A few words on The Garden of Words

I got excited when I first read about The Garden of Words. Love as 恋, or “lonely sadness” was a theme that I know all too well and want to see. After watching it, I think this is Makoto Shinkai’s best movie to date. It’s tight and utterly focused.

It also reminded me why I don’t usually watch or read love stories. Personally, I find them either too sappy or unrelatable. Romantic comedies are too quirky and inauthentic, and they rarely intersect with my ideas about love. When it comes to it, I brood a lot. Which is why watching this film was a treat. It isn’t full of dialogue or noise, the beautiful visuals silently ask you to notice them. The characters are full of doubts and fears, and only by making a genuine effort do they stave off their loneliness.

The ending redeems the two characters by making them realize how important they are to each other. But love does not solve their problems. This is important. It’s often a valid criticism of love stories that they often lead people to have unrealistic expectations, which set them up for disappointment. The stories I want to read about are the ones that portray love as something you have to keep working on together with your partner, because no one else is going to do that for the two of you, and it sure as hell won’t take care of itself. And even still, it might not work out in the end.

Will it? The stories I love to read about are the ones that give you hope.

And I love this story.

PS: I saw this on the bus. It was only 45+ minutes long, and when I got off I realized I forgot to ask for my change. I guess it was that good!

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4 Responses to A few words on The Garden of Words

  1. froggykun says:

    Your post has made me think about the difference between “romance” stories and “love” stories. The distinction is subtle but it is definitely there. I think Shinkai has always been a master of the love story. His works have always felt more poetic, abstracted and somehow “truer” when it comes to dealing with love.

    • schneider says:

      Thanks! I can’t really describe the distinction fully but I caught myself almost writing “romance” then I changed it to “love” instead. I guess “romancing” someone is different from “loving” them.

  2. Definitely much stronger of a work than anything he’s done previously. The only part I had an issue with was the climax, mostly because the outburst seemed like an odd reaction. But I suppose I’m not the type to express myself in that way; my tendency is to emotionally check out (which creates its own set of problems, so there’s that).

    Now, a work that focuses on a relationship post-marriage and all the problems that generates and all the work involved in staying together… that’s something that anime (and most other forms of media) don’t do enough of.

  3. omo says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your insight is helpful but at the same time the whole “working at love” theme is relatively common in anime and Japanese culture in general, once the story focuses on a longer term perspective (and sometimes, a more male-centric perspective).

    I’m still struggling to really put everything about the movie together, but maybe it’s not so complicated, as you seem to point it out.

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