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Anime / The Garden of Words

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We have met, for each of us to walk forward.

Released in May 2013, The Garden of Words is the fifth film Makoto Shinkai has directed. The film follows Takao Akizuki, a fifteen-year-old student aspiring to be a shoemaker. On rainy days, Takao skips his morning classes and spends his time in Shinjuku Gyoen, a Japanese-style garden. During one of his excursions, he encounters Yukari Yukino, a twenty-seven year old woman. As the two encounter each other more frequently, they gradually open up to one another and confide in one another their problems, finding comfort in the other's presence in spite of their age differences.

The Garden of Words marks a return to the style Shinkai employed in 5 Centimeters per Second, illustrating how factors such as age may contribute to separation and the loneliness that individuals may experience in their lives. The soundtrack is composed by Daisuke Kashiwa.

A manga adaptation written by Shinkai with art by Midori Motohashi was released in 2013, with English release by Vertical in October 2014. A novelisation also by Shinkai was initially released serially in September 2013 to April 2014 in Da Vinci magazine and published as a whole in April 2014. Its English release by Yen Press was in August 2020.

The Garden of Words provides examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction: Takao's friend Sato, considers the school administration to be worse than Aizawa for not doing anything to help Yukino.
  • Adults Are Useless: The adults present in the film do very little to assist Takao; his mother is an oft-absent ditz prone to chasing romances rather than contributing to household finances, while his brother is well meaning but somewhat condescending, moving out halfway through the film. Despite her age, Yukari does not fit in with the adult world, finding herself unable to solve her own problems, and her coworkers did nothing about the rumors that forced her out of the school.
  • Airplane of Love: Near the end, as Takao thinks about Yukari, an airplane flies over the school rooftop he and his friends are on.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Takao is an all-round Nice Guy who sympathize well with Yukino and even when he becomes aware that she's a literature teacher at his school, he's willing to stand up for her when he confronts Aizawa who spread malicious rumors about Yukino so students will bully her and slaps her for her mistreatment and get involved in a fight between himself and her friends.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Despite Takao and Yukari's time together allowing them to inspire one another and provide the other with an emotional outlet, the two eventually go their separate ways. Yukari moves back to her hometown in a southern part of Japan, and Takao continues to follow his dreams of becoming a shoemaker, resolving to see her again in the future.
  • Blatant Lies: Yukari states that she's meeting an old woman in the park when one of her former colleagues inquires about what she's doing.
  • Caught in the Rain: Takao and Yukari only meet when it rains; after several weeks, the two run into one another underneath a gazebo at the garden, and a storm picks up, prompting the two to return to Yukari's apartment.
  • Comfort Food: Because she has a taste disorder, Yukari binges on beer and chocolate, the two foodstuffs she can taste. However, after she begins meeting with Takao, her taste gradually returns, and her diet diversifies beyond these items.
  • Cooldown Hug: Yukino embraces Takao at the film's climax (the first contact they make in the film), stopping the latter's "The Reason You Suck" Speech and tearfully thanks him for helping her learn to walk again in the darkest time of her life.
  • Cue the Sun: A momentary break in the storm allows sunshine to illuminate Takao and Yukari after the former finishes venting his frustrations to her outside her apartment. The sunlight falling unto Yukari's face mirrors her finally opening up to Takao.
  • Empathic Environment: The weather directly mirrors the mood within the story. Takao and Yukari spend gently sprinkling mornings peacefully together. When he takes her measurements to make her shoes, the rain is distinctly more scattered as light breaks through. Later, a storm rages on outside as the two come to terms with their emotions, and golden sunbeams are cast upon them after the two reconcile at the film's climax.
  • Evil Is Petty: Aiwaza effectively forced Yukino to leave her job... just because Aizawa's boyfriend said she was hot.
  • False Camera Effects: Raindrops dot the camera in a handful of scenes to enhance the sense of immersion.
  • Flyaway Shot: The camera pans up from the park into the sky before the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Yukari's hair has a slight green tint to it here, but she is shown to have black hair during her appearance in Your Name.
  • Happy Rain: Takao and Yukari enjoy rainy days more than sunny days and only meet when it rains.
  • Hate Sink: Unlike earlier films, Aizawa is the first character written by Shinkai to have no redeemable traits and entirely for audiences to loath as she spreads gossip to get most students to bully Yukari just because she was interacting with her boyfriend.
  • Internal Homage: After Takao learns the truth behind Yukari's identity and gets into a fight with some seniors, he is seen disembarking from a train and walking to Shinjuku Gyoen in the same manner that he did at the film's beginning, save a few bandages.
  • I Will Find You: Takao resolves to find Yukari once more after the credits finish rolling.
