Makoto Shinkai‘s new work was always on my radar, but I wasn’t expecting too see it so soon with subtitles. The man whose brought us many stunningly animated movies, gives us another emotional rollercoaster of a romantic movie.
Before I dive into Garden of Words, I should point out I’m not too familiar with Makoto Shinkai’s works. I’ve seen just two (5cm per Second, Voices of a Distant Star) – if you also count ef: tale of memories, it’s 3 – so my experience with him can’t be described as good or bad. Based on those experiences alone, I’ve been impressed by him but at the same time wouldn’t consider him amongst my favourites.
So with that out of the way, let’s get to the movie at hand: Garden of Words.
It goes without saying, that this movie is gorgeous. It went without saying before we even got it and it went double when the BluRay version of it was on my 42″ television screen. That’s the one guarantee each Shinkai anime carries: visual prowess. Each one of his works is a feast for the eyes, and that also applies to Garden of Words. An attractive film may is definitely an advantage, but it comes down to what the director does with all the beautiful animation.
For this movie, Shinkai-sensei really restricted himself by focusing mostly on the scenes in the garden. Most of the time, we were focused on the characters and at times, the wide-lense was used to capture some of the background scenery the director is so famous for. Compared to say, 5cm per Second, there was less focus on the wide shots focusing on the background and more attention on the close-ups of the characters and nature – raindrops, brances and the like. This particular directing decision worked in favour of the movie since it focused on the subtle and understated development of the relationship between the two. Unlike 5cm where the focus was the growing distance between characters, Garden of Words was more about the unsaid love between the two. That and the the constant rainy environment added a certain atmosphere that’s hard t describe but ultimately lovely.
So with fantastic visuals, that only leaves a good story to round out the movie, and what do you know? The story was also good.
It’s something that’s still rare in anime but a very familiar topic for fans of Western media. The older woman has always been a sort of fantasy figure, and in this scenario we get something close to that but at the same time something more artistic. More than an element of unfulfilled fantasy, the bigger issue is the
The romance is subtle. Developed over the course of the movie and given ample time to get us invested in the two characters, it progressed at a good enough pace to give us a lovely ending. It was a case of reading between the lines to get the full story, and what’s more it didn’t have any creepy implications. Yes it was a story of a 15 year-old boy falling for a 27 year-old woman, but the way it was handled was distinct and far from the usual way these types of stories are handled in most media. A series of encounters leading up to an ending that left me both sad and satisfied, making Garden of Words another poetic and harsh look at romance.
Without giving too much away, the ending was of the biter-sweet variety. Not unexpected of a Shinkai anime and some would say it wouldn’t be one without an ending of this kind. The story was bound to lead up to an ending that would leave us a little happy and a little sad – the latter of the two is the usual appeal of all anime done by the director – which meant Garden of Words concluded in a way I wanted. Not only that, it gave the story a more uplifting ending than 5cm per Second which is arguably a bigger crowd favourite.
Personally, I’d rank Garden of Words higher than the two works I’ve seen from this director. It’s an anime similar to the two works – presumably to all other works done by him – but one that makes sense and leaves a slimmer of hope. Garden of Words is a fine addition to Shinkai’s resume and one that lets us believe in a happier outcome after the events of the movie. Hard to say where Garden of Words will end up on my ‘Best of’ movies list at the end of the year, but if I had to guess it’ll be towards the top unless even more exceptional movies are released.