After receiving the beating that was Children Who Chase Lost Voices, director Makoto Shinkai softly rubbed my head and whispered “It’s going to be all right” in my ear as he handed me a copy of Garden of Words on Bluray. I looked at him with my scared little eyes, trying to telepathically transmit the message of “but it still hurts” directly into his brain, but he just smiled and walked out of the room. I was left sitting alone with Garden of Words just laying on the bedside table and, after drinking a big glass of cold water and taking the deepest breath I had ever taken, I popped it in and sat down.
Garden of Words is a worthy apology. Shinkai tones it down, doing his best to make this story feel less grandiose compared to Children Who Chase Lost Voices. Which is a good thing, because experience tells me that he doesn’t do well with such big stories. Here, Garden of Words just gives us the simple story of two people growing closer. Less-than-hidden is also the story of how much Shinkai might like feet.
Every rainy day, Takao Akizuki throws his chin up at first period and hangs out in the park where he can draw feet in silence. He says he wants to design shoes but I don’t know, man. One rainy day, though, he heads over to Feet Park to get to work, but sees an older woman sitting at his usually spot. This surprises him for all of 4 seconds before he sits down and starts drawing. He even gets some extra inspiration as he takes a couple glances at her feet.
The story takes place over the course of 4 summer months. Every rainy day, the two sit in the same place in the park, eventually starting up conversations and growing closer. Names are never exchanged. Ages are never exchanged. Nothing matters except for conversation. Also on the list are chocolate and beer, which the woman (named Yukari Yukino) seems to enjoy quite a bit. There is some conflict in the second half of the story, and there’s a point when Mother Nature messes with them by taking away the one thing that brought them together (it’s rain). With no rain, the two have no excuse to go to the park. They really like rain.
There are times when Shinkai seems to get a little too into it, with sweeping camera movements over a building score. At one point, the camera flies behind a bird who is just chillin’ in the sky over the city. But those moments don’t happen often, and even when they did they didn’t last long. Nothing fantastic happens in the story, which is just the way I wanted it. The artwork is all shiny (literally) and beautiful, and the score is mostly soft and sweet. The two main characters are also very well-realized, and there’s a clean switch between the two of them to narrate the story. When it was over, I texted Shinkai a little smiley-face and said “thx bb” and looked up pictures of feet on the internet.
If anything I’ve said sounds okay to you, then this is worth looking at. A small warning: Makoto Shinkai enjoys some melodrama and, while it may not be at the levels of 5 Centimeters Per Second, a closed heart should probably not watch this movie.
9 heads of lettuce out of 10!
Note: I don’t know who the Best Boy was because I COULDN’T READ THE CREDITS D: