The Garden of Words is the most recent film to come from the talented director Makoto Shinkai. The film follows Takao Akizuki, a 15 year-old aspiring shoe designer, as he ditches his first period of school on rainy days to draw shoe designs in a park. On one particular rainy day, Takao encounters the much older Yukari Yukino drinking beer and eating chocolate in his favorite spot. What follows is their interactions over the course of the rainy season and beyond. Does this film live up to the expected quality of Shinkai's work, or is it merely a shallow puddle?
With seemingly each passing film, Shinkai's art gets even better. The above image doesn't even give that scene any justice. While the still images of this film still look amazing, seeing it in motion takes things to a whole other level. As I watched this film, I thought at times I was seeing real life footage or at the least rotoscoped footage. I have to just be flat out honest, this is the most gorgeous non-entirely CGI animated film I have ever seen. And probably most impressively, I only saw the DVD version of the film. To think it could look even better with the Blu-ray version has me wanting to double dip purchasing this film just for the visuals.
As is usual for a Makoto Shinkai film, the soundtrack in The Garden of Words just works. The right songs are picked for each scene, and help give the dramatic scenes even more punch.
When you look at the budding romance between Takao and Yukari, it seems rather odd, and admittedly a tad bit creepy when you just look at it from the fact that one is a 15 year-old boy and the other is a grown woman. However, somehow Shinkai makes the slow development of their romance work. Both characters have a decent amount of issues and emotional baggage. So the fact that the two could find some form of comfort in each other while being brought together by a common hobby isn't that farfetched to me. Besides, I have seen far, far creepier age gaps in relationships, so it isn't like this is the weirdest one I've seen in the first place.
I won't specifically elaborate on what the twist is, but I will say it changes the dynamic of the relationship between Takao and Yukari. On top of that, it is only subtly hinted at at the start of the film. However, this twist does lead to some of the best dramatic scenes in this film, so as sudden as it was, it kind of works out in the end.
Again, something I won't go into full details of, but suffice to say, things are left a bit open ended. That said, it is one that is more optimistic than the usual Makoto Shinkai ending. There's some hope here, is what I am saying.
Really the only bad thing I can truly say about this film is that is rather short. With the credits included, it is around 48 minutes in length. To be fair this is more me being greedy. I liked this film so much that I wanted to experience these characters and their interactions with each other for longer. Additional length might have given it a bit more time to make the big twist be a bit more organic feeling. And of course, a longer run time would have meant even more of Shinkai's gorgeous art.
In the end, The Garden of Words lives up to Makoto Shinkai's pedigree and then some. The gorgeous visuals and great music combine with a rather fresh take on a romance story to make for a more than enjoyable experience. It is quite possibly my favorite Makoto Shinkai film, probably because it is the only one of his films to not leave me a depressed mess upon completion.