  • Karma Houdini: Aizawa and her gang of friends manage to escape the repercussions of spreading rumors about Yukari, getting away with it because their school regarded its reputation as more important than the well-being of one of their teachers. They go unpunished even after Takao gets into a fight with them, although the real damage had already been done by that point.
  • Leaving You to Find Myself: After the events at the film's climax, Yukari and Takao have gone their separate ways and begin pursuing their own dreams and aspirations.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Save the ending song, the soundtrack is composed entirely of melancholy piano songs that speak of loneliness.
  • Love Confession: From Takao to Yukari. It proves to be something of a breaking point in their time together as she can't legally or ethically reciprocate, and her indirect rejection makes Takao reconsider his feelings.
  • Maybe Ever After: The epilogue presents Takao and Yukari's fate ambiguously: despite being on good terms with one another, they are separated. Even though Takao resolves to see her again after they've matured further, whether or not Takao will go about doing so, and its outcomes, are left to the viewer's imagination. The Light Novel adaption epilogue of the film has a 20 years old Takao meeting up with Yukari at the Shinjyuku Gyoen park where everything started.
  • Opposites Attract: Takao is a wistful teenager who falls in love with the excitement and the mystery in Yukari's maturity, whereas Yukari is a burnt-out adult who is inspired by Takao's childlike passion.
  • Precision F-Strike: In the English dub, when Takao confronts Aizawa over what she did to Yukino, her boyfriend punches him out and at one point asks him "What the fuck is your problem?" This is the only F-bomb dropped in the movie.
  • Product Placement: Fila and Ginza Diana, two apparel brands depicted in the anime, are real. Fila is a sportswear manufacturer and Ginza Diana is a shoe company that advises their customers not to wear their shoes in the rain. Few shots with Neutrogena skin creams are present, drawn in great detail - and deliberately misspelled to avoid this trope.
  • Race for Your Love: In the climax Yukari races down the stairwell to catch Takao on his way out.
  • Real-Place Background: The garden where Takao and Yukari meet is Shinjuku Gyoen, a park located in the Shinjuku and Shibuya districts of Tokyo.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Takao delivers one to Yukari at the film's climax, citing her cowardice, incapacity to speak for herself, and how she had taken advantage of a student to assuage her own troubles.
  • The Reveal: While initially appearing as a mysterious older woman, Yukari is in fact a former literature teacher at Takao's school who left in psychological shambles due to false rumors about a relationship with a student.
  • Scenery Porn: In keeping with Makoto Shinkai's style, The Garden of Words features incredibly vivid and detailed settings, making use of the weather and lighting to accentuate the gardens, cityscape and even the interior shots.
  • Shout-Out: Much like Children Who Chase Lost Voices, fridge magnets patterned on Chobi from Shinkai's She and Her Cat are briefly shown in Takeo's home.
  • Slave to PR: The school principal and administration let Yukino suffer instead of doing something to deal with the rumors, just to preserve the school's reputation.
  • The Stinger: A scene after the credits shows Takao at the meeting place in the park at winter, leaving a pair of new shoes and a letter for Yukari.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • Takao initially sees Yukari as an interesting individual who lives in a more mature and adventurous world than his own. Even after discovering that she's a teacher at his school, his feelings do not wane.
    • Yukari was accused of having a relation with a student prior to the events in movie. The amount of shame and bullying she has to endure for the rumors leads to the depression and melancholy state she is in when the film starts.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Yukari gives a distant, willful response that she is to be referred to as "Miss Yukino" (sensei in Japanese, a title that invokes superior social rank and being a teacher) following Takao's declaration of love with the intent of reaffirming that there is a professional distance between them.
  • Time-Compression Montage: Ten minutes into the film, there is a montage of key shots showing Takao during the rainy season at school, working on his shoes, and meeting Yukari at the park.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Takao initially assumes that because of Yukari's capacity to skip work so frequently, her job must be a reasonably secure one. In fact, she's on paid academic leave pending formal resignation.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Because Takao only skips school on rainy days, he only spends time with Yukari during downpours; they sit together beneath a tiny shelter in the park, a sanctuary from the rest of world. Takao and Yukari rapidly come to enjoy their time together and begin praying for rain every morning and every night.
  • Westminster Chimes: The September chapter starts with a scene at school where the Big Ben sound can be heard in the background.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Right before the closing credits Takao details what he did after the summer had ended.
  • With Friends Like These...: Sōichirō Ito is Yukari's friend and co-worker, but does nothing to help her apart from assisting with her resignation after the damage has been done, something Yukari bitterly lampshades.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Takao slaps Aizawa after the latter gloats about getting Yukari kicked out of school. Her boyfriend is right there and much larger, so Takao immediately takes a beating.