Takao, who is training to become a shoemaker, skipped school and is sketching shoes in a Japanese-style garden. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. They deepen their relationship and open up to each other. But the end of the rainy season soon approaches.
“The Garden of Words,” originally titled “Kotonoha no Niwa” in Japanese, is a visually stunning and emotionally captivating anime drama film that made its mark in 2013. Directed, written, and edited by the renowned Makoto Shinkai, this masterpiece brings together a talented cast, evocative music, and a profound storyline. In this article, we delve into the enchanting world of “The Garden of Words.”
“The Garden of Words” revolves around the lives of two seemingly unrelated individuals: Takao Akizuki, a 15-year-old aspiring shoemaker, and Yukari Yukino, a mysterious 27-year-old woman. They serendipitously cross paths on rainy mornings at the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. While Takao chooses to skip his morning class to pursue his passion for shoemaking, Yukari finds solace in the garden, escaping from her personal struggles. A unique bond develops between them, as Takao confides in Yukari about his love for shoes, even offering to craft a special pair just for her. However, Yukari keeps her identity shrouded in mystery. As their connection deepens, they discover that they have been teaching each other a profound lesson about life’s journey.
Themes and Metaphors:
Makoto Shinkai masterfully weaves several themes into the narrative, creating a rich and resonant story. The film explores the concept of “lonely sadness,” drawing inspiration from the traditional Japanese word for “love.” It employs shoes as a powerful metaphor for life’s intricate paths and choices. The story is interwoven with motifs such as rain, Man’yōshū poetry, and the symbolism of the Japanese garden. Shinkai artfully portrays the complexities of human maturity, where even adults sometimes find themselves navigating life’s challenges with the same uncertainty as teenagers.
Release and Reception:
“The Garden of Words” had a unique release schedule, premiering at the Gold Coast Film Festival in Australia on April 28, 2013, before its general release in Japan on May 31, 2013. Additionally, the film was accompanied by an animated short titled “Dareka no Manazashi,” also directed by Shinkai, for its Japanese premiere. Interestingly, the film was digitally released on iTunes the same day as its Japanese theatrical premiere. Furthermore, its DVD and Blu-ray editions became available while the film was still in theaters, on June 21.
The film received widespread acclaim, both in Japan and internationally. It garnered positive reviews from online audiences and was especially lauded for its breathtaking artistry. While opinions varied regarding the story’s length and emotional climax, the film’s visuals left an indelible mark. “The Garden of Words” achieved considerable success on iTunes Store in 2013 and was honored as the Year’s Best Animation in iTunes’ Best of 2013.
Awards and Recognition:
“The Garden of Words” received well-deserved accolades, including the 2013 Kobe Theatrical Film Award and recognition at esteemed film festivals like the Fantasia International Film Festival and the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film. Its enduring popularity led to its licensing by Sentai Filmworks in North America, Anime Limited in the UK, and Madman Entertainment in Australia.
“The Garden of Words” is a testament to Makoto Shinkai’s storytelling prowess and his ability to create visually striking and emotionally resonant narratives. Through its exploration of human connections, personal struggles, and the beauty of shared moments, this anime film continues to captivate audiences worldwide, solidifying its place as a timeless classic in the realm of animation.