The Garden of Words
Anime can be a funny thing. The animation is both stuttered and gorgeous. The stories are convoluted or simple. The voice work can be suspect -- both in the original Japanese or English dubbed. With acclaimed filmmaker Makoto Shinkai's latest work, we have a little of all of this.
Known for epic emotional stories with a Sci-Fi bent ("Children Who Chase Lost Voices," "Voices of a Distant Star") Shinkai scales back both in scope and running time in "Garden of Words." At 48 minutes, this is more or less an extended short about a fifteen-year-old high school student named Takao (voice by Miyu Irino), who dreams of becoming a shoemaker. Because he enjoys the rain, he skips class every time there's a shower and goes to a garden to sketch his shoes. There he meets Yukino (voice by Kana Hanazawa), a woman a bit older than himself, who eats chocolate and drinks beer. The two become friends, and potentially more, until a secret is revealed that changes everything.
The film is gorgeous in its depiction of the garden and the city in the rain. There is tenderness to how Shinkai places his focus, almost Terence Malick-like in his insistence at showing a leaf being rained on rather than solely focus on the characters. Ultimately, the story veers into high melodrama with a last minute emotional revelation that borders on histrionics. Fans of anime might like it, and Shinkai is supremely talented, but it will take an earnest person not to chuckle at its sheer audacity.
The Blu-ray comes with:
"Garden of Words"