Ripples across a lake, from the drip-drop of a familiar rain, a shower that compels 15-year-old Akizuki to skip school and lounge at a garden instead. It’s on a rainy day when he spots an older woman, drinking beer, while bars of white chocolates lay around the garden bench they are on.
“Have we met before?” Akizuki wonders out loud, intrigued by the woman and her odd love for cold-beer and chocolate in the mornings.
‘No,’ she promptly responds. She goes back to her beer, while Akizuki gets busy doodling on his notebook. However, the two soon strike an unlikely friendship, meeting often in the same garden, whenever there is a downpour. Because Akizuki cuts classes only on rainy days.
Directed and written by Makoto Shinkai, the 2013 film ‘Garden of Words’ is just 46-minutes long and like a soothing dessert for animation enthusiasts. A simple tale of a bond that develops between two lonely souls in a bustling Japanese city. They are united in their solitariness, but divided by an age gap that keeps their world miles apart outside the garden.
It’s thanks to this film that I learnt a new style of Japanese poetry called “Tanka”, which is quite similar to the popular “Haiku” form of poetry. The ‘Tanka’ form originated in the 7th century and has a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. It was apparently very popular among the nobles in the Japanese Imperial court.
In ‘Garden of Words’, the older woman recites a Tanka poem to Akizuki on the first day they meet, as if dropping a hint to who she is. But will Akizuki ever find out her identity? That forms rest of the plot of this gorgeous little film. It’s short and sweet, just like a Tanka poem. The two protagonists rub off on each other, motivating the other to carry on, without realizing that the effect is mutual. Sunny days become dreary for the two, because they don’t get to meet when the clouds are clear.
Director Makoto Shinkai makes the viewer ponder on the fluidity of relationships and how they can transcend the superficial barriers society sets for two people to form a bond with each other. The film is poignant and has a climax which ties the story neatly, bending to a narrative that wouldn’t stir up any controversy, but it’s the conventional ending that makes Akizuki’s story more realistic and believable. It’s a 9/10 from me.
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