The Garden of Words (known in Japan as Kotonoha no Niwa) is a short animated film brought to us by critically acclaimed director Makoto Shinka (best known for 5 Centimetres per Second and Journey to Agartha.) The movie’s star is a fifteen-year-old high school student named Takao Akizuki who likes to skive from class during rainy days. On said showery dates Takao can be found loitering at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens where he spends his time sketching the footwear of the park’s many visitors. Is our teen protagonist suffering from a case of podophilia? Nah. He’s just an aspiring shoemaker who likes to admire the different types of shoes people wear.
During one of Takao’s park loitering sessions he stumbles across a fellow hooky named Yukari Yukino, who is skipping work to enjoy some early morning beers and chocolate. Even though an alcoholic, who is also a chocoholic, doesn’t sound like the most stable person you’ll ever meet, the pair ends up striking up a friendship culminating in regular meetings at the gardens, whenever the weather demands the use of a brolly. Takao is smitten with his new acquaintance, so much so that he offers to make her some new shoes, but can their relationship grow beyond being just chums? There’s quite an age gap between the two (Yukari is in her mid-twenties) and there’s no telling how Takao will react when he eventually discovers the harrowing reason why his love interest is avoiding work.
UK anime fans can presently buy The Garden of Words on DVD or Blu-ray courtesy of fledgling distributor All the Anime. At the time of writing the DVD version is retailing for £12.29 whilst the Blu-ray will set you back £17.45 (prices taken from the Amazon website.) Given that the feature’s visuals are drop dead gorgeous, I wouldn’t blame anyone for coughing up the extra dough to get the Blu-ray transfer in order to fully appreciate the movie’s sublime artwork. The attention to detail is simply exemplary. The animation of the characters is extremely life like, the backdrops based on the actual Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens are beautifully picturesque and the water effects are also impressive. Rain droplets and ripples on puddles are not always easy to bring to life with CG software, but the folks at CoMix Wave Films have managed to pull it off.
So what is my final rating? As a reviewer I feel pressured to give it five stars, as the movie is so well composed. The tight script is free of filler making every scene eventful as well as emotional. From the point of view of a consumer however I would have to give the whole package four stars. The running time is a mere forty-five minutes, which will leave you wanting for more. Also, however well crafted the movie is, the story itself is just a straightforward tale of a young man falling in love for the first time. It’s the type of movie that gets rave reviews at a film festival, but I imagine most viewers won’t re-watch it enough times to justify a home purchase. As an example of the high standards anime can attain its still worth checking out though. Anyone who buys the DVD will at least be pleased to learn that, in compensation for the meagre running time, you get substantial extras in the form of interviews, storyboards and commentaries.