Garden of Words is a study in visual poetry and an ode to human connection and discovery. In the midst of a summer rainstorm, Takao (Miyu Irino) skips school and sketches in a local park . There he meets a mysterious and troubled woman named Yukino (Kana Hanazawa). The pair exchanges few words. Intrigued, Takao vows to cut class and return to the park on rainy days. Whenever he does, Yukino is always in the same place.
As the two characters become more comfortable with each other they begin to open up, and their backstories are gradually revealed. Takao is training to become a shoemaker despite heckling from his friends and family, while Yukino admits that she has been skipping work to drink beer and eat chocolate in the park. Takao becomes increasingly concerned with Yukino’s wellbeing and longs to care for her. But, predictably, the rainy season ends just as quickly as it began. Without the rainfall to encourage him to return to the park, Takao shifts his attention back to shoemaking, but it is not long before a familiar face resurfaces and complicates his life in an unexpected way.
Makoto Shinkai has been praised for his previous animation work, and Garden of Words is another stunning visual journey. Though the plot is focused on the growing relationship between Takao and Yukino, Shinkai takes time to examine the setting as well as the characters, framing natural elements such as birds and flowers in a move that recalls traditional Japanese painting. The locations in the film were inspired by the real-life Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo, and poetic musical score in the film is similarly tranquil and reflective of the setting. Garden of Words is a work that boasts a beautiful combination of style and substance, and the unconventional story effectively deconstructs preconceptions surrounding the cultural expectations of relationships.