Genre: Animated, Drama, Romance
Cast: Kana Hanazawa, Miyu Irino
Synopsis: A teenage boy meets a drunk lady in the park on a rainy morning and they strike up an inappropriate relationship.
One thing I love about Japanese films is that they continue to push the boundaries of what is really “appropriate subject matter” in film. As I am sure you all know, I have a fondness for movies which I can categorise as “WTF Japan” and, thanks to director Makoto Shinkai, I now have another movie I can add. The Garden of Words is the melancholy story of a (clearly sexually confused) teenager with a foot fetish who skips school on rainy morning to go sketch shoes at Shinjuku Gyoen park. One day, he runs into a lady sat in the ark knocking back beer and pigging out on chocolate.
Freeze. Now, at this point, alarm bells would start ringing in the head of most normal people. This kid, however, is not normal and he and the lady strike up a friendship. The woman seems mild mannered enough. She’s not some kind of washed-out Las Vegas drunkard. Still, you know this lady has some problems because who the fuck goes drinking in public park at 9am on a weekday? Bitch, go to work!!! Anyway, one thing leads to another and he starts touching her feet. Cringe.
Despite the creepy and inappropriate premise, The Garden of Words is actually a sweet little film. I was surprised to find that it ran for only ran for a total of 45 minutes. It felt more substantial. Perhaps it’s because the film has a story with depth and interesting characters which help to build tension. Neither character lays all their shit immediately out in the open. Instead, their relationship grows organically and as they learn more about each other so do we. In a way, the relationship feels like a very real one. The two joke, poke fun at each other, eat together, and eventually come to rely on each other. Their true feelings shown only in poetic soliloquies as they go about their ordinary lives: riding the train, going to school, working. It’s a reserved film for the most part which is something I like. The ending is a bit cheesy, if I’m being honest, but I can overlook that.
As with Shinkai’s earlier film, 5 Centimetres per Second, The Garden of Words is exquisitely animated. The level of detail in the scenery is phenomenal. Moreover, it captures life in Tokyo as it actually looks. It was great to see Tokyo in perfectly captured in animation and, one thing is for certain, it is a city that looks spectacular in the rain. In England, the rain feels gloomy. In Tokyo, it feels lush and rejuvenating and this is mirrored in the characters’ own development. If anything, this film really made me miss Tokyo and if anyone is ever interested in going, then I recommend that you watch this film to get an idea of what’s in store i.e. women day-drinking in parks with men with very specific fetishes.
- Seriously Japan. WTF? The story is perverse.
- Intricate animation that blows competitors out of the water.
- Well-developed characters and great dialogue.
- Yummy Japanese food.
- Cheesy ending, although the scene after the credits is nice.
- Let me touch your feet on a park bench in broad daylight!
- So……is she a kiddy-fiddler?
The Garden of Words is an intriguing anime that manages to entertain with its story, characters, and animation. The characters’ relationship would be considered grossly inappropriate by most western studios and audiences (think Notes on a Scandal but without Dame Judi getting her lesbian freak on), but again it shows wonderful insight into cultural differences between Japan and the West. I’d recommend that you give it a go and, if you don’t like it, it’s only 45 minutes long so you won’t feel like you’ve lost a giant chunk of time which you will never get back.