Garden of Words, The (2013)
Release date: May 31, 2013
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Screenplay by: Makoto Shinkai
Cast: Miyu Irino, Kana Hanazawa
Original Title: 言の葉の庭
A story of solitude and heartache that comes before love.
Sometimes (very seldom occurrences), Amazon recommendations get it right, so when I finally decided to add a BR copy of Colorful into my collection, they pointed me towards Makoto Shinkai’s latest animated short film, barely lasting 46 minutes, which is REALLY a thing of beauty.
After Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I wasn’t too certain if I wanted to pursue Shinkai’s exploration of the after life. In The Garden of Words, it’s all the opposite. Though the promotion of the film  seems to suggest a romance that builds up throughout the story, to me it was a very painful thing to watch.
Takao (Irino) is a 15-year-old boy who skips school whenever there’s a rainy morning. One of those days, he meets the mysterious Yukino (Hanazawa), a 27-year-old woman who shows up in this desolated green garden of Shinjuku, as they start a quiet friendship. However, even if the plot seems simple, the emotions are mature, complicated and run deep… as a grown-up, one of course questions how wrong (or legal) it would be for a 27-year-old woman to fall in love (or lead on) a 15-year-old kid, who unknowingly fell in love with someone he probably shouldn’t have.
Despite the short running time, The Garden of Words has a nice pace, and the development of the bond between these two characters never seemed rushed or forced. Through it all there’s a wonderful tension that actually makes the film for me, instead of the overblown last 3 minutes of the actual storyline.
However, the best feature is the detailed animation- not only in the gorgeous layouts impregnated by intense greens against the score to create the perfect mood for those rainy days. Looking deep into those layouts, you see each carefully designed leaf, or a perfect droplet creating ripples on the pond. There’s a sole water spider swimming away as a terrible storm starts to rage. Those details pull you in as a viewer to make you believe that you really are in the park with your characters. It almost feels forbidden to pry into their conversations. When Yukino lets Takao use her feet as a model for one he’s working on, it feels… personal.
I don’t think anyone who loves animation could regret watching this.