I usually avoid having any, but this is a 45 minute movie with not much to say about it without them so this WILL have plot-relevant spoilers.
Have you seen anything by Makoto Shinkai? Well then you can guess what I’m going to say next, as it’s a very cliche line; you’ve seen Garden of Words.
The story is the same shit about Shinkai never having a girl he liked like him back because he was just not good at getting women and clearly his real world wife is just him ‘settling’ for something or else all his stories wouldn’t be romances that could never be. Only this time you get a foot lover and a child molester as the characters.
We are also left with the situation ignoring how much technology and transportation have come since the early 1900s – as, yet again, a short distance is treated as some kind of insurmountable wall for a relationship; be it a romantic one or simply staying in touch on any level. Well, actually, he does get one singular letter from her post-credits that we don’t even get to read or be told the contents of, but that’s a lot more than Shinkai’s bullshit stories have managed in the past. This obviously isn’t the only reason nothing pans out, but it’s still as obnoxious as ever coming from a man who made an ENTIRE ROMANCE short film entirely told through texting one another, yet in every other work of his seemingly forgets phones exist if love is involved. Saying “the distance is their ages” is bullshit as well for all sorts of reasons.
A lot of the main elements were far too out of nowhere to really take seriously, which created a problem of being able to believe the characters. For one you’ve got a guy obsessed with making shoes for the 15 year old main character with no explanation aside ‘mommy liked that pair of shoes we got her’ – which I could grasp if she was dead or something, but she’s perfectly healthy and even kind of hot (which doesn’t go missing on the many men she dates). Obviously this doesn’t matter much to the story or quality of the film, it was just kind of weird and pointless.
Far more importantly, it turns out this 27 year old woman the MC has been meeting through the rainy season turns out to be a teacher at his school that caused a massive scandal relating to her having ‘relations’ with one of her students after he confessed to her, that the main boy somehow in a beyond-contrived way NEVER heard a single thing about. Not to mention somehow never saw her at school even before her scandal that had her not going any longer. Speaking of which, they never say if those ‘rumors’ or the scandal itself were actually true, you’re meant to assume no because she’s a sweet woman, but that wouldn’t stop her from fucking a student and she seems the type who would get drawn into something like that given her interactions with the one in the film. I mean she knows he’s a student yet flirts it up with him for months, even allowing him to come to her private residence eventually. When she does that it’s hard to really assume the rumors weren’t true (not to mention she says herself she’s mentally still 15, hinting even more that she probably really did stuff she shouldn’t have). Actually, if I recall correctly she talks to someone and mentions being sorry for talking to them about all this after having just broke up recently with them – and they never bring up this character again. So while I don’t even have the movie to check again and see how he looked – this could have been said student and her relations were 100% something that happened. I don’t fucking remember.
Anyway, it just all seemed so pointlessly unnecessary and like it got in the way of the entire short film.
Overall, The Garden of Words fails because of all the typical shortcomings that are so prevalent in every single work by Makoto Shinkai. A bunch of contrived plot elements that are no more than an excuse to not let things happen, attempts at being overly ‘artsy and meaningful’ causing several scenes to just feel awkward and forced, unbelievable developments/backstories, and just another of the same fucking story for the nth time only with the twist being this time one of them is a foot fetishist and they have a big age gap between them. I wanted very much to enjoy this and for a good chunk of I thought it would end up something I could say was worth watching or even great, but instead it wastes everything it could have been.
Would I recommend it? You know what, it’s only 45 minutes and if you know Makoto Shinkai and like his work or are at least fine with it, sure. It’s short and while it’s not GOOD it’s not terrible either. It is quite a disappointment though in that it seemed to have a lot of potential early on. I liked the idea based on the summary and it kept to that at first, but then it bogged itself down with meaningless and very forced shit out of nowhere. Absolutely EVERYTHING about the conclusion is based on the stupidest story bits that never even had real existence prior to needing them to cause said conclusion. Not to mention they showed up in really weird ways that didn’t fit the flow of the rest of the movie at all.
The saddest part of the film is that this could have ended – and almost did – with an extremely sweet and fairly romantic finale. Instead we get an implication it’s going that way and even a big scene tricking you into thinking that before it all goes back to the old Shinkai self-insertion keeping any of his characters from ever actually achieving a relationship and makes sure to make it clear that’s the case. It makes everything so disappointing after the entire movie is focused on, and succeeds at, creating a really good dynamic between the two characters along with a believable lead-up to romance (something he has almost never managed in the past, so there’s one positive about this) – and then it throws it all away because of some nonsensical bullshit.