The Korea Herald


Makoto Shinkai’s latest work arrives in Seoul

‘The Garden of Words’ a touching tale of growing up and moving on

By Claire Lee

Published : Aug. 6, 2013 - 20:25

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A scene from “The Garden of Words.” (A-ONE Entertainment) A scene from “The Garden of Words.” (A-ONE Entertainment)
Japanese anime director Makoto Shinkai has a solid fan base in Korea, with his previous works “Voices of a Distant Star” and “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” well received by anime lovers here.

To their delight, Shinkai’s latest film is hitting local theaters this week. Titled “The Garden of Words,” the 46-minute film premiered in Korea during last month’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. Tickets for its screening sold out during the festival, and it received positive reviews from both critics and the audience.

Noted for its stunning visual imagery, the film depicts an unusual romance between a 15-year-old boy and a 27-year-old woman.

It begins as Takao, a high school student, runs into a well-dressed woman in her 20s while skipping his first class at a garden near his school. 
Makoto Shinkai. ( Yonhap News) Makoto Shinkai. ( Yonhap News)

The teen dreams of becoming a shoemaker, though his family does not take his goal seriously. Takao is so preoccupied with shoemaking that he rarely pays attention to things that have little to do with his goals. During the summer break, he gets a full-time job as a waiter in a restaurant so he can earn enough money to buy the right shoemaking equipment, leather and the related books. Yet he somehow is drawn to the woman he runs into at the garden, who happens to be drinking beer with chocolates in the early morning drizzle.

The plot of the movie develops as the two continue to encounter each other at the garden on rainy mornings, and Takao offers to make a pair of shoes for the woman ― after she shows interest in his sketches.

The film is a touching tale of growing up and moving on, about two people who ultimately learn about themselves in a short, unlikely relationship.

While Takao is a talented young man who is too preoccupied with his goals and interests ― he is certainly capable of becoming what he wants to become ― he chooses to remain in his shell. For someone who is only 15, he is a little too independent. Thanks to his rather irresponsible, melodramatic mother, he knows how to cook decent meals and make practical life plans on his own ― and act accordingly.

The woman, on the other hand, feels rather stuck. Although she has an established career and her own apartment, she feels she “hasn’t gotten any better” than when she was 15. She is going through a deep personal crisis, yet is too afraid to get herself out of the situation and move on. Her solution is to wander around on rainy days and sip beer and eat chocolates outdoors.

The rainy morning encounters bring changes to the lives of the two, and they unexpectedly discover what they did not know about themselves. The film’s ending is both plausible and hopeful, complementing Shinkai’s lyrical, poetic use of images of the rain, sunlight and the urban surroundings.

“The Garden of Words” opens in theaters on Aug. 14.

By Claire Lee (