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Garden Of Words Manga Review

4 min read
Garden of Words
Garden of Words

Words spoken and unspoken.

Creative Staff
Story: Makoto Shinkai
Art: Midori Motohashi
Translation: Maya Rosewood

What They Say
Can a poem save your life?
Words are powerful. Insults and rumors can derail a career; a bit of encouragement can give someone the strength to pursue their dreams. When a high school boy skipping class to sketch shoe designs and a taciturn woman drinking a morning beer meet in a Tokyo park, they say little, but the woman bids farewell with an ancient tanka poem. Will the boy figure out the poem’s meaning—and its corresponding response—before it’s too late?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Here we have an adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s Garden of Words, a short film which is best known for it’s lovingly detailed depictions of rain falling on a city park.  Shinkai’s works often feature doomed romances combined with astoundingly hand crafted animation, and Garden of Words doesn’t stray far from that template.  Separated from it’s first medium and put to page it becomes a very intimate feeling story.  A young man finds his inspiration in a lone mystery woman, who appears to be hiding herself away from the world.

The young man who is the focus of the tale aspires to be a shoemaker.  It’s a weird choice of profession for a high school kid, and we find out it has it’s roots in his childhood with his mother.  That puts an uncomfortable, or perhaps unfortunate, spin on his crush on the older woman he meets on a rainy day at the park.

The older, although still in her twenties, woman doesn’t give her name.  She sits on the bench at the gazebo in the park and is witness to this kid skipping school to sketch shoes.  She leaves him with a single poem, and soon after they both find themselves meeting again and again on rainy days.  Eventually we come to learn more about the woman Yukino, and the sad circumstances that lead her to hide from her job.  It’s a slowly building relationship, a friendship born of coincidence.

Akizuki, so composed around his friends and brother, looses that composure when his emotions finally overwhelm him when he confesses to Yukino.  She knows not to get involved in a romance with a high school boy, there’s nothing more inappropriate than that.  Twelve years in a generational gap, and she turns him down by ignoring his confession.  Akizuki snaps and lets every hurtful and stupid word out, all his doubts and her shortcomings and he pulls no punches.  He just sees the woman he tried to defend fleeing from her troubles, and from the idea that their time together was just a passing moment that meant nothing.

Yukino could have let him rage and leave, but she breaks down too.  She might have been Akizuki’s muse, but he was her hope that she would be able to stand tall and regain her love of teaching.  In the end, she hands over her new address so that Akizuki can keep his promise and deliver the shoes he was working to make.

The story is simple, but it works.  It’s the clash between the dream and reality, while the words spoken and unspoken prevail. Overall, the whole story brings to mind Lost in Translation with the moment of connection between two people with very different lives and ages.

Motohoshi’s artwork does a good job of capturing the style and feeling of the movie in a more simplified form.  It’s not flashy, but there’s simply no way to convey the visual look of the film to book form short of those movie-comic books composed of still shots.  Here the focus is on the characters, and it does a fine job bringing their story to life.

In Summary
The Garden of Words movie is mostly talked about in terms of it’s beautiful animation of rain, rather than on the story being told.  Divorced of the majority of it’s scenery for the manga adaptation, the focus returns to the relationship between the two leads.  It’s a simple story of a young man and his muse, which first exists in a state of dreamlike mystery before the real world comes crashing back in to put the romance of it into stark contrast.  It’s a fine adaptation and a good single sitting read, although it doesn’t add much if you’ve already seen the film.  The story is intimate, and how much the reader gets out of it will depend very much on the reader themselves.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: B +
Text/Translation Grade: A –

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Vertical
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
MSRP: $12.95