“A faint clap of thunder, clouded skies. Perhaps rain will come. If so, will you stay here with me?”
From renowned director Makoto Shinkai comes Kotonoha no Niwa, a 2013 anime drama film starring Irino Miyu and Hanazawa Kana. Also known as The Garden of Words, the film is a product of CoMix Wave Films. Additionally, this anime movie acquired a manga adaptation with illustrations by Motohashi Midori.
During rainy mornings, 15-year-old shoemaker Takao Akizuki visits the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. There, he meets the mysterious 27-year-old woman Yukari Yukino. The pair has personal reasons as to why they regularly come to the garden. Takao skips his morning classes to design shoes and Yukino avoids work due to personal problems. While Takao freely opens up about his life, Yukino tells him nothing about herself. When Takao finally learns about her identity, a rush of strange emotions flares between the pair.
The Makings of a Masterpiece
Makoto Shinkai’s works are worthy of praise, and Kotonoha no Niwa is no exception. With a famous landmark as the main setting, the famed director certainly does justice to the film’s art. But, of course, there are other aspects to this movie which make it unique.
Make no mistake, Makoto Shinkai’s films features art worthy of universal praise. With the dominant use of CGI in the anime industry, Shinkai’s works boast the unique appeal of hand-drawn animations. The art style is Kotonoha no Niwa‘s crowning glory, what with the superb details on the environment. Down to the smallest of details, Makoto Shinkai illustrated Kotonoha no Niwa in such a profound and vivid manner.
Makoto Shinkai certainly took to great lengths in adding depth to the film. The movie is more than just its beautiful art or enticing soundtracks. Hidden beneath these are metaphors and symbols that form the raw base of the film. According to Shinkai, the film focuses on the ‘traditional’ aspect of love which in this case is the word koi that translates to “lonely sadness” in Kanji. Kotonoha no Niwa emphasizes the word’s original meaning: a longing for someone in solitude. Another noteworthy symbol is the rain, which Shinkai relates to the uncontrollable aspect of love. Lastly, the shoes symbolize how Yukari learns to “walk” again on the path of life.
Paired with beautiful art, it’s only fitting for the film to feature enticing music. The ending song Rain by Hata Motohiro perfectly portrays the underlying loneliness and anxiety of a teenage boy, much like the primary emotions of Takao in the film. Daisuke Kashiwa’s compositions also helped to develop the melancholy theme of the film.
Alas, no masterpiece is ever perfect. Despite its grandiose art and deep meanings, there are still minor flaws in the film.
Kotonoha no Niwa received overwhelmingly positive reviews during its release although some audiences expressed their concerns regarding the emotional climax of the movie. While the plot has its outstanding depth, most people would find the film a bit lacking in story uniqueness. The plot seems to lack a lasting effect that usually accompanies drama films long after the viewers have watched it.
Makoto Shinkai once declared that he preferred creating short movies. This is evident in his earlier film 5 Centimeters per Second, and it seems Kotonoha no Niwa was created the same way. Lasting only 46 minutes, a majority of the audience had mixed opinions on this aspect.
To sum everything up, Kotonoha no Niwa is indeed a gorgeous film. It appeals to viewers who are looking for more than just pretty art and dynamic characters since it touches more on an emotional and psychological level. The film portrays the garden as a refuge for those seeking to escape the chains of reality. Although the ending is a bit clichéd, the movie is still ground-breaking in its depictions of the pain and pleasure that love brings. I definitely recommend you to watch Kotonoha no Niwa at least twice. One for the first-time experience of Makoto Shinkai’s prowess and another just to soak in the beauty of the film’s art and music.
“A faint clap of thunder. Even if rain comes not, I will stay here. Together with you.”