Just watched Makoto Shinkai’s new film “The Garden of Words”.
It’s about a 15 year old highschool student named Takao who dreams of becoming a show designer/maker. His head is in the clouds most of the time it seems and one day he decides to skip school to sketch in a beautiful garden while it rains.
At this garden he meets a lonely older (not old, just older) woman named Yukino who goes there to drink beer and eat chocolate.
The two strike up a friendship and continue meeting there on days it rains. The rainy season is coming to a close though and much has still been left unsaid and undone.
I’ve read some people baffled as to why the garden is such an important fixture to their friendship and why can’t they just keep seeing each other? Why is it so fatal to this new found friendship that the rainy season is ending?
If you’re unfamiliar with Shinkai’s work then it’s worth mentioning he’s a very emotional and ponderous director, if his characters gain a spiritual or emotional connection to something, logic is no longer of importance. He’s more concerned with feelings and emotions than weaving a flawlessly cohesive storyline.
Their age difference isn’t like Harold and Maude but there is a noticeable age difference between them and we all know how society thinks of older women hanging around teenage boys. Although “behind closed doors” the Japanese are far from uptight, in public, there’s a certain acceptability the majority try to fall into and they seem much quicker to judge behaviour deemed shameful.
The opinion shared by most is that older men hanging around teenage girls looks creepy, older women hanging around teenage boys makes them look pathetic and sad.
By continuing an almost unspoken agreement that they’ll only meet there, in the garden on rainy days they can continue to spend time together and talk without their behaviour looking suspicious or unusual. As far as bystanders are concerned, they’re just two people caught in the rain, sitting together until it passes so they don’t get wet. That’s what they can keep telling themselves as well.
When the rainy season begins to end, how do you go about continuing something so simple and magical without feeling like you’re doing something wrong? Especially when neither of them really know’s the other very well. They just enjoy each other’s company.
They formed a bond in this place so yes, it holds sentimental value but it’s also about being able to enjoy something simple, innocent and special without anyone thinking much of it, including themselves.
The Garden of Words is only 48 minutes long but about 4 are dedicated to the closing credits (there’s a little post-credit scene, so don’t shut it off), so those who are unfamiliar with Shinkai’s work would be very quick to ask “why should I even bother?”. Those who ARE familiar with his work will know exactly why you should bother. He packs more into one of his short films than many others can put into a full length feature film.
I must admit though, I do wish it was another 15-20 minutes longer but that’s only because I was enjoying it so much.