An unusual relationship forms amid the rainy season in Shinjuku.
What They Say:
When Takao, a young high school student who dreams of becoming a shoe designer, decides to skip school one day in favor of sketching in a rainy garden, he has no idea how much his life will change when he encounters Yukino. Older but perhaps not as much wiser, she seems adrift in the world. Despite the difference in their ages, they strike up an unusual relationship that unexpectedly continues and evolves, with random meetings in the same garden on each rainy day.
But the rainy season is coming to a close, and there are so many things still left unsaid and undone between them. Will there be time left for Takao to put his feelings into actions and words? Between the raindrops, between the calms in the storm, what will blossom?
The audio presentation for this release is quite good as we get the original Japanese language in 5.1 as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded with the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. There isn’t any real action to the show but the mix works well with the sound effects throughout and particularly with the rain as it falls and comes at you from different angles. Dialogue is the main draw here and it’s well handled, from the internal pieces to the way the characters talk to each other throughout. There’s also a good score to the feature as well and that has a rich and full feeling to it, with the closing sequence being the warmest of them all for natural reasons. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during playback.
Originally released in 2013, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. With a forty-five minute run time to it, it’s got plenty of space to work with here but has a very detailed and rich source material to work with. There’s not a ton of motion here in a way but it has a lot going on, especially with the detailed rain design to it. The color design is what stands out the most though with a real richness to it with the greens and the variance to it all, which comes across with a beautiful solid feeling that has so much pop and vibrancy to it. With a beautiful look to the animation and a transfer that captures it just right, this is definitely the kind of title you show off to other people with how a high definition release can make something pop.
The packaging for this release is done a standard Blu-ray case where it has a very serene feel to it with the mix of the blue of the case and the various greens and earth tones within the artwork itself. The front cover has the two leads together under the canopy as the rain falls and with some really great painted feeling to the detail of it all. The colors are rich and it’s really worth spending time looking at all the detail of it that’s presented here. The back cover has more artwork of the canopy from a different angle that’s just as much fun to spend time with and a few shots from the show itself that adds a little more variance to everything. the premise is covered well through the center in an easy to read form and a clean look at the discs extras. The production credits are straightforward and clear as is the technical grid which lists it all accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is pretty good as we get the artowk from the cover zoomed in a bit to just the canopy and the characters. It has a lot more vibrancy here with its colors and a greater sense of light coming in from the side that just enhances it all the more. The logo is kept along the upper left and the navigation along the bottom is kept simple with a bit of a soft white backgroudn to it that blends well and feels like a natural fit to it. Submenus load quickly and are easy to load and everything is laid out in a way that works well and feels natural.
The release has a good bit of extras to it, especially considering how quickly it’s released. We get a familiar extra in the Works of Shinkai that shows off his previous films and there are some good interview pieces with the team behind the feature as well. The production storyboards and stills are always interesting to see and are easy to navigate and we also get a pair of commentaries. We get a new one by the English language production team about their experiences on the film as well as the Japanese commentary track as well, making this a pretty rich feature to work through a few times to get different takes on it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Makoto Shinkai may not have a large library of works under his belt, but he’s certainly done things that many can be envious of and admire as there’s a certain style that he has which makes for beautiful films that can be engaging. While he’s done a few longer works in his last couple of productions, The Garden of Words goes for a much smaller and even more personal approach as it clocks in at just forty-five minutes. And admittedly, even that feels a little long for what he wants to accomplish with this work, but it’s such a rich looking world with great visuals that you don’t mind lingering in it more than you would want to ordinarily.
The story revolves around fifteen year old Takao, a young man who has a particular view of life as he has a goal of designing womens shoes when he gets older and spends most of his time in that pursuit. While he goes to school all the time as is the norm, he tends to skip first period when he goes in during the mornings when it rains since he claims that he can’t ride the train in the rain. When the rain hits, he spends his time at one of the covered areas in the lush park in the city and works through some of his design ideas and the like. With the start of the rainy season hitting in the Kanto region, he’s getting plenty of chances to do this and he’s found himself with a bit of a strange companion, an older woman named Yukino who brings just chocolate and beer with her for her breakfast and doesn’t say much for awhile. it doesn’t take too long before the two of them start to talk though and learn more about each other, though it’s more focused on Takao than Yukino, but we get glimpses into her life as well and theproblems that she’s facing. Not that things are perfect for Takao either as his home life is certainly a little unfortunate in a lot of ways.
There’s not too much of a plot to the feature as it’s more of a character work, one that throws in an interesting twist as it moves on and we see how the two characters deal with the situation, both of which are, as they say in the show, trying to figure out how to walk on their own for different reasons. It does make for some awkward material, especially those not used to the way anime does play with age ranges a bit, as we get the start of a potential romance here between the two where there’s a twelve year difference and some real feelings on both sides. It’d done slowly and over the course of a few months, and it really does provide some good connections between the two that blossoms well, but it does have that awkward aspect to it since she is twelve years his senior and he is just fifteen.
Like most Shinkai shows, it definitely thrives and survives more on its visuals and the atmosphere it presents than the story, and like those is does it in an excellent way here. There’s a lot of lush visuals that draw you in here as we spend time in the park under the canopy and elsewhere there, but also when it shifts to the school, homes and the streets in general where it’s just so detailed and lived in that it adds a whole character of its own. The opening moments certainly set the stage for the design with the vibrancy of the greens and the way the rain is handled within the animation and it’s just so captivating that it definitely makes up for the lighter and less fulfilling story that we get, especially with an ending that just feels cut short and forced with what it wants to do rather than a meaningful exploration of how it would all be handled.
The Garden of Words is a feature from Makoto Shinkai that continues to show an excellence above and beyond when it comes to design, colors and atmosphere, though it’s a weaker story itself overall. I’ve enjoyed his works since the beginning with Voices of a Distant Star and this one is no exception, though the story doesn’t work as well as I would like since it’s kind of fleeting. It’s definitely a part of his overall style and library of works and it does fit in well with them as a short one that does something different while keeping to his seemingly trademarked beautiful design style. In this high definition presentation, it’s definitely worth delving into as it’s a beautiful work and a real showcase of how good anime can look in this format.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Commentary, English Commentary, Production Stills, Storyboards, Works of Shinkai, Trailer
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Running Time: 48 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.