Have You Seen “The Garden of Words”? Anime by Makoto Shinkai of “Your Name”
In 2016 the anime “Your Name (Kimi no Na wa)” became a sensational hit not only in Japan but alsoworldwide.
We haven’t seen this level of hype involving anime in recent years.
Makoto Shinkai, the director of “Your Name” has produced other anime films in the past.
This time I would like to introduce you another one of his anime films, “The Garden of Words (Koto no Ha no Niwa)”.
Takao is a 15 year old high school student, who wishes to become a shoemaker in the future.
He loves skipping school on rainy days and working on his shoe designs in a rest area of a large park.
One day he meets a young lady Yukino, who drinks beer in the daytime while nibbling on chocolate in the rest place he frequents.
He thinks he has met her before, but when he asks she leaves the place, reciting an old Japanese poem from Man’yoshu (a collection of poetry compiled around the 8th century).
Although they do not know each other very well yet, the two of them, Takao and Yukino, start meeting and spending time together in the mornings of rainy days.
At the same time Yukino, who has been temporarily isolated from society starts feeling subtle intimacy toward Takao who adores her.
When the rainy season is about to end Takao decides to make a pair of shoes for Yukino.
The story depicts platonic love between a 15 year old that has confused feelings between the boyhood and adulthood and a 27 year old that has experienced living in the society as an adult.
It feels more common to see this kind of story staged in an unfamiliar setting; such as a foreign country by a blue ocean and white beach.
Photo by syosaiyojohan
But this story progresses in a realistic environment of Shinjuku, Tokyo in Japan.
Most of the story unfolds in Shinjuku Gyoen, a large park with a forest in the metropolis.
As the Shinjuku Gyoen is a popular tourist destination that actually exists in Shinjuku, it gives affinity to viewers and increases the reality of the story.
Photo by twitter
Billboards that appear in the background of the story offer actual products and enterprise names.
This is because the film has adopted a method of collecting fund for production by letting these products and company names appear in the story and turning the film into advertisement itself.
Because many products and corporate logos in the film are real, they further strengthen the realistic feeling of the film.
Though many scenes are of rainy landscapes, the world of the story is awash in crystal clear light.
Conversely when the hero and heroine of the story are not together, the world is predominantly filled with dull colors and the background becomes more mundane.
Existence of other characters including the main character’s elder brother mother, classmates or people surrounding the heroine is limited only to support the story to bare-minimum. The film is designed for viewers’ attention to focus exclusively on the hero and heroine.
Her statement tells us that the beautiful and colorful background that appears in the movie has been in fact a depiction of the world seen from the boy’s point of view.
It has been a world seen through a filter made by sensitive heart and romantic feeling of a 15 year old boy.
We realize that the whole film with beautiful background and few characters has been depicted from the adolescent protagonist’s perspective.
This film does not express psychological turmoil of the characters involving love by direct actions or words. Instead it takes a method of adding extraordinary colors and the element of rain to the realistic world in order to express feelings of the characters.
A similar method is later deployed in “Your Name”, too.
In a sense you can call this work a prototype of “Your Name”.