Aside from Your Name, the Mokoto Shinkai film I have heard the most praise for is The Garden of Words.
And, with me quickly becoming a Shinkai fan after loving both Your Name and his most recent film, Weathering With You, I knew I had to check it out.
Now, when I started watching, I was surprised at the short runtime the film, which is only 46 minutes, but my concern about this quickly faded with the first few shots of the film.
It was at this moment when my jaw hit the literal floor.
I know that I, and many others, have said way too much that the animation of Shinkai’s films are jaw dropping but, honestly, that statement is entirely warranted when it comes to The Garden of Words.
I would go as for to say that this film is not just Shinkai’s most beautifully animated film but one of the most beautifully animated films I have ever seen.
It is so amazing that I actually mistook a shot of a branch hanging over the water to be real initially.
But enough gushing about the animation; what about the story?
Well, it could have been very easy for The Garden of Words to stumble with this.
The anime follows a 15-year-old student named Takao Akizuki (Wataru Sekine) who meets a 27-year-old teacher named Yukari Yukino (Kana Hanazawa) at a lakeside garden in the rain.
The two begin to meet in the same place whenever it rains and Takao soon begins to develop feelings for Yukari.
This could easily have made the film weird for me.
If you read my review of Violet Evergarden, you know the only problem I had was that the relationship between the titular character and her love interest, Gilbert was pretty problematic due to the fact that Violet is only 14, and Gilbert is 29.
I could have easily had the same problem with The Garden of Words, considering that Takao is both a year older than Violet and also that Yukari is a teacher at his school.
Thankfully, though, I did not find the depiction of Takao’s feelings for Yukari to be problematic because Shinkai depicted them as that, problematic.
The problems of the connection the two have is perfectly portrayed by Yukari’s sad past, which should leave those watching who support a romance between the two knowing that if that did happen it would make trouble for both of them.
As a result, The Garden of Words depicts a somewhat tragic romance story that fully realizes and plays into its complicated nature.
Coming back to the short runtime of the film, I think it would be interesting to see what the anime would be like if it had been longer.
It works fine as it is but I feel like I could have related to the characters and their struggles more if Shinkai had extended the runtime a bit more and given us more scenes between the two.
Still, The Garden of Words is another great Shinkai film, and one with such a focus on feet that it made me feel like I watching a Tarantino movie… only, you know, without the bloody violence.
And, while I do not find it as enjoyable or moving as Your Name or Weathering With You, its animation is absolutely spectacular.
If you like to analyse the standards of animation you need to watch The Garden of Words because (even though this has been said to death by this point) your jaw will hit the floor.