Movie Review : Kotonoha no Niwa (Garden of Words)

kotonoha1We have met, for each of us to walk forward.

Takao, who is training to become a shoemaker, skipped school and is sketching shoes in a Japanese-style garden. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. They deepen their relationship and open up to each other. But the end of the rainy season soon approaches…
(Source: Comix Wave/myanimelist)

To be honest, I was afraid that I won’t like this as much as I want to. Makoto Shinkai’s previous gem 5 cm per second didn’t really satisfy my expectation. Sure, it’s so pretty and beautiful, but there’s a pretty huge emotional disconnect between me and that movie, probably due to Shinkai’s overly-implicit style of narrative and the fact that at that moment I haven’t really understand the hardship of committing a long distance relationship. Furthermore, I was still very newbie at drama animu, so probably it’s just me that can’t really catch the message that Shinkai want to tell for me.

However, this time Shinkai improved a lot compared to my last impression of him. He keep his lovely style, but now with improved focus on direction and symbolism ability. Also, dat artwork… Wait, have I told you about DAT ARTWORK? DAT SCENERY PRON??? Dang, I can’t find any word that can represent how impressed I was when I saw the visual of this 45 minute movie, so let me get right to the review starting with art section :

ART : SHINKAI/10

Here is a quote from Guardian Enzo of Random Curiosity that probably could represent my impression (since I’m lazy and can’t find the exact words lol) :

When it comes to the visual side of anime – or animation – there’s Shinkai Makoto, and everyone else. Two different categories, period.

Yes, visual of Kotonoha of Niwa is THAT good. Someone already said that “a single picture could represents thousand of words”, so just take a look at some screenshots below:

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One interesting thing about Shinkai’s art at Kotonoha no Niwa is his visual interpretation of rain.

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Rain usually casts a pallete of grim colors and darker ambience, usually used to emphasize a strong element of gloom and drama. However, this is where Kotonoha no Niwa shines. Shinkai’s ability at creating wonderful sceneries of trains and sky probably didn’t need any more additional remarks, but Shinkai’s visualization of Rain is something else.

Here is the recipe : Combine rain with lush green from the nature. And you got this:

kotonoha11 kotonoha12

Probably someone could discuss about this effect better than I could, so if you’re curious just watch the damn movie :p. I have no idea what to say anymore since the rest of visuals are very good and there’s literally nothing to nitpick at.

STORY : 8/10

A 45 minute limitation bring some challenges for Shinkai: Could he tell a good story within that relatively short timeframe?

The good thing is : he picked a good story for that time horizon. Simple romance story is always a good option for a story that you have to tell in a limited timeframe, and he executed it with a pretty good execution.

Sure, some things should be noted before you watch the show. First, be aware of visual clues. There are a lot of little details (e.g. notice what the main heroine drank at day one to the last day) and symbolization (e.g. notice the usage of ladder and shoes in the final emotional scene of the show) that could enchance your watching experience. Second, remember that Shinkai used a lot of implicit messages, so it’s probably a good idea to watch the movie one more time (one more chance, lol) to saw what you missed at the first playthrough.

kotonoha4

Not a perfect drama, but still very good nonetheless…

However, Shinkai isn’t as implicit as he was in 5 cm per second, message of Kotonoha no Niwa is easier to catch, and it’s relatively more positive than most of his previous works, so rest assured that you could enjoy this movie much easier.

The only flaw for me probably is the flow of last 15 minutes of the movie (which is few minutes too fast for my taste), but it’s just a small nitpick. In the end, it didn’t really tell a grand story, but good enough to accompany the amazing visual that this show offers.

CHARACTERS : 8.5/10

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A teenage, chasing dreams and adulthood…

Akazuki Takao is the main protagonist, who also brings a lot of monologue that set the initial atmosphere and mindset for the show. To be honest I could relate with him deeply, since we are fellow idealist youngest child (with a pretty huge age gap) who also share the same young sentiment to reach adulthood as fast as possible while staying true to our childhood dream (I would love to warn him that become adult is a trap, though). Well, the biggest difference is that he met with a lovely 27 years old voiced by Kana Hanazawa, so I guess he’s much more lucky than me :p.

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On the other hand…

Well, that Kana-san voiced “office girl” is Yukino Yukari, and telling too much about her right now would be a spoiler. It’s harder to connect with her personality since she’s pretty mysterious at first, but few monologues which are voiced by her will help a lot. Of course, you will have to wait until the last parts of the movie to understand her better. She and Takao are the only vital characters of this show, and that’s a good news for a 45 minute show.

SOUND : 8/10

There’s nothing really remarkable for music for me, but I don’t really pay attention at the music unless it’s really bad/not fitting so I think I won’t talk too much about it. However, the voice is really remarkable. Kana Hanazawa is as lovely as always, and Irino Miyu’s performance is very brilliant. I would love to see to see they performing together again as a couple, probably in a longer time period since 45 minute is pretty short.

As for OST, it’s a decent song and emphasize a more positive atmosphere for Shinkai’s show. Also, it grows, so I guess it’s a good feat.

Overall : 9/10
Polarization : (-1.5/+0.5)

Kotonoha no Niwa’s story probably is not for everyone, but many liked it and I’m positive that it will not distract your experience of the show, especially since the visual alone is worthy for your 45 minute of life. It told a lot of beauty in a form of visually gorgeous and poetry-like presentation, and you don’t have to afraid that it will leave a bitter (arguably also a good) taste such as many have experienced in Shinkai’s previous movies. So, what’s stopping you from watching this art piece?

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also… DAT LEGS

Edit : I recommend anyone who have watched the movie to read this post in myanimelist, since this post contains a lot of information about Kotonoha no Niwa, especially deeper analysis of symbolism, plot and many behind the scenes commentary 😀

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