【Review】 Kotonoha no Niwa

Welcome, anime enthusiasts, to another anime review. Today, we’re actually going to review an anime film that I really think, despite being short(runtime of about 46 minutes), hits the feels enough to warrant a deep look. Last time, I didn’t include any info regarding voice actors and production company/staff. To be honest, I don’t generally care who the production company is, but I do take into consideration who the voice cast is. That’s not to say that I won’t watch something that’s relatively low-budget and doesn’t include A-list voice actors; of course, I do have my favorites and will absolutely watch just about anything with Hanazawa, Kana in it. She’s so damn lovely and her voice is absurdly cute. Here, she’s cast as the female protagonist of Kotonoha no Niwa(The Garden of Words), 27-year-old teacher Yukino, Yukari, while Irino, Miyu is cast as the male protagonist, 15-year-old student Akizuki, Takao.

“鳴る神の 少し響みて さし曇り 雨も降らんか 君を留めむ”
A faint clap of thunder
Clouded skies
Perhaps rain comes
If so, will you stay here with me?
This is, for obvious reasons, the most famous quote from the movie and it is a tanka composed by Kakinomoto, Hitomaro. Later, there is a response given that beautifully embraces you, strengthening your understanding of the themes.

The visuals are straight up pretty, consisting of what I can only describe as vivid, water-color-inspired backdrops and well-drawn, true-to-life characters. As for the theme of this story, it’s essentially intended to be a gratifying, uplifting drama that covers an ever-so-controversial topic — taboo love. Yet, this topic, which we tend to have a negative view of, is basically chewed up, spit out and stomped on via the two main characters and their stirring, somewhat pitiable lives. Without spoiling it too much, they’re hard-working individuals who face realities such as economic instability, parental void, and student harassment. Student Takao is raised by his single mother and his older, laid-back brother, who is looking to move out with his girlfriend. His dream is to become a shoemaker and earn an honest living that way; he sees the profession as a noble one that caters to all types of people. Meanwhile, Ms. Yukino faced previous harassment from female students, who felt she was getting undeserved attention from many of the male students. Once you take in the lives of these individuals, you’re privy to why they continuously visit a particular area in a local park, under a veranda, surrounded by greenery.

Every scene beautifully captures humanity.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of their meetings is that rain plays a vital role and acts as a motif. Takao feels it’s justifiable to skip school on rainy days, because he has to walk and take the tram. As for Yukino, she’s hesitant to return to her job at school, afraid of being shunned and/or harassed by students, preferring to instead lounge at the park, observing passersby. During Tokyo’s rainy season they meet various times throughout and kindle their friendship; Takao brings her homemade bento and in return receives a book about shoemaking, one he’s coveted from afar, due to its cost. After the rainy season ends, they find themselves wishing it would return so their meetings can continue. Before they know it, they’ve fallen in love with each other and wish only to foster the warm company they shared. In other words, it’s a mutual cooperation that strengthens their mental and emotional well-being; boy, do they miss and value that bond.

Not exactly a case of “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day,” now is it?

Taboo or not? That’s the question. At least, that’s what you’d normally think to consider. It’s clear to us, the viewers, that their lives are much better when they’re together, sharing their passions and quirks. Whether fortunate or not, reality has, to this point, taught us that these relationships between students and teachers aren’t ethical. But in this film, masterfully painted, is a scenario which springs forth feelings from the viewer — feelings of compassion, mutual understanding, and of pro-human coexistence. Hopefully you, my reader, are compelled to watch this film, for it will likely touch that beating heart and maybe — just maybe — it’ll leave you feeling giddy inside.

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