the Diana shoes, Shinkai mentions they tried to make the shoes glorious and sparkle in his memory, because that's what sparked Takao's love of shoes.
In the first scene at Yukino's house where she speaks on the phone, Shinkai points out the classics on her book shelf, and talks about how they tried to present Yukino to the viewers as a person who really loves classics, and became a teacher out of love, making her fall more tragic.
Later Shinkai and Risa watch one of the most unique scenes of the movie, Takao and Yukino meeting under a swift summer rain. Shinkai states that their meetings are always wrapped in rain and vapor, and that even during the summer the summer rain hits the hot ground and turns to vapor. Even in Yukino's house there is vapor rising from the coffee/cooking/Ironing.
About the famous feet scene, Shinkai comments that they had to make that scene lewd for it to work. He explains that allowing other people to touch one's bare feet is a very intimate ("priceless") act, and that for a 15 year old kid this is the first time touching someone else's feet (except family members). Risa mentions how beautiful the feet are, and how carefully Takao handles them, as though he is touching a mystery. Shinkai mentions again how he thinks Yukino is cruel, letting Takao touch her feet even though she has yet to decide whether she likes him or not. Nevertheless, Shinkai says he wanted to portray the feelings between them as beautiful, and that the scene needed to have some seductiveness but make it a beautiful and precious thing, and that he thinks Kashiwa's piano piece really helped that.
Later, the rainy season ends, and Takao goes on with his life, but on the other hand Yukino is reading alone on a bench in the park, hoping for Takao to come. In that scene Yukino meets a couple who came to enjoy the park, Shinkai mentions the リア充 couple (otaku slang for people who are satisfied with their offline life) was drawn with much hatred. Shinkai and Risa then note how all the women in the movie are healthy and happy except Yukino, and Shinkai explains this was done so that the viewers can see her suffering by comparison, and feel how nothing goes right for her, with even daily things becoming hard.
At this point we can see that Takao has gained strength from his love, and is working, making shoes, and coming closer to his goals, while Yukino just dabbles in the same place, depressed and waiting for him to return.
Shinkai express his disappointment at how they only had time to present the delinquents as villains, even though he is sure they had their own reasons for doing what they did, he wishes he could have presented their circumstances. He explains that's the difference between a long film and a "novella" like this one, and apologizes to the delinquents.
As the climax of the movie approaches Shinkai and Risa watch the scene where Takao goes to the park even though it is sunny. Shinkai comments that in this scene Yukino no longer has the umbrella, since everything has been revealed, but that they are still in a manner closed from the outside, since they are both under the wisteria.
Shinkai explains the poem was used both to create a mystery around Yukino, and to foreshadow her being a literature teacher. Shinkai says he used to read the Manyoushu when he was in high school and always wanted to use the great poems in it for a film.
Near the end of the scene Shinkai comments on Yukino's line "But you're always off in your own little world, aren't you?" and says it's a line that shows a lot of things, yet doesn't comment further.
Risa mentions how until the storm, rain has always brought Yukino and Takao together, but how at this point it suddenly seems scary. Shinkai answers that this rain too has brought them together and that one can see how while they're afraid they're also happy, as though they've been released of something. Risa and Shinkai point out that Yukino's line "It's like we've crossed a river swimming" is taken from the novel Norwegian Wood by Murakami Haruki.
At the beginning of the final scene in Yukino's room, while the two are cooking and eating, the conversation is cut and we can only hear Takao's thoughts. In the commentary track Shinkai lets us hear the original conversation that was cut. It's not very interesting, as they're just talking about food, but the acting is pretty great, and Shinkai says so himself. Risa also adds that the acting is really natural.
Later Takao confesses his feelings to Yukino saying "I think I love you, Yukino-san" and she corrects him, saying he should call her "Sensei". Shinkai notes how this is a strong rejection and very cruel, and how Takao is clearly very hurt by it, since he is silent for a long time after this. Yukino continues to explain how she can now walk alone, even without shoes. Risa notes how this is a very strong line, since he is a shoemaker, and Shinkai agrees it leaves a strong impression and is a very cruel line. Shinkai feels it is important to note that Yukino's strong words were just said out of frantic desperation. Risa asks whether she just doesn't have the confidence to accept Takao's love and Shinkai answers that perhaps had they met differently the result would have been different. The final shot before Takao leaving the apartment has the vapor from the coffee cup disappearing, and Shinkai notes how the vapor was intact during their entire conversation, until they separated. At this point basically the movie could have ended "badly" with Yukino moving to Shikkoku and never coming to terms with her feelings, but as we know she recalled the poem and decided to chase after Takao.
While Yukino is chasing Takao, Risa and Shinkai note how she is barefoot, and that it's important. Shinkai also mentions how they tried to put an emphasis on her breasts, to keep her sex appeal even in such a scene (Risa is a bit offended by this comment). Shinkai further explains that they were trying to bring about an atmosphere as though the two are in the middle of a pool or the ocean during the stairway scene.
Shinkai comments how in this scene the music, the lines, the acting and the rain CG came beautifully together, with how the rain gets more and more intense as the characters are getting more and more emotional.
When the sun comes out and shines upon the couple, Shinkai mentions it's the first scene in the movie where the light shines directly upon Yukino (notice the lightning throughout the movie always has her face shaded), because she is finally able to cry, something she has not been able to do so far. Shinkai explains that it's a bit sad, but overall is a very happy scene, where Yukino can finally express what she really feels. Risa also mentions it's her favorite scene in the movie. Shinkai recalls how he asked Kanazawa to express more than just sadness in her crying, and that she did it really well.
At this point the song "Rain" by Hata starts playing, and Shinkai mentions that it was important for him that the song would cut in right after the conversation and crying between Yukino and Takao, since the song's first line is "I lived on with feelings frozen, never expressed in words". Shinkai says he really loves the song and that he chose it himself, it's originally a song from the 80s by Senri Ooe, and he really loved it during his university days.
During the ending song Shinkai and Risa talk about various subjects from minor Chinese characters they had no time to expound upon to the character designer Tsuchiya Kenichi. Shinkai says he really liked Tsuchiya's designs, and that he made the characters really sexy. Shinkai also recalls how he was really particular about the colors, as he wanted for the color of the scenery to reflect upon the characters.
Shinkai mentions before finishing that he said Yukino is cruel quite a bit during the commentary, but he wants to make it clear to everyone that she is far from a cruel person, and that she had no choice but to act how she did. Shinkai explains it led to Takao being saved and growing up. He says it is a story in which two people save each other.
During the final scene Risa and Shinkai mention how even though Takao and Yukino separated, there is a feeling that they will definitely meet again come spring, as evidenced by the letter from Yukino that Takao is reading.

Overall I did not feel the commentary was especially meaningful, except a few interesting comments (such as the umbrella), yet I believe the few things that were said seem to be in line with our interpretation. I also think it is clear just how much effort and love were put into this film. I especially liked how Makoto even apologized to the delinquents and minor Chinese characters who work at washing dishes with Takao for not being able to flesh them out.
I really liked Kotonoha no Niwa. I liked the animation, I liked the art, I liked the music, and I fell in love with the characters and themes. I sincerely hope this garden of words I've written will help you enjoy the movie a little more as well.

Jun 22, 2013 4:32 PM
Joined: Jun 2013
Posts: 2
I'm glad I took the time to read this, there were many more hints and symbols which I didn't pick up on.

As for my own interpretation, I think that in order to appreciate the movie, we have to take a step back and ask what rain means to us. Retrospectively, I've always been enamored towards it, without a particularly strong reason as to why. The only thing I could really say is that it's soothing to watch, the growling thunder and the sudden lightning strikes make for a worthwhile show.

With this knowledge in mind, as the movie progressed, I could tell that the characters also embraced the rain right from the start. As far as sympathizing with the characters, I think Yukino's situation is easily the most relatable. Given her situation, she sought comfort by appealing to food and the rain, even though it wasn't a healthy choice for her to be skipping work or for her diet. Each time I saw her waiting for the train and repeatedly finding conflict, it was clear as day as to why she would opt for those kind of decisions. The lack of comfort she received from others has pushed her to seek comfort in other places.

As for Akizuki, I would take a guess and say that with the nearing date of graduation and the worries of his future, he sequesters himself away at the lake. Being ambitious as youngsters are, his dreams and aspirations are likely to be frowned upon for other career choices, and thus we see the possible explanation for the reasons of his visiting the lake.

After a few meetings, and commenting on Yukino's beer habits, we see that she starts opting for other drinks, which I thought was a nice touch. It was easy to tell that the relationship between the two grew steadily, and when the rainy season ended, we got to see the effects (or lack thereof) between their mingling. There isn't a laid out moral for the story, I think there are many interpretations to the story where each person can perceive the situations in their own way. In the end I'd have to say given the length of the movie, the characters were presented in a fashion that made the viewer able to sympathize, if there were any qualms I had about the movie, it would be that there wasn't enough. It's a work of art, and the replayability is moderately high considering the amount of effort put into the art much less the movie itself.
Jul 1, 2013 10:12 AM

Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 888
Glad I read this and I appreciate that you posted this. It confirmed a lot of my ideas in regards to the film and further enhanced my love for it.
Jul 9, 2013 6:22 PM
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 52
Wow. I'm glad I read this. You sir, are a genius.
Aug 25, 2013 4:40 PM
Joined: May 2010
Posts: 25
I really appreciate this summary, read it completly. And it's really great how much love, attention and thoughts were put in this short movie.
Thank you so much.
Aug 27, 2013 1:05 AM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 4074
A very interesting read. Thank you for taking the time to write it down and share it with us. The movie itself was beautiful, indeed.
The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one. - Albert Einstein
Sep 24, 2013 8:33 PM

Joined: Jan 2013
Posts: 123
Thank you so much for this excellent post. I would have been very angry to find out that the Blu-Ray commentary wasn't translated. What were they thinking? I don't care how useless it is, if it's on there, translate it!!!

I don't know why they couldn't translate the letter at the end either.
This is "Sentai Filmworks" release that we are talking about correct?

I thought they did a much better job at releasing products than this.

I loved reading the commentary. It was very informative.

Keep pursuing your dreams! ~ Wynn
My brother and I compose classical and modern music, please click the link below if you're interested.

Please check out my profile to see what anime I recommend.

Keep pursuing your dreams! ~ Wynn
Jul 9, 2015 6:05 PM

Joined: Apr 2015
Posts: 64
Wow! Thanks for posting this!
I'm a sucker for strong female characters.
Oct 22, 2016 4:11 AM

Joined: May 2016
Posts: 133
Well you had me to rest for keep searching about this sir. I can finally stop searching cause I have read the legit summary of this art