Garden of Words Review
Bittersweet romance, loneliness, distance – Makoto Shinkai is always known for such reoccurring themes in his films. When one talks about Makoto Shinkai, he will most probably be reminded of some of his previous films like Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, Voices of A Distant Star and most notably, 5 Centimeters per Second.
Garden of Words, his latest film, depict a pair of couples – a young high school student, an aspiring shoemaker: Takao Akizuki, and a young female adult: Yukari Yukino. Both of them met on a rainy day, and while being complete strangers, they feel oddly drawn to each other, bonded by the rainy days which the two of them were so fond of.
Garden of Words possessed a similarity that align itself more with 5 Centimeters per Second, in that both of these films feature realistic slice-of-life settings, as compared to his older works like Voices of A Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days with a more fantastical and sci-fi appeal. Indeed, likewise with 5 Centimeters per Second, Garden of Words is simplistic. In contrast to it’s title – Garden of Words, not many words were exchanged, especially in Takao and Yukino’s case. Both the sound of falling raindrops and the thudding of shoes are the main source of invisible communication. Stories were progressed through minimal to no dialogues at all, it’s as if we are watching a silent film.
Beneath the non-wordy approach however, dozens of underlying themes and symbolism lie under the surface. Both the shoes and rain speak a thousand words, much more than any witty dialogues would be capable of. The film is about the life of a child and an adult, the difference of the worlds between the two, the connection between the two, and finally, the bonds forged through silent contemplation and admiration.
Real photographing techniques had been employed in Garden of Words, like the depth of backgrounds, composition, rules of thirds, angle, lighting and lens flare, and so on. Using such techniques, story is told in such indirect and vague manners. For example, the constant zooming in and panning around the feet or shoes, using lighting, shadows and even blurs to create a focus on a particular subject, and unique angles that play with perspectives – it all creatively provides a visual narrative rather than a straightforward one.
Likewise with 5 Centimeters per Second, Garden of Word’s animation is tight and brisk. Paired up with the anime film’s lush backgrounds and photographic appeal, it makes the characters almost alive. Makoto Shinkai had always been known to give exceptional focus on the visuals side, and it certainly pays off.
Although Makoto Shinkai had enjoyed a long collaboration with music composer, Tenmon, the music in Garden of Words was composed by Daisuke Kashiwa instead, however, the music he made for Garden of Words does not degrade the film’s overall quality either. The soft background music helps reinforced the almost magical and fairy-tale like ambiance throughout the anime. A single piece of unaccompanied piano melody, with sounds of raindrops in the background is of notable example. In fact, a majority of the tracks are mostly unaccompanied piano pieces, which fits well with the anime film’s atmospheric simplicity. Although violins and strings are also commonly used instruments in the soundtracks.
Garden of Words tells a story not through words, but pictures. It is a bittersweet short romance story filled with beautiful visuals and undertones – It’s as if Makoto Shinkai is transforming the whole anime film into a massive, aesthetic poem. Garden of Words is an incredibly beautiful film and is definitely worth watching